The Who, What, When, Where, And Why Of AWAKE’s Cancellation

Jason Isaacs as Michael Britten

 Or, why I’ll never be fooled by NBC again.

So, this is the last time that I will speak or write about Awake.  In fact, this might be the last time anybody issues any type of missive in regards to NBC’s most recent series cancellation.

To say that I had high hopes for Awake would be an exercise in understatement.  I’ve been slathering this show with praise since months before its premiere date was announced.  Now I will offer my reasons as to why I fell so hard for the show, and why it fell so hard once it aired.

Who is responsible for Awake‘s failure?

Well, it wasn’t my fault, that’s for goddamn sure.  And I’m pretty sure that it isn’t the fault of Kyle Killen, the series’ creator.  Killen had a novel concept for a series, which he equipped with a compelling structure.  You can’t ask for much more than that.

So who is responsible?

Jay Leno, of course.  I’m not kidding.  NBC will continue to fail in almost every attempt that it makes to take a step forward for as long as it wears the karmic albatross that is the on-again, off-again, on-again host of The Tonight Show around its neck.  Especially in the ten o’clock timeslot, where Jay staged the first wave of the coup that eventually brought him back to the job that he never really had to leave in the first place.

What kind of a show was Awake?  I went out for coffee.

Uh, yeah.  Herein lies the problem.  Awake was a cop show.  It could have been a show about forensic anthropologists or firefighters or travelling sword jugglers, but the braintrust behind the series chose to make it about a cop.

The cop is a homicide detective by the name of Michael Britten (Jason Isaacs).  At the outset of the show’s pilot episode, Britten and his family get into a car accident, after which his life is split into two alternate realities (Christ, this still sounds like a good idea, even as I’m typing this).  In one reality, only Britten and his teenage son (Dylan Minnette) survive the crash.  In the other, Britten and his wife Hannah (Laura Allen) are the survivors.  In each reality, Britten is not only consciously aware of the other, but is struggling to maintain his grip upon both.

After the pilot which, in my opinion, was the best to debut on network television since the masterful premiere episode of Lost, Britten struggles through therapy sessions that have been ordered by his superiors at the LAPD, with alternate therapists who have alternate theories as to Britten’s state of mind.

When was it all over?

Pretty damn fast.  In my opinion, you probably could have condensed the key elements of the show’s one and only season down to a hell of a Movie of the Week, if networks still tried to do that type of thing.

For me, it was all over around the beginning of Episode Four, entitled “Kate is Enough.”  In this episode, Rex flies off the handle when his buddy breaks his tennis racket.  Rex gets in a fistfight with his friend, which has to be broken up by their ultra-hot tennis instructor.

When Michael comes down to see what the problem is with his son, a quick discussion leads to the conclusion that Rex is simply having a difficult time coming to grips with the death of his mother, but it is never mentioned that poor young Rex might also be having a tough time coming to grips with the fact that he was kidnapped the week before by one of the men that Michael had worked hard to put behind bars.  That was in the prior week’s episode.  No mention of it.  After that, the series descended into a pattern of Michael using one reality to find clues to help him solve cases in the other.  The kidnapping episode turned out to be more or less disposable as far as the continuity of the show.

I call this the 24 problem.  If you track the continuity of Fox’s now-defunct 24, you will see that within the first few seasons, two seperate nuclear devices have been detonated in the state of California.  You will have to do a bit of research to confirm this piece of information, because it is never alluded to again in subsequent seasons of the series.  Two nukes.  One in Los Angeles.

Inexcusable.

Where do you plan on wallowing in shame and humiliation?

I live in Chicago, so right here, and in good goddamned company.

Seriously, I don’t feel I have anything to be ashamed of.  Sure, it might have been hyperbole to declare Awake the best series on television on the basis of a single, inspired pilot episode.  How was I to know Awake would trip all over itself by the end of its first month on the air?  You don’t wait eight weeks to write a review on a new series.  Especially if it’s on NBC.

Why did you fall so hard for Awake?

Mainly?  Because of this:

http://youtu.be/3SBbcMhkU3E

I believe this to be one of the finest examples of trailer sorcery yet produced.  Now, almost anybody who knows me will tell you that I am embarassingly susceptible to the siren cries of well-orchestrated hype.  Particularly when it involves a quiet, moody trailer.

So you can imagine that I was completely beside myself when, after a month ot two of posting and reposting the above clip, that the pilot episode managed to maintain that same level of melancholy over the course of the entire debut hour. Well, I couldn’t get to the keyboard fast enough.  Best. Show. Ever.

By the end of week two, I knew I had oversold it, and by the end of week four, I felt pretty much like an idiot.  Awake isn’t about to become the best series on television.  Awake isn’t even the best cancelled mid-season replacement series on television.

But it is cancelled, in this reality and the other.

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