FlashForward -- TV Review

"FlashForward" is all about the future, which looks fairly bright for this ensemble sci-fi drama, which bears a resemblance in tone and structure to "Lost."

This isn't the first series to question whether you can alter the future if you know it. For four seasons on "Early Edition," Kyle Chandler got tomorrow's newspaper delivered today (possibly the most plausible solution to the newspaper-industry downturn that was to come).

In ABC's "FlashForward," adapted from the 1999 novel by Robert J. Sawyer, the future is revealed more forcefully: At the same exact moment, everyone in the world blacks out for 2 minutes and 17 seconds, during which time they see and sense what will occur at that exact time on April 29, 2010.

During those couple of minutes, all human activity is suspended. That's hardly an inconvenience for someone, say, watching "The Jerry Springer Show"; in fact, it might be a blessing. But for many people in cars and airplanes or on surgical tables, the chance to view the future costs them theirs.

"FlashForward" doesn't dwell on the carnage. Instead, it quickly turns to the mystery of the blackout and how the revelations change the lives of those who experienced them.

The investigation of this consciousness-shattering global phenomenon is assumed by the Los Angeles bureau of the FBI, which is a little like giving Mr. Kotter's science class responsibility for checking out global warming. (In Sawyer's book, particle physicists tackled the issue, but when was the last time you saw one of those on TV?)

Supervisor Stanford Wedeck (Courtney B. Vance) assigns the case to agent Mark Benford (Joseph Fiennes) and his partner, Demitri Noh (John Cho), with support from colleague Janis Hawk (Christine Woods). For each of them, it's personal. Benford, sober for seven years, sees himself chugging from a flask. Hawk, with no boyfriend, has visions of being pregnant. Scariest of all, Noh can't recall seeing anything during the blackout.

Also agitated during the pilot is Benford's wife, Olivia (Sonya Walger), who sees herself with another man, and Benford's AA sponsor, Aaron Stark (Brian F. O'Byrne), who glimpses his daughter even though she is believed to have been killed on duty in Afghanistan.

David S. Goyer and Brannon Braga, who adapted the novel, wanted characters who feared the future, others who looked forward to it and still others who were ambiguous. The mystery of their personal stories is every bit as exciting as the overarching questions concerning how this all happened.

Well-cast and full of expensive-looking special effects, "FlashForward" should hook a respectable number of viewers with its combination of surprise and suspense. Looking into the future, Thursday nights should be as competitive as ever before.

Airdate: 8-9 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 24 (ABC)
Production: HBO Entertainment and David S. Goyer in association with ABC Studios.
Cast: Joseph Fiennes, John Cho, Jack Davenport, Zachary Knighton, Peyton List, Dominic Monaghan, Brian F. O'Byrne, Courtney B. Vance, Sonya Walger, Christine Woods
Executive producers: David S. Goyer, Brannon Braga, Jessika Borsiczky Goyer, Vince Gerardis, Ralph Vicinanza
Producer: Mark H. Ovitz
Co-producers: Cleve Landsberg, Samantha Thomas
Director: David S. Goyer
Teleplay: David S. Goyer, Brannon Braga
Based on the novel by: Robert J. Sawyer
Director of photography: Kramer Morgenthau
Production designer: Aaron Osborne
Editor: Jeff Betancourt
Music: Ramin Djawadi
Set decorator: Jennifer Gentile
Casting: Wendy O'Brien