There's a certain kind of show on television that is awesome, and critics love it, and the fan base is nuts about it, and because it's so unusual and great, it doesn't get good ratings and ends up getting canceled, infuriating everyone who cares about it. It makes me think that TV ratings should have a passion indicator. Nobody cared when The Playboy Club got canceled, because nobody actually cared about that show. But when Firefly got canceled--it felt like the end of the world, like we lost something magical and wonderful and irreplaceable.
And yeah, it's just TV and who cares? I care. The best writing I know is happening on TV right now. It's where art is happening. Also a lot of garbage, which is all the more reason to embrace the good.
So this is another show like that, another Pushing Daisies, another Persons Unknown. It's called Awake, and it's awesome.
Jason Isaacs (who played Draco Malfoy's Dad) is an LA detective, married, with a teenaged son. He's involved in a terrible auto accident, and a family member's killed, his son Rex, (Dylan Minnette) or his wife, Hannah (Laura Allen). Since the accident, he lives in two parallel realities, one in which his son was killed, and he and his wife are trying to work through that pain and heartbreak, and one in which his wife was killed, and he and his son are trying to cope. Every time he wakes from a night's sleep, he's in the opposite reality from the one he was in the night before.
He regularly consults two psychiatrists, one in each reality, each convinced that his/hers is the actual reality and that the other one is a dream. But although both psychiatrists want him to abandon, in their view, unhealthy dream states, he resists. He doesn't want to lose his wife or son, and in his weird dual reality, both are alive. Just not together.
In both worlds, he's a homicide detective, but he has different partners in each, and different relationships with co-workers. But in both worlds, he's become, since his accident, almost spooky good at his job. This is because he finds clues to cases in one reality that affect his understanding of the other reality. So his partners keep asking "why did you insist on checking out that warehouse, there are twenty warehouses here, why that one? And he can't tell them it's because of something someone told him in the other reality.
Oh, yeah, and there are also these tantalizing suggestions of a larger conspiracy of some kind, involving his boss, played by Laura Innes.
Isaacs is wonderful. The writing, by a guy I've never heard of named Kyle Killen, is tremendous. It even works well as a police procedural--the cases he solves are genuinely intriguing, though that's not the main thrust of the thing.
I think one reason people haven't embraced it is because of the nature of the storytelling. If you missed the pilot, you think you won't be able to follow the overall narrative. This is not an unrealistic fear, and I do suggest you go on Hulu or something and watch the pilot. But watch it. It's either the best psychological drama I've seen in years, or the best alt-reality sci-fi show, or the best cop show. Kind of all three. It's great, genuinely great, Mad Men-level great. And it's in trouble. So save it. Watch it. You won't regret it--my wife and I both think it's the best thing we've seen in years.