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Televisionary Exclusive: First Look at ABC's "Flash Forward" Pilot Script

ABC has had a tough time attempting to find a timeslot companion for its signature series Lost. Over the past few years, it's attempted to to find a series that could either sit beside the Bad Robot-produced series or fill the timeslot during Lost's hiatus period. Such series as The Nine, Invasion, Daybreak, and others have attempted to do just that with limited success.

Until now.

ABC's new drama pilot Flash Forward, written by David S. Goyer (Batman Begins, Blade) and Brannon Braga (Enterprise, Threshold) and loosely based on Robert J. Sawyer's 1999 novel of the same name, might just be the one to do the trick. With Lost set to end in May 2010, the network seems hellbent on finding a suitable replacement for the series and Goyer and Braga's project seems the best suited so far to capture the imaginations of Lost's devoted band of obsessive followers.

It was with much curiosity that I sat down last week to read the pilot script for Flash Forward, entitled "No More Good Days." (If you're at all spoiler-phobic, I suggest you avoid reading what follows as I'll be fleshing out the logline that's been floating about the media and discussing specific plot points from Goyer and Braga's pilot script.)

What is Flash Forward about? In a nutshell, it's the chaos that ensues after everyone on the planet blacks out for two minutes and seventeen seconds. But that's not entirely true. First, about 40 million or so poor souls don't survive the global event; airplanes fall from the sky, cars collide, people fall down stairs, drown, etc. as they lose consciousness during whatever they're doing at that moment. Second, the effect isn't so much a blackout but a Lost-appropriate flash forward in time as each of the survivors experiences a snippet from their own future during that time loss. And not just any moment, but a very specific moment five months from then: 8 pm on April 20th, 2010.

Why do each of them witness that specific moment? That's one of the script's central mysteries, along with what caused the worldwide blackout, whether it was a natural event like an earthquake or whether it was a man-made, terrorist-style attack, and whether the future can be altered. (Other possibilities for the Event not discussed in the script: extraterrestrial or a 4400-style warning from the future. And, personally, I would have made that future date, oh, sometime during the end of May sweeps.)

The survivors are, in many cases, deeply disturbed by the visions of their own futures and the FBI, among other agencies, begins to look for patterns emerging in the overlapping visions of everyday people, visions that include a new rollout of Apple's Lion OS XI operating system, Dow Jones highs, and other facets of the future that could change the course of life around them. But that comes later; mass pandemonium is first step immediately after the Event as people attempt to make sense of what has occurred and make their way to their loved ones.

So let's meet our cast of characters. Los Angeles-based FBI agent Mark Benford (Joseph Fiennes), a recovering alcoholic, and his partner Dominic Witten (John Cho) are in pursuit of a group of suspected terrorists when the Event occurs. Mark has a vision of himself, badly cut up, beaten, and unshaven at the FBI field office. He stands in front of a white board containing elements of a case codenamed MOSAIC: a photograph of a badly burned doll, the name D. Gibbons, etc. when he hears two people approaching outside. He takes a swig from his hip flask (obviously having fallen off the wagon), draws his gun, and takes the safety off. Whoever is out there, they are gunning for him. Dominic, meanwhile, experiences no vision whatsoever and begins to fear that it means he'll be dead, a suspicion made all the more real when he receives a phone call from a woman in South Africa who claims to have seen a vision of a newspaper article about Dominic's murder.

Their boss Stan Wedeck (Law & Order: Criminal Intent's Courtney B. Vance) quickly tries to take control of this bewildering turn of events. Computer-savvy agent Janice Hawk (Welcome to the Captain's Christine Woods) reluctantly admits that she had a vision of herself with her baby daughter. The only problem is that she's not pregnant and she can't conceive as she recently battled cervical cancer. (Curious that.) The FBI quickly look to solve the riddle of what happened and try to find overlapping visions of the future that can corroborate others' stories (hence the Mosaic in Mark's vision), leading Janice to discovers a quite shocking revelation about the blackout, one that could provide some answers... or merely more questions. (Sorry, folks, I won't reveal exactly what she finds!)

Mark's wife Olivia (Lost's Sonya Walger) is an emergency room doctor at UCLA Medical Center; she's involved in an operation during the Event and nearly loses the patient. Olivia and Mark have been through some rough times during his drinking and their marriage is barely holding on by a thread. So what then of her vision of her own future, one that she shares with a stranger in the bed she now sleeps in with Mark? Curious. Olivia has little time to ponder her fate when a child, Dylan, is brought in; Olivia performs emergency surgery on him but before she does, he recognizes her and calls her by her name. Hell, he even refers to the rooster cookie jar in her home that contains Nilla wafers. Meanwhile, Dylan's father Lloyd Simcoe (Swingtown's Jack Davenport) attempts to reach his son from Northern California. In a twist of coincidence (or is it?), he just happens to be the mysterious stranger in Olivia's vision with whom she is romantically involved five months in the future.

Other characters in Flash Forward's sprawling cast include Mark and Olivia's daughter Charlie, who says that she had "a bad dream" during the Event and presages major disaster ahead for the survivors when she says that there are "no more good days"; Charlie's teenage babysitter Nicole who views the Event as a punishment from God; Olivia's fellow doctor Bryce Varley, who was about to commit suicide when the Event occurred; Mark's AA sponsor Aaron, who has a vision of his daughter Shawna--killed overseas in the military--alive and well; and New Scotland Yard FBI liaison Inspector Fiona Banks who has a shared vision with FBI agent Gough about something called the Rutherford Case.

Whew.

While Goyer and Braga's script stumbles in a few parts and the dialogue could use a little tweaking in some places (the scene between Dominic and Kathryn was a little on the nose, for example), the overall result is pretty damn strong, offering up a potential series that--like Lost before it--tackles the notions of fate versus free will, preordained destiny versus random chaos, and a life-altering experience that will shake several characters' perceptions, outlooks, and core identities as they adapt to new circumstances. In order words: Big Life Issues, all nicely wrapped up in a genre series that will fulfill the needs of fans of action, sci-fi, drama, romance, etc. and attract men and women of all ages.

Overall, Flash Forward is an extremely formidable offering for series contention. And while many networks have strayed from overly complex serialized dramas with large casts of characters of late, Flash Forward could be the one to buck this trend. ABC knows that it has to find a replacement for Lost sooner rather than later and, if handled properly, this could be a suitable contender to the throne.

I would be extremely surprised, given the level of talent that ABC Studios has already attracted to this project, if Flash Forward doesn't earn itself a place on ABC's 2009-10 schedule. The mere fact that Jack Davenport has been cast in such a small role in the pilot script (he has about 30 seconds worth of screen time in this undated draft) leads me to believe that the studio and network have major plans for this project.

Given the strength of the pilot script and the potential for franchise possibilities (not to mention the opportunity to offer Lost fans a new fount for complex mysteries), I'm already looking forward to see just what Goyer and Braga have up their sleeves for the series... and just what new tragedies will befall Mark and the others as they seek answers. One need not have a flash forward of their own to see that ABC would be wise to order Flash Forward to series.

Stay tuned.

Comments

The CineManiac said…
I skipped the middle of your review as I want some surprises.
Here's my question, what happens after the first season, which will obviously end after the vision they all saw. Is the show over or do we still try to figure out what happened?
It just seems weird to me that the series seems so limited.
I'm sure they have plans for it, but it just seems to limit the show.
Jace Lacob said…
Is it limited? To me, the end game for Season One is leading up to that crucial moment at 8 pm on April 10th 2010 (or whatever date they choose to use in the final version)... at which time there will be another Flash Forward.

But that's just conjecture on my part.

After all, didn't Lost seem pretty limited when all it was about was a bunch of survivors on a deserted island after a plane crash? ;)
joy said…
There's a part of me that's dreading this - cuz I'm sort of over the end of the world s/l already.

But, there's a big part of me that can't freakin' wait. I could be crazy, though.
Anonymous said…
It's Brannon Braga. No D. I shall resume being a quiet nerd now.
-Rachel
Anonymous said…
Wow. This is very "Lost meets The 4400." It definitely has potential (and a great cast to boot) but it will all depend on how they handle the material. I am happy to see that there are still interesting projects being made that haven't been over-simplified for network television.
Anonymous said…
@susie que: Agreed. I really hope that ABC doesn't underestimate the audience's intelligence with this one and try to dumb it down or make the episodes self-contained or nonsense like that. People seem to forget that Lost has a rabid fan base that will be eager to find a new show to latch on to when the show ends. Great review, BTW. Any chance you'll share the script?
Anonymous said…
Having read the book, its interesting that the source of the Flash Forward is kept secret or unknown in this version. Very interesting.
Anonymous said…
This sounds very promising. Hopefully it won't end up getting canceled after four eps or so. I just don't understand how US networks work anymore.
joy said…
I just don't understand how US networks work anymore. It's ok, it's becoming apparent that neither do they.
Anonymous said…
@anonymous: At least it's not on NBC. Then again NBC is barely NBC anymore.

@jace: I like your thought that the date could be linked to the next flash forward.

@lou: How else does the book differ from the plot of the script? Just curious.
Anonymous said…
The biggest difference I can see is that in the book the time jump was twenty years, not five months. I realise this would be challenging to use on TV, if you wanted the main narrative to catch up with the jump.
Anonymous said…
This sounds good, but then again so did Invasion, Daybreak, and The Nine. The truth is that Lost fans don't want another complex mysterious show to obsess over while they're still busy obessing over Lost. And I don't think this show's premise really sounds like it will have any more staying power than any of the previously mentioned shows.
Anonymous said…
@ Anonymous: I thought Invasion was good. It was slow developing but really developed well by the end. I haven't read the book, I may just have to add it to my reading list for this winter.
Anonymous said…
Guys, join at the community of Flash Forward!

http://www.orkut.com.br/Main#Community.aspx?cmm=62315221


See ya!
Anonymous said…
They are shooting a scene for this pilot right outside my building in downtown LA right now. David Goyer is here. They closed the street for 2 days setting up an end of the world scene. It's really cool
Anonymous said…
There's an official fan-based forum for the show up now:

http://www.flashforwardforum.com/index.php?

Loads of information and insight about the show.
safety gates said…
Yes, Like Lost and lost is too confusing.
Anonymous said…
@safetygates Dude, if you can't follow LOST you are probably an idiot.
Julienne said…
I don't know about anyone else, but I give kudos to the casting director for giving Joseph Fiennes the lead role in the series. This sexy specimen of man doesn't get nearly enough screen time. If I don't like the show, I'm sure I'll keep watching just for the yummy eye candy. <3
Unknown said…
It's too bad they are ditching the book's cause for the event, that was my favourite part!

LHC malfunction might have been too topical?
Alexandra said…
Well i heard that they screened some of the pilot at Comic Con and that Seth McFarlane is in it, in a type of recurring cameo, janitor or something and that should be fun!

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