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If you could know your future, how would you live your life differently? That’s the question that animates David Goyer’s new TV series, FlashForward, which will premiere on ABC at 8 pm on September 24th. Loosely based on the book by Robert Sawyer, FlashForward is a mind-bending, time-bending new series that takes a lot of inspiration from Lost, but with some new twists. I got the opportunity to see the first two acts of the very first episode of Flashforward (they did not show us the ending out of respect for preventing even the press from getting` spoiled). This was the first time this series has ever been previewed in public. Hit the jump for a summary of what I saw, plus some personal thoughts.

Please note that the following contains potential spoilers for the first episode of FlashForward.

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We open on a man who has been in a car crash and is slowly waking up. As he crawls out of the husk of his car, he realizes that there is massive devastation around him. Other cars have been totaled, many have been injured, some have been killed. The man stumbles around the rubble for awhile, and then we cut to:

FOUR HOURS EARLIER

We are in the suburbs of Los Angeles, and introduced to special agent Mark Benford (Joseph Fiennes), the man from the original crash. We see scenes of his wonderful domestic life, with a beautiful wife Nicole (who’s also a doctor) and a lovely daughter. Over the course of the next twenty minutes, we’re also introduced to other characters in context, including Mark’s sponsor, their babysitter, and one of Nicole’s co-workers, Bryce (who is suicidal). We also meet Mark’s FBI partner (John Cho) who is helping Mark on a stakeout. They are about to apprehend some suspect and a car chase ensues. We see flashes of life from all the other characters: Nicole is about to go in for a surgery. Bryce puts a gun to his head. Mark’s sponsor ascends a telephone poll to, Mark’s babysitter is having sex on his couch with her boyfriend and is about to climax. Mark swerves and is about to slam into a gas tanker when the whole screen goes black. The camera divebombs into Mark’s eyes and a flash forward ensues.

We see brief and random shots that have very little meaning at this point. Then we see Mark. He’s inside an office looking really disheveled, by himself. All of a sudden, guys with guns and laser sights and sporting ominous tattoos burst in and try to kill him.

We’re back to the opening scene. Mark awakes and we see the first shots of the pilot play out again. This time, though, we realize that not only has Mark gotten into an accident, but everyone around him has had a blackout too. That’s why there are people injured, totaled cars, and carnage everywhere. A crashed gas tanker explodes.

Mark tries to make sense of things by jumping up on to a car to view the Los Angeles skyline. We get a spectacular hero shot as you see Mark standing amidst the city’s considerable devastation. Bystanders start reporting that this is a worldwide phenomenon. Mark wanders down a street and sees news footage of destruction all around the world. Planes and cars have crashed, some of them have slammed into buildings. Many are dead. We see a kangaroo in the middle of the city street, bounding away, an bizarre and ominous sign that nothing is normal anymore.

***

First some quick facts from this footage: According to the panelists, you eventually find out that everyone on the entire planet has had a flashforward, and has seen a portion of their lives that’s 6 months from now. Over the course of the first season, the show catches up to those sixth months for the main characters and you find out all the interim events leading up to the flashforwards. In particular, we see that Mark has been investigating the cause of the flashforwards and the quest to find out is what animates him over the course of the season.

Overall, I was sufficiently impressed with FlashForward. It definitely had echoes of shows such as Lost and ER (indeed, Goyer explained that Lost was a huge inspiration).. The pilot itself shares a lot of similarities with Lost’s, such as the huge disaster, the confusion about what’s happened, and the people trying to figure out what the meaning of it all is. For network TV the production values are great and its premise is probably sufficiently inventive to maintain my interest for a season.

One of the things that has turned me off to Lost is that I was never sure where it was going (I watched one season and then stopped). If people tell me that it all adds up in the end, I’m definitely willing to go back and revisit the entire series, but I’ve already wasted years of time on a pop-culture phenomenon that has introduced many intriguing plot threads and ended up going nowhere. It was called The X-Files.

However, Goyer was very explicit about this point and explained that the show had been meticulously planned out, right down to the “final shot of the first season.” Humorously, Goyer described the pitch-meeting for the show at ABC, where in a post-Lost world, the executives said, “This is a cool script but do you have ANY idea where it goes.” Goyer said he told them and they said “Holy shit, they actually do.” If they can really plan a satisfying puzzle that already has a resolution, color me intrigued.

Some other tidbits from the panel:

  • The finale will air on April 29th, 2010, although part of it will probably also air on April 30th.
  • Goyer has said one of the biggest questions he’s gotten is “What do you do after those six months?” His response: “Well, we’ve thought about it.”
  • According to Brannon Braga, what intrigued him abou tthe series was that “Every man woman and child from earth has a vision of the future. That’s 6.8 billion stories that can be told.”
  • The first 3 episodess will take place in three different countries
  • Each episode will be a flash forward, but we’ll be meeting all these other people and “the story possibilities are endless.”
  • When asked how many seasons they’d need to tell the entire story, their response: “We need as little as three, and it can accordion outwards….” to expand to more seasons if the show does well.
  • They showed us some other preview footage of the show (a highlight reel of sorts from upcoming episodes) and the final shot was on Dominic Monaghan, Monaghan then took the stage and the producers explianed that he will be in the show as a character named Simon who “fucks up a lot of things…in a good way.” No official explanation how this will affect his appearance on the upcoming season of Lost, but I’m sure Lost fans have theories.
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