Star Jason Isaacs and director David Slade shine in Kyle Killen's twisty drama
[In case you've Forgotten, and as I will continue to mention each and every one of these posts that I do: This is *not* a review. Pilots change. Sometimes a lot. Often for the better. Sometimes for the worse. But they change. Actual reviews will be coming in September and perhaps October (and maybe midseason in some cases). This is, however, a brief gut reaction to not-for-air pilots.]
Show: "Awake" (NBC)
The Pitch:"It's like 'Inception,' only not very much like 'Inception,' but maybe more like a police procedural, but kinda not."
Quick Response: For last night's Take Me To The Pilots, I tore into "I Hate My Teenage Daughter," one of the worst pilots of the year. To wash the taste out of my mouth, I'm cheating and saying a few words about one of my favorites pilots of the year, even though NBC is holding it for midseason. "Awake" may be the best-looking network pilot in several years. From the opening shots, in which we witness the tragic car accident that sets the plot in motion, director David Slade ("Hard Candy," "30 Days of Night") puts his fingerprints all over "Awake." The wallpaper pops in every interior. Raindrops explode off the screen. An emotionally draining session with a shrink is drained of primary colors. It's gorgeous to look at and leading man Jason Isaacs successfully grounds the mind-mending plot about a detective living two parallel lives, one when he's awake and another when he's asleep. Which is which? What is reality and what is dream? Isaacs has a human gravitas and uses his conviction to make every beat of Kyle Killen's verbose script seem worthy of consideration, even if parts of the pilot feel a bit too much like the gleeful meanderings of a Psych major delving too deeply into rudimentary dream theory. Isaacs has some exceptional support, including "Terriers" vet Laura Allen, who was wisely bumped from a supporting role into the female lead. I also liked both Steve Harris and a self-consciously mas-macho Wilmer Valderrama as the main character's partners in the different realities. My question after watching the pilot is the same thing I worried about after reading the script: What is the week-to-week series here and what are the chances audiences will respond to what is a VERY cerebral show, especially when the dream theory stuff resonates much more strongly than the procedural stuff? I can't be bothered with the second part, since I know that *I* responded. Audiences either will or won't respond and this is *my* gut reaction. But the first part, I'm not sure if there's a "Daybreak"/"Journeyman" sort of conspiracy/mythology at the root of the "Why is this strange thing happening to this guy?" mythology or if we're supposed to feel like it's all in his head. "Awake" has the ability to go either way and I can imagine resolutions that could be intriguing and others that could be infuriating. And I can't imagine what Season 5 of "Awake" is. Who knows? Who cares? This is a pilot. And, on its own, it's a good one.
Desire To Watch Again: Oh, I'm there for a second episode. No question. There are one or two pilots that I like roughly as much, but I don't think I watched a network pilot this summer that I liked more. I'm also incredibly interested in seeing what "Awake" looks like without Slade at the helm. Will all of the visual inventiveness go out the window? Or will they take advantage of a limited spring run to hire a different type of director to maintain the pilot aesthetic?
Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'I Hate My Teenage Daughter'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: The CW's 'The Secret Circle'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'Unforgettable'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'The Playboy Club'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: ABC's 'Charlie's Angels'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: NBC's 'Grimm'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: FOX's 'New Girl'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: The CW's 'Hart of Dixie'
Take Me To The Pilots ' 11: ABC's 'Apartment 23'
Take Me To The Pilots '11: CBS' 'A Gifted Man'
All of last year's Take Me To The Pilots installments.