So imagine that you’ve come up with a great concept for a TV show, and that a big television network has heard your idea, loved it and wants to make the show. You’d be pretty excited wouldn’t you? Now imagine the show gets made, but when the pilot episode airs, viewing figures are not as good as expected, and then the figures for episode two are even worse. You’d be worried, but hope that the network sticks with it and your show finds an audience.
That’s what happened to Kyle Killen, creator of Awake, with his first TV show, Lone Star. Don’t worry if you haven’t heard of it, because Fox (the network in question), cancelled it after those first two episodes. The pilot had been watched by just over 4 million people, not a small number, but not as big as Fox had expected. The second episode was watched by 3.2 million people, and that number was small enough that Fox just pulled the plug.
Those two episodes of Lone Star aired in 2010, and while some people might have become disillusioned after their show was dumped, Killen stuck with it. He wrote Mel Gibson vehicle The Beaver, and then found himself back in television when NBC picked up his new show, Awake.
Although Awake stars Jason Isaacs as detective Michael Britten, it’s not a straight forward cop drama. What makes Awake different is that Britten lives and works in two realities. He’s just returned to work after surviving a car accident, but in one reality his wife survived the accident too, but in the other, his son did. He’s visiting psychiatrists in both realities, with each of them attempting to convince him that the other reality is in fact a dream that he’s created to keep his wife and son alive.
When he’s not speaking to his psychiatrists, he’s still at work, and finds that clues he finds in one reality often hold the key to solving crimes in the other reality, but in different ways. For example, in the pilot episode the address of a building in one reality is the number of a parking bay in the other, with both leading Britten towards solving both cases. Britten also has different partners in each reality, with both of them unsure of his methods and focus following his return to work.
It’s a very high concept for a television show, but from what I’ve seen of the show Jason Isaacs gives an excellent performance as Britten, and BD Wong and Cherry Jones (who you might recognise as the president in series 7 and 8 of 24) as Britten’s psychiatrists give strong performances too. Unfortunately, ratings in America have been poor for the show, and it seems likely that it will be cancelled after a single season. But it is an extremely well written and acted show, and worth taking a chance on.
Awake begins tonight at 10pm on Sky Atlantic.