”’FLASHFORWARD’: A Potential Nipped in the Bud”
Ever since ABC cancelled one of its freshman series, the science-fiction drama called ”FLASHFORWARD”, many television critics and fans have expressed the belief that the series failed to garner enough viewers due to its less than stellar writing. Now . . . I have stated that many have expressed this belief, but there were a good number of viewers who believe that the network should have given the series a chance to grow over the years. I happen to be one of those who agree with the latter.
Based upon the 1999 novel written by Robert J. Sawyer, ”FLASHFORWARD” revolved around the lives of several people after a mysterious event caused nearly everyone on the planet to simultaneously lose consciousness for two minutes and seventeen seconds on October 6, 2009. During this "blackout” people saw what appeared to be visions of their lives on April 29, 2010 - a global "flashforward”. Created by Brannon Braga and David S. Goyer, the series starred Joseph Fiennes, John Cho, Courtney B. Vance, Christine Woods, Jack Davenport, Sonia Walger and Dominic Monaghan.
When the series first aired in late September, it became an immediate ratings hit and stayed that way during its first ten (10) episodes. Then ABC made the decision to put the series on hiatus for three-and-a-half months. Why? I have no idea. But after the series resumed its run in mid-March 2010, its ratings tanked. In fact, the ratings remained low until it was finally cancelled by ABC some two-and-a-half months later. Does this story sound familiar? Why, yes it does. The very same fate nearly befell the CBS science-fiction/post-apocalypse series, ”JERICHO”. Thanks to a campaign by fans to save the series, ”JERICHO” was given a second season – which amounted to seven episodes that aired in a new time slot. Namely Tuesday nights at 10:00 PM. No amount of fan campaign could convince ABC to give ”FLASHFORWARD” a chance. But there are a good number of fans who are angry at how the network handled the series.
Yet, those critics and fans who did not criticize ABC’s handling of the series have claimed that ”FLASHFORWARD” was a failure that was destined for cancellation. Many of these critics and viewers claimed that the series failed to live up to the same quality as another ABC series, namely the pop culture hit, ”LOST”. Personally, I have a problem with this assessment of “FLASH FORWARD”. One, it was only in its first season. Its story had just begun. To expect it to be perfect right off the bat struck me as ridiculous. Now, I realize that both “LOST” and the NBC series, “HEROES”, managed to immediately dazzle U.S. viewers and critics with highly regarded series premieres and well written first seasons. But a closer look would reveal that after their remarkable first seasons, the storytelling qualities of both ”LOST” and ”HEROES” managed to do nothing but decline following their first seasons. And I believe that this was a major mistake for both shows. Both tried to maintain the momentum of their dazzling debuts . . . and failed. At least as I am concerned. Mind you, ”LOST” managed to occasionally deliver some exceptional episodes and story arcs over the years. But it was never delivered a consistently top-notched season after Season One. As for ”HEROES”, it simply went down the drain following its first season. How it managed to stay on the air for another three seasons simply amazed me.
Ever since the dazzling debuts of “LOST” and “HEROES”; television network executives have expected and demanded that other multi-seasonal series with a science-fiction/fantasy background repeat their initial success. I believe that this was a mistake. Some of the best science-fiction/fantasy television series I have seen have started out with a less than dazzling or even mediocre season debut. Good examples of this are “BABYLON 5″, “JERICHO” and “BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER”. Both ”BABYLON 5” and ”BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER” were given chances to fulfill their potential. Just as ”JERICHO” was developing into a well-written series, CBS permanently pulled its plug . . . aborting its chances of fulfilling any potential.
As I had stated earlier, “FLASH FORWARD” also started with a less than dazzling first season. I might as well be frank. It was not perfect. But I do believe that it had great potential to grow into a well written sagal. If the series had aired in the previous decade, I suspect that might have been given the chance to develop into something remarkable. It certainly had potential. But, we are stuck in the ”LOST” era of television broadcasting. Today’s television network executives do not seem to have the patience or willingness to give a series a chance to grow. They want and demand instant success. And unless they are willing to change their modis operandi, future science-fiction/fantasy television series with levels of qualities similar to “BABYLON 5″ and “BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER” threaten to become a thing of the past, never to be shown on television again. I certainly did not see that level of quality writing in shows like “LOST” or “HEROES”, despite their longevity on the air.