Midseason TV Preview: AWAKE

You’ve seen the commercials. You’ve heard the hype. Now there’s only one thing you want to know: Which of these new midseason shows are worth watching and which should be avoided at all costs? In this continuing series, we give you the scoop on some of the most highly-anticipated shows of 2012, with the focus of today’s attention being on NBC’s AWAKE.

The Plot: After a devastating car accident, Detective Michael Britten (Jason Isaacs) finds himself trapped in two terrifying realities: one where his son (LOST’s Dylan Minnette) died in the crash and his wife Hannah (TERRIERS’ Laura Allen) survived, and another where Hannah has perished leaving father and son to pick up the pieces.

The First Impression: Not only does AWAKE manage to put forth a winning premise that all but guarantees to have audiences clamoring to find out what happens next, it does so with the style and panache of a premium cable series thanks to its pedigree both in front and behind the camera. Focusing first on the brains behind the operation, AWAKE comes from the brilliant and possibly twisted mind of Kyle Killen (RIP LONE STAR) and a man who knows a thing or two twenty-four about pulse-pounding entertainment (HOMELAND, 24 Producer HOWARD GORDON). What’s more — on the off chance that’s not reason enough to automatically stop what you’re doing and set your DVR to “Season’s Pass” (again, did you see HOMELAND?), AWAKE has surrounded its trifecta of grieving family members (Isaacs, Allen and Minnette) with a handful of immensely watchable actors including Cherry Jones and BD Wong as Britten’s duelling therapists, Steve Harris and Wilmer Valderrama as Britten’s alternating partners in crime-solving, and Michaela McManus and Laura Innes who round out the cast as son Rex’s tennis coach and Britten’s boss respectively. In short, in both the story-telling and acting departments, AWAKE has all the bases covered resulting in a beautifully shot and compellingly crafted story. Unfortunately, if three plus seasons of lowly-rated FRINGE episodes have taught us anything, it’s that quality can only take a series so far. Which brings us to…

The Concern: AWAKE premieres this Thursday March 1st on NBC, which at last check isn’t quite the ratings powerhouse it once was. More worrisome still — even more so than the unfortunate fact that NBC hasn’t been able to turn a scripted hour-long into a hit since the Clinton administration — is the fact that AWAKE is not a show for the casual viewer. Its dual narrative demands your attention. Attention that an audience weaned on the likes of LAW & ORDER and TWO AND A HALF MEN episodes may not quite be so ready to give. But since we’re a glutton for punishment…

The Verdict: Has us rooting for our alternate timeline where the perennial fourth place Peacock Network finally scores a much-deserved win for their continued penchant for taking risks (See also SMASH).

The series premiere of AWAKE airs Thursday March 1st at 10PM on NBC (Global in Canada). Watch the pilot for free online at clicktowatch.tv

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