Full Preview: NBC’s “Awake” – Two Worlds, One Guy, One Interesting Concept

Is he awake, or his he sleeping? Which reality is real, and which one isn’t. Those are the biggest questions surrounding NBC’s newest conceptual drama Awake.

Awake gets right to the point. Detective Micheal Britten (Jason Isaacs) gets into a tragic accident with his wife Hannah (Laura Allen) and his son Rex (Dylan Minnette). One live, one dies, but Britten doesn’t know which one did. He’s living in two realities, or so he thinks. In one world, his wife is alive, in the other world, his son is alive. Which reality is true? In both worlds, Britten seeks help from two bureau-appointed therapist, (Emmy-Winner Cherry Jones, 24, and B.D. Wong, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit) to see which reality is true, and which one is false. Both therapist convince Britten that this is simply a coping mechanism in both of his lives to deal with the lost of his wife and son.

Britten has created a reality where he actually hasn’t lost his son or wife at all. This coping mechanism relieves him of the duties of having to actually confront the fact that he’s lost either one of his dearly loved ones. Even though his two therapist try to unravel the events that happen, and try to figure out which reality is actually a reality, why would Britten want to know who’s alive and who’s dead? He currently has the best of both worlds – his son and wife still with him, alive.

As Britten tries to get a sense of normalcy back in his life, he returns to work, but quickly finds that the cases that he’s trying to solve in both of his worlds are starting to collide, and he tries to link the clues together.

At any point of the day, Britten doesn’t know whether he’s awake, or if he’s asleep. Both therapist assure him that neither realities are a dream. One obviously is, but which one?

All I have to say is WOW!

This phenomenal series created by the showrunners of Fox’s short-lived drama Lone Star, and were also responsible for 24, and Homeland, gets everything right in the first episode. Even though I haven’t seen upcoming ones, I worry that the quality, emotional appeal, and storytelling will diminish a little bit in upcoming weeks since the pilot was so fantastic. However, this show does something right in the pilot, and that thing is get right to the story.

Many shows like this – where the main character learns that he/she has a supernatural ability or unexplained gift – focuses too much on the characters reaction of his/her new-found gift, and the struggles of getting used their new gift in their everyday lives. Not in Awake, though. Showrunners Kyle Killen and Howard Gordon skip that sometimes boring phase in the storytelling and get right down to what’s important, actually telling the story of what’s happening.

One thing I did notice, which I found quite interesting was the distinct change in color in Britten’s two worlds. In the world with his wife, things were much brighter compared to the dark world in which is son was in. You’ll have to pay close attention to notice. When Britten is with his wife, he wears a red rubber band around his wrist. In the scenes with his wife, you’ll notice those scenes have a brighter, reddish tint. In the world with his son, he has a green rubber band (to represent Rex’s favorite color). In the world with Rex, these scenes are distinctively darker, with a green tint. This is a great way to distinguish which world Britten is in, as well as it being a compelling and well thought out way to tell the story.

I don’t know what to classify this show as; a time-traveling sci-fi show, or a character-driven police procedural with a twist at the end of the road, either way, Awake is a winner – for now.

Awake is the exact type of show I expect NBC to create. Fast, thrilling, conceptual, and intriguing. This is the perfect show for the Thursday 10p.m. slot. Despite that fact, in order for Awake to be successful – despite the heavy promotion that NBC has put behind this ambitious show – it is going to need a better lead in than Up All Night, which only averages 3-4 million viewers at 930p.m.

This is a show that NBC needs as a part of its re-structuring. A show that will keep viewers coming back week-to-week, but NBC is going to want more than 5 million viewers and more than a 2 rating from this show, and it deserves more than that. Awake is a keeper. Hopefully NBC realizes that and lets this show play out its 13 episodes, and orders many more seasons. It’ll be interesting to see how this show keeps the concept going, answering crucial questions for viewers, without dragging it out for years and not answering any questions for the viewers. It’ll be a tough task, one that I hope NBC is up for.

Awake premieres Thursday at 10p.m. on NBC.

** Zap2it discusses Awake via a Q&A with showrunners Killen and Gordon about the progression of the first season, the storylines, and the difficulties of creating such a conceptual drama. Click here to read. 

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