NBC’s Awake is good. It is smart, mysterious, and engaging. It has a talented and charismatic lead in Jason Isaacs and a good supporting cast. It’s got a young, but already acclaimed young creator and writer in Kyle Killen.
And that’s a recipe for failure. It’s the kind of show America loves to ignore in favor of shows that maybe less taxing to watch.
But NBC’s Awake deserves to succeed. (Haven’t we all said that about another show before?) It may not be the show that will change NBC’s fortunes around (though you never know).
But it is the kind of show that deserves a spot on a network line-up. It is an engrossing story, one that engages viewers instead of merely taking them along for a ride.
Awake tells the story of Michael Britten (Jason Isaacs) who gets into a car accident with his wife and son one night. After that, he begins living in two different realities, entering each as he falls asleep and wakes up. In one, his wife has survived the crash, but his son has died. In the other, his son has survived and his wife is the one killed.
Michael Britten, a detective, has different partners in each life and works on different cases in each one as well. But both cases soon appear to connect with each other and uses both to help solve the other.
He relates all of this to two different psychiatrists, one in each reality. And both tell him the same thing, that the other is a dream and this one (whichever reality he’s in a the tiem) is the real one.
But Michael accepts these two different realities, worlds almost, even if it means not “recovering” from the trauma of the accident and loss, as long as he continues to get to see both his wife and son.
The premise requires a bit of thinking from its audience, but it is still accessible. With relatable themes like family and work, strained relationship with children, coping with a loss; if anything,, Awake is an interesting and different family drama lens.
But there’s still the unfortunate reality that America doesn’t really take to these kinds of shows. For reasons that are unknown, otherwise we wouldn’t be talking about why America doesn’t take to these kinds of shows.
You can make fun of NBC for some of the shows they put on the air or their bumbling scheduling decisions. But you can’t fault the network for not putting out quality programs in the last couple of years. Life, The Black Donnellys, Kidnapped, Kings (my personal lament) and the Emmy award winning Friday Night Lights; all strong, worthy, quality dramas. NBC may be ridiculed for being dumb and low brow, but those same people who say so probably haven’t even seen these shows.
Now the way NBC handled these series in a promotional sense, that’s another story.
But let’s hope Awake doesn’t join that list of shows dying before they deserved to. It may or may not help NBC’s ratings turnaround, but here’s hoping it gets a big enough audience that will make keeping it on the air not a dumb move.