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TV series: FlashForward, Ashes to Ashes, and The Prisoner

Discussion in 'Television & Streaming' started by Anthony G Williams, May 14, 2010.

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  1. Anthony G Williams

    Anthony G Williams Greybeard Writer

    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2007
    Location:
    UK
    TV series: FlashForward, Ashes to Ashes, and The Prisoner

    Three series currently showing on UK TV have varied SFF elements, and make for some interesting contrasts.

    FlashForward is a US series, based on a 1999 novel of the same name by Canadian author Robert J Sawyer. It is set on a present-day Earth in which (almost) everyone blacked out for two minutes and seventeen seconds, during which they appeared to see visions of what would happen to them six months into the future. I haven't read the book and was unable to watch the first series (the channel it was shown on not then being available in my area) but came in on the two-part "special" and the start of series two. Sadly I didn't get much further since, although I was aware of the basic premise, the second series is packed so full of references to events and people in the first series that I found watching it an exercise in frustration. I gather from other commentators, however, that the series suffers from being far too drawn out (with 22 hour-long episodes in the first series alone) which means that the concept becomes seriously diluted.

    This raises an interesting question concerning the optimum length of such series and whether or not it is important to try to keep the pacing and structure of the novel. Generally speaking, feature films don't have enough time to do justice to most novels, since they try to pack a story which typically takes over five hours to read (assuming 350+ pages) into a couple of hours. Long series like FlashForward go to the opposite extreme, stretching the plot to several times its original length. One consequence is that the focus may shift from the science-fictional premise to the activities and interrelationships of the characters. This might be acceptable if the characters are strong and their relationships develop in an interesting way, but that doesn't seem to be the case with FlashForward, judging both by my own brief exposure to it and the comments of others.

    Ashes to Ashes is now in its third and last series. I reviewed the first two on this blog on 25 June 2009, so I won't go into the background again. This time the mood is darker, with the threatening figure of Jim Keats, a police officer tasked with reviewing Gene Hunt's (Philip Glenister) department, on a mission to discredit Hunt. Alex Drake (Keeley Hawes), thrown back from the present to 1983, becomes obsessed with the death of Sam Tyler, the former throwback in Life on Mars, and discovers evidence that Hunt was involved. However, the focus for much of the series has been on 1983 policing, with little evidence of the desperation to return to her young daughter Drake showed in the first two series; the only mysterious element being her repeated visions of a wounded policeman. Flashes of brilliant comedy are still there, however, one being the incorporation of a real-life incident, the vandalism of the garden developed for the children's TV show Blue Peter. This is "revealed" as being the consequence of a messy arrest by Gene Hunt and his team, who afterwards are shown glumly watching the actual 1983 TV programme which described the vandalism by persons unknown! Viewers are promised that the series will end by explaining what has been happening and wrapping up all the loose ends. It will be fascinating to see how they do this, but also a sad day - however, all good things must come to an end.

    The Prisoner was a late-1960s British TV series concerning a former secret agent (played by Patrick McGoohan, who also devised the story and wrote several episodes) who wakes up in a mysterious village (the actual picture-postcard folly village of Portmerion in North Wales) from which he is prevented from leaving while those in charge try to find out why he resigned. The residents all have numbers rather than names and live a surreal existence which, along with the bizarre attempts to break the hero's resistance, provide a substantial fantasy element to what is ostensibly a spy thriller. (In this respect it is not dissimilar to another famous but lighter and more comedic series from the same period, The Avengers, in its definitive third series starring Diana Rigg). I saw the The Prisoner when it first appeared and saw it all again when it was broadcast a few years ago; it deservedly has cult status now.

    A new version of The Prisoner is now showing. This is a joint US/UK production featuring an American hero (played by John Caviezel) and is set in a model village among the deserts of southern Africa. So far it looks promising, with a similar basic premise but enough differences to make it interesting, and lots of confusing blurring between the hero's past and present lives. One to keep watching, for now at least.[​IMG]


    (This entry is cross-posted from my science-fiction & fantasy blog.)
     
  2. Kevin

    Kevin Code Monkey Staff Abductee

    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2004
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    I have to admit, I like Flash Forward and is one of the few shows I have on the DVR to auto-record right now. There is indeed a lot of character development going on with the show, and it seems like some story lines come & go, but that is to be expected a bit considering the subject matter. Don't worry about reading the original book... from what I understand the series is based on it but is strayed enough that they no longer synch' up to each other. The series is also starting to pick up on a theme that Fringe has been playing with lately and that is the question of really are the good guys & who are the bad guys? The lines are starting to blur a bit. I hate to say it, but, Flash Forward really is one of the shows that, like Lost, need to be watched in it's entirety in sequence to be able to follow what is going on. A good memory doesn't hurt either.

    I'll catch Ashes to Ashes when it is eventually released on DVD. I was a little put off by it since the US version of Life On Mars, which I enjoyed watching, had a totally different series ending to it versus the UK original production. Even though the US's 'happy ending' version seemed rushed, since it was, it still left enough questions unanswered to leave the viewers wanting more whereas the original version seems to pretty clearly answer the question of what happens to Sam in our world. The issue of Sam in Ashes to Ashes on occasion seems to be a bit of retcon in order to allow Ashes to keep going forward. So DVD it will be for me.

    The Prisoner... what can I say, I refuse to even watch the remake. The original series helped shape my impressionable persona as a kid and, much like Tom Baker as Dr. Who, there may be derivatives of the art done to it but there will always be no replacing the original. (Yes, I know, Tom Baker was not the original Dr. but he is the Dr. that I watched the most as a kid and have likely by now seen every one of his Who episodes several times each.)
     
  3. Wolfrunner

    Wolfrunner Rocket Ranger

    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2010
    Location:
    Mars
    I have only seen one series of Flashforward and I have just heard that has been cancelled. Is there another Flashforward series?
     
  4. Kevin

    Kevin Code Monkey Staff Abductee

    Joined:
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    Location:
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    No, just the one series and, sadly, yes, ABC has not renewed it for another season.

    They renew V for a another full season but not Flash Forward. :banghead:
     
  5. Kevin

    Kevin Code Monkey Staff Abductee

    Joined:
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    Pennsylvania
    jlasserton, welcome! :cool:

    For Ashes to Ashes, if you can, try to watch the original UK version of Life on Mars first since that sets the setting for Ashes to Ashes.
     
  6. screenersam

    screenersam This is news, Vincenzo, NEWS!

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2009
    Location:
    Maryland
    VERY disappointing. you missed nothing.
     
  7. frell

    frell Ensign

    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2011
    Location:
    Cleveland, Ohio
    I was rather pissed that FlashForward was cancelled. The show had a lot of potential. I did not appreciate the DVD releases of that show. They released the first half of the season, which I bought, inside the DVD box was a paper announcing the FULL SEASON box set. Pretty much, hey you wasted your money on this box set. When I bought it, I was thinking they were following the much hated BSG Season 2.0/Season 2.5 approach.
     
  8. Kevin

    Kevin Code Monkey Staff Abductee

    Joined:
    Mar 20, 2004
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Thanks for the warning on the Flash Forward DVD box set! I like to gift to my brother box sets of shows/movies that I think he'd like but missed when they came out and I have Flash Forward on my list for him at some point. I was a big fan of the show and was greatly disappointed when it got canceled. After watching the first new episode of V for the new season, I still can't believe that they kept that but killed Flash Forward. :mad:

    Another show that I think was recently killed before its time was Rubicon on AMC. It is not sci-fi or genre related, but was a superbly written & acted show about espionage, spies, & 'think tanks' that act as fronts for various intelligence agencies. I might be picking up that set for me to watch since AMC on DirecTV is not HD yet and I'd love to see the original full-quality versions of the episodes. If you like a good spy story, check it out if you get a chance.
     
  9. frell

    frell Ensign

    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2011
    Location:
    Cleveland, Ohio
    I saw this show on the AMC website when I was looking up Walking Dead or Mad Men stuff. The show looked great....then I found out it was cancelled. I will try to keep it in mind for the future.
     

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