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precarious since 1997 | by maryann johanson

question of the day: Is ABC trying to kill ‘FlashForward’?

Damn, was I pissed when I got to the end of last week’s episode of FlashForward and saw the little notice ABC snuck in there that the show wouldn’t be returning till March. (Sci Fi Wire is mad as hell, too.) I had been figuring, all during the episode, that they were gonna hit us with a “returning in January” thing, since the episode was set close to Christmas, and all along, the unfolding of the story has been closely aligned with the real-world calendar. So it seemed we would have to skip ahead to the new year along with the fictional narrative.

But March? Three months off the air? Who the hell is in charge of things over at ABC? I know everyone’s getting out of the way of the upcoming Vancouver winter Olympics, but that’s just two weeks in February. There’s no reason for a three-month hiatus. No reason at all.
Unless ABC is looking for a reason to cancel the show. Its ratings haven’t been good, and perhaps the network is taking a cue from CBS, which similarly mangled — perhaps deliberately — the critical and fan favorite Jericho three years ago when it tossed the show into a three-month black hole… and then used the resulting drop in ratings when it finally brought the show back as an excuse to cancel it.

I feel like there’s no point in getting involved in a network TV show these days, because it seems as if any show that’s different enough and thinky enough and just plain weird enough to intrigue me is destined for the chopping block. I love how FlashForward is mixing action and mystery with philosophy — how many other shows deal with such heady topics as free will and quantum physics in such entertaining ways? On network TV, only Lost approaches the wicked, sneaky smarts of FlashForward… and in fact, I’ve been saying to anyone who’ll listen that FlashForward is like Lost, except the whole planet and the entire human race is stuck on the Island.

The premise of the show, in case you haven’t been watching: For two minutes on an October day, everyone on the planet blacked out and got a glimpse of a day six months in the future. Not everyone sees pleasant or expected things, however — our nominal hero, an FBI agent played by Joe Fiennes, is a teetotaling alcoholic who sees himself drinking during his flashforward; his wife (Sonya Walger, aka Penny from Lost) sees herself committing adultery with a man she hadn’t yet met; his partner (John Cho) sees nothing, which probably means he’ll be dead by then; and as the future slowly approaches, his wife’s future lover, a physicist (Jack Davenport), thinks he knows what caused the flashforward: an experiment he and an unexpectedly creepy incarnation of Dominick Monaghan were involved with. The FBI has launched an investigation into the flashforward, see — the event killed millions of people and has traumatized just about everyone else — and much of the evidence they’re following comes from those glimpses of the future. But some people appear to be changing their futures, too, even as others are barreling toward them, so maybe nothing is predestined? And what about the events of six months hence that do seem inevitable that would never have happened at all without the glimpse into the future in the first place? It’s a chicken-and-egg conundrum on a planetary scale… or as if everyone broke the same vase that Neo knocked over in the Oracle’s kitchen after she told him not worry about it.

(Some full episodes are available to watch online at the show’s official site, if you’re interested in catching up.)

I keep meaning to reread the fantastic Robert J. Sawyer novel [Amazon U.S.] [Amazon U.K.] the series is based on. The book is even more philosophical — in it, the flashforward lets everyone see 20 years into their futures, not merely six months, so the pace is slower and leaves more times for pondering. I guess I should be stunned that a book by Sawyer even got to the adapted-for-television stage at all, even if it doesn’t last. But I’m freakin’ furious anyway.

Is ABC trying to kill FlashForward? Or is it already dead and nobody’s told the corpse?

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)



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