A man, his wife and teenage son have a car accident. Even though the accident was tragic, what the man suffers after is even more shocking. Because every time the man goes to sleep, he awakes in one of two realities. In one, his wife died in the accident, and in the other, his son.
This is the premise of NBC’s new show AWAKE. It stars England’s own Jason Issacs, who plays Michael Britten, the detective who is stuck between these two different realities. Britten can’t tell which one is real and which is a dream. Or could they both be real? The two psychiatrists that he’s seeing in each world says they can’t both be real. But which one is which? And if he finds out, does that mean that either his wife or son will cease to exist? It also stars Laura Allen as his wife Hannah, and Dylan Minnette as Michael’s son, Rex. Check out the trailer:
(SOME SPOILERS) Alternate Realities is one of the 5 food groups to my Sci-Fi appetite (hmm….note: sci-fi nutrition pyramid). AWAKE handles the fictional phenomena in a very sophisticated and compelling way. The story starts off well after the accident, with Britten already in the middle of having these reality shifts. He’s already accepted that he’s not completely crazy, and has even devised a way of keeping track of which world he is in, red wristband for his wife Hannah’s reality, and a green one for his son Rex. A nice visual tool the writers came up with for the audience.
Another aspect of the show that I liked was that Britten has a confidant in each reality, sort of. It’s not his friend and partner Det. Freeman (Steve Harris), who is wondering if he’s okay. Nor is it his new partner in the other reality – Det. Vega (Wilmer Valderrama), who has to keep tabs on him so that the chief knows if Britten is mentally stable after the accident. The only people he can talk to are Dr. John Lee and Dr. Judith Evans, the two psychs that keep telling Britten that the other can’t exist – “it’s all an elaborate dream you made up to cope with your loss.” And what’s interesting about this show, that doesn’t happen in others like it, is that Britten tried to tell his wife what was happening to him; that their son is actually alive somewhere. But it hurt her too much, hearing about a son’s life that to her was dead. That aspect of the story was a little different and felt real to me.
In the son’s reality, where the wife died, the writers also introduced a possible love interest – Rex’s tennis teacher. But how can you love another woman when your wife is still alive… just somewhere else? Conflict, conflict, conflict… the stuff of good storytelling.
I think the cast is full of excellent actors. I especially like Cherry Jones who plays Dr. Evans, and B.D. Wong who plays Dr. Lee. The fact that Michael tells each of them what the other says sets up an interesting psychiatric chess game between the two.
A final aspect that I like about the premise is that Detective Britten has gained an edge in solving crimes. It seems the alternate realities are connected (a must for any story like this), and when Michael gains a clue on one side, it helps him with a crime on the other. Unfortunately, he can’t tell his partners where he’s getting his ‘hunches’ from, or it’s off to the loony bin.
The only thing this show might have to do better is make it a little more clear at to which reality Britten is in at any given moment. It’s not a show that you can just watch casually, you have to give it some attention to really enjoy it. It’s brain candy for you real thinkers out there. This show may even be better than Fox’s TOUCH.
If you want to see a sneak preview of the show (like I did), then click to Watch the Full Premiere Episode Here. AWAKE premieres Thursday March 1 at 10pm eastern. Geek Soul Brother has a good feeling about this one (which hopefully doesn’t mean it will get canceled).