For Your Consideration: NBC’s New Drama ‘Awake’
Tonight marks the premiere of NBC’s long-awaited (at least by me) new series Awake, starring Jason Isaacs. You may remember him as Lucius Malfoy from the Harry Potter movies, but you’d never guess it by looking at him now. Devoid of his platinum blonde wig and British accent, Isaacs plays police detective Michael Britten, a man living in two different worlds: one in which his wife is dead, and one in which his son is dead. Michael struggles with the constant uncertainty of his reality, wondering which world is a dream, all the while picking up clues from both worlds and using them to solve different cases.
For those people who want a little procedural with their complex serialized dramas, Awake has plenty of police work to weave each episode together (at least based on what I saw in the pilot). For me, the characters are much more interesting than the cases, and the all-around great acting from the entire cast makes it easy to connect with all of them, to the point that, like Michael, you hope that both worlds are somehow real. Laura Allen (from the late, great drama Terriers) plays Michael’s wife Katie, whose grief over her dead son is complicated by her husband’s continued visions of him in his “dreams.” Dylan Minnette (whom I will forever refer to as “Jack’s son from Lost“) is appropriately disgruntled, and alternates between being emotionally distant and emotionally vulnerable. The struggle between father and son to help each other cope with Katie’s death was one of the strongest parts of the episode, as well as Michael and Katie’s relationship in the other world. Both worlds create a solid emotional center around the relationship between Michael and his surviving loved one. Between this and the week-by-week police cases, Awake becomes less of a mind-bending puzzle to be solved, and more of an elaborate ride to be enjoyed. For those worried that Awake has some baffling mythology like Lost and Fringe (which are both fabulous, by the way), don’t worry. It’s not a simple show by any means, but it won’t make your brain hurt to watch it.
Awake has a kind of gritty, almost sun-bleached feel to it. The vibe reminds me a little of another NBC drama The Black Donnellys (which was tragically canceled after one season), with just a hint of The Unusuals (minus the quirky humor). I loved the overall feel of the show because it felt different to me, and that’s something that’s not easy to find on TV these days. We all know NBC could use a win right now, and they deserve it for taking a risk with Awake. Watch it Thursdays at 10, and don’t let another potentially great show get canceled before it has time to unfold.