…and then I said ‘that’s not a draught excluder, that’s my….’ oh, hello, and welcome to another fine installment of What’s in my Drawer, the blog that is to reasoned argument what a swift, steel toe-capped kick to the testicles is to fertility.
Let me kick off proceedings with a quick, off the cuff remark: Flashforward is shit.
With that out of the way, let me try and explain why it’s shit because, as much as I’d like to, I can’t simply allow that to be all I say on the subject, especially since this entry is titled ‘Why is Flashforward Sh**?’
So, here goes, but be warned, you may reach the end and discover that in order to stop yourself from screaming at your monitor you’ve chewed through to your ulna.
Right, Flashforward is, above all else, a show about time travel.
Now, I know there will be people reading this and thinking to themselves ‘How can this show be about time travel? There’s nary a Delorean or naked oily Austrian in sight. You’re wrong Mr What’s in my Drawer man, wronger than wrong. You’re wronger than a Youtube video of Edwina Currie and Claire Short wrestling naked in a paddling pool full of custard’, and to those people I say simply, ‘Fuck off and let me finish. Oh, and wronger isn’t a word’.
See, during the blackout (and if you don’t know what I’m talking about, why not pop off and check out the Flashforward Wikipedia entry, I’ll wait), the majority of the world caught a glimpse of the future. Some people saw a nice future (chocolate, bunnies, Alyson Hannigan in edible underwear), others saw a not nice future (murder, death, Alexis Denisof in edible underwear). Some people saw a future that was simply blah (they saw themselves brushing their teeth, taking a crap, drinking coffee), while a few people saw nothing at all.
These ‘flashforwards’ should be treated as a form of time travel. Nobody, got chased by leather clad cyborgs, no-one was brained by a falling jumbo jet engine crashing through their bedroom ceiling and no-one got gunned down by Libyan terrorists, this is true, but because the flashforward vision thingies were a glimpse of the future, the rules of time travel should still apply. And the rules of time travel are, not only myriad, but tricky little buggers to boot, so a film or TV show should pick one (and only one) and run with it.
Take Back to the Future, for example, where the time travel rule used was ‘You can change the past, but beware the consequences, so be prepared to put it back the way you found it’. In it we watch Marty McFly run, jump, punch and rock his way through 1955, during which time he inadvertently stops his parents getting together, winds up the object of his mums’ infatuations but wins through in the end by changing the future for the better (though, whether this actually counts as time travel or dimensional travel due to the new timeline created is a debate for another blog, 3 bottles of vodka and a cumberland carrot).
And every Film or show with a time travel theme uses a rule:
Quantum Leap: ‘The past was shit, let’s change it’
Lost: ‘The past was full of hippies experimenting on polar bears, let’s go see’
Doctor Who: Time is non-linear, wibbly wobbly…timey wimey…stuff’
Twelve Monkeys: ‘History can not be changed no matter how hard you try or how bad your wig is’
Primer: ‘Time can be subjugated provided you don’t mind sitting in a box for 8hrs’
And the important thing that writers of these cinematic gems must remember is that no matter how ridiculous or outlandish your premise, or how unwieldy your time travel rule, you must ensure that your story makes sense. Little mistakes can be overlooked by most people (I say most people, but they usually climb inside my head and kick me in the WTF button. For example, if Marty McFly made his parents future better by getting his dad to deck Biff, then how did they manage to have the same 3 kids, despite their situation being entirely different? Or in BttF II, when Elderly Biff steals the Delorean to take the almanac back to 1955 Biff, how did he manage to get the car back so that Marty and the Doc didn’t miss it when the future he would have come back to wouldn’t be the same one he left. I notice these things, but most people miss them, which is why I rock and you don’t), but if your whole production hinges on a rule, and you don’t follow it, or change it halfway through with no decent explanation, then you’ll owe me a new TV because I will have thrown something heavy at it.
Flashforward, being the big ol’ Brannon ‘I’ve run out of story ideas so let’s throw in a time travel storyline’ Braga created show that it is, gets it so horrifically wrong because it doesn’t try to play with one rule, it tries to play with 2 and a half.
Firstly it tries to play the ‘the future is inevitable’ card, with props or characters popping up that seem to bolster the inevitability of the glimpsed futures, and by having main characters allowing themselves to be pushed around by events.
Secondly, it doesn’t just try, but actually plays with a grand fanfare and a tickertape parade, the ‘you can change the future’ card, by having a character commit suicide meaning that events he saw himself involved in, in his flashforward, will never happen.
These two ideas do not play well together, for the obvious reason that they are contradictory, yet Flashforward gives it a whirl, creating a nonsensical mishmash of TV that just makes my toes hurt.
And what of the half a time travel rule?
Well, very recently, a character revealed that he’s seen dozens of futures that all play out a little differently depending on the choices he makes which, on it’s own, renders the first rule a pointless exercise in TV as it demonstrates, once and for all, that the future is not set in stone. It counts as a half rule because it’s trying to tie the other ones together by cheating "one of the timelines I’ve seen must come true, I just don’t know which one".
Where it falls down (from a great height to the accompaniment of a cartoon sound effect and Acme sticker) is that when this character meets one of the show’s main characters, in a scene he has elaborately and painstakingly set up, he is surprised not once but twice; the first time by the main character, Mark Benford (played by a wooden mannequin of Joseph Fiennes), who spits petrol in his face, and the second by an assassin who shoots him in the chest. Both events happen in the same few seconds, yet this man, with his hundreds of flashforwards, didn’t foresee either of them.
What a crock of shit.
I’m starting a movement. It’s called the ‘Stop Brannon Braga from making TV shows because he’s shit’ campaign and I urge you to join me in preventing this man from creating any more travesties of television. Come help me. Together we can protect our children.
Right, I don’t have a decent ending to this tirade. It went on longer than I anticipated as it is, and I still haven’t mentioned everything, so I’ll quit while I’m lagging behind and leave you to clean up the remains of your forearm. I did warn you that you’d hurt yourself if you carried on reading. You only have yourself to blame.
Next week ‘Characters that ruined otherwise awesome TV shows’.