Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Say hello to the best show in years: 'Awake'

Don't let the headline fool you. I am dead serious about this.

NBC's drama "Awake" really is that good. Possibly even better than that.

The show stars Jason Isaacs ("Harry Potter" films) as an LAPD detective who gets into a car accident with his wife and son. But, something strange happens.

His world splits into two different realities. In one his son died. Then when he closes his eyes to go to sleep he's in a world where his wife is the one who died.

In some ways it's pretty basic. But, the show goes further. We don't know if either is a dream. Or perhaps both are? Both realities could just be all in his head. The show does a neat thing by having him wear a colored wristband indicating where he is. He's wearing red with his wife and green with his son.

Since he's a detective, he's working on cases in both worlds. And they're starting to bleed together. He recognizes facts in one that directly relate to the other world. Like in the pilot, the suspect has red hair. So in the other reality he focuses on that (much to his partner's puzzlement).

The second episode (I always try to give shows two full episodes) builds on that with giving him a deeper insight into his family. His son questions why the clothes smell different, so he waits until he's with his wife again to find the answer out. Then he can go back and fix it.

The thought of him being crazy is not lost on the show. That is where his two therapists come in. In the "Red/Wife" reality BD Wong (who's amazing in everything he does) plays a no-nonsense therapist who isn't afraid to tell him that he's mentally ill. That keeping up two complex realities isn't safe.

On the other hand, in the "Green/Son" reality, Cherry Jones ("24") is more of a kind hearted therapist who seems impressed that he can not only keep these two realities going, but that he can problem solve in one to answer a question in the other.

And those two great character actors are only the tip of the great acting iceberg. Laura Allen ("The 4400") plays his wife, Dylan Minnette (Jack's fake son on "Lost") plays another, potentially fake son, Steve Harris ("The Practice") plays his current partner in one reality and ex-partner in the other. And Wilmer Valderrama, yes, plays his current partner in one and a regular beat cop in the other one. The shocking part? He's quite good here. Just goes to show that you just need a good part to play.

Laura Innes from "ER" just joined the show as the police captain and possibly something more sinister. I don't want to give too much away or spoil anything, but the end of the second episode turned the show on its side with a huge revelation.

"Awake" is also a show that is built upon great writing. The dialogue is great and the script is clear enough that you're never confused.

The bad thing is that the show is on the NBC death slot of Thursdays at 10 p.m. Remember when "ER" DOMINATED that time slot for like a decade? Now NBC has failed two shows, "Prime Suspect" and "The Firm," at that time.

Just give it a chance and check it out. You'll be hooked.

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