TV Review: “Fargo,” Episode 1: “The Crocodile’s Dilemma”

In case you don’t already know, Fargo is one of my favorite movies of all time. Depending on the mood I’m in when you ask me, it may even top the list. I elaborated on my love for it in a recent review, but suffice to say that I think it’s a brilliant examination of moral and ethical boundaries; what they mean, why they exist, and why people cross them. My point is that you’d be hard pressed to find a tougher critic for a television adaptation of Fargo than me.

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Why I Don’t Watch “FlashForward”

FlashForward: For when Lost ends and you have a burning desire not to know what the hell is going on.

As fans of the show likely know, ABC’s FlashForward is not doing well. It is not pulling the ratings that they expected it to, and many pundits aren’t expecting it to last beyond this season. I watched the first few episodes of the show, and I haven’t seen any since. Why? I’ll tell you.

From the beginning, it was clear that ABC was looking for a big sci-fi/mythology show to replace Lost. They wanted FlashForward to be it. And it makes sense. The show is built to have a big story arc, with a clear end point in sight. Every character has a reason for wanting to get there, and all of them will end at different places. Mysteries were introduced, meant to cause fans to create wild theories and debate them on Twitter or in podcasts. All of these things worked to the show’s detriment.

The show was too forced. Lost worked well because the stories came naturally. The characters had nowhere to end up, so everything that happened to them could change their destinies. WithFlashForward, we already know their destinies, and the show is about what they mean and how they get there. Frankly, that’s boring. Who would watch a mythology show that you know the ending to? This arc design forced us to focus on the characters. The problem with that is that I had to actually care about them. I didn’t. Why should I care about what these people saw? It drops us right into these people’s lives, and let’s exposition tell us who they are. On Lost, the identities of the characters, as well as their many secrets, were revealed in focused episodes and flashbacks. Instead of the show’s believability hinging on whether we care about the story, we were allowed to forge our own opinions. FlashForward spoon feeds us exactly why each vision is so important and earth-shattering. However, why should I care that the wife is devastated to see herself cheating on her husband? We barely get to see their relationship in the first place.

The mythology is too important. On Lost, the Dharma Initiative and the Others really took a backseat to character development. It was left to the fans to create theories on what it all meant. Even in the final season, the answers are running parallel to the characters. On FlashForward, the characters take a backseat to the story. I’m not necessarily saying that this is a bad thing, but believing the characters is integral to believing the plot. I’m totally willing to accept the fact that everyone on Earth saw a vision of the future. They totally sold me on that, and I hope that they never reveal HOW it happened. I think that it would cheapen the entire show if the entire plot revolved around some complicated scientific technobabble. Anyway, I have a problem with them not helping the audience to develop how they feel about characters, and spend time complicating their plot, I suppose so that they can answer it sometime in the near future.

So, why don’t I watch FlashForward? Simple. I’m not going to get tangled in a mythology-driven show if I don’t care about the people in it. I got entangled in Heroes’ web at the very start, and have stayed with the show simply to find out where it goes, regardless of general quality. FlashForward was cheap in it’s method of suckering in viewers by introducing questions and mysteries at the very start, while not caring about how they affect the characters. FlashForward will likely be cancelled, and perhaps I’ll catch up with it on DVD in the near future and change my mind. But as of now, that’s not the vision that I see.

UPDATE: And now the show is cancelled. See?