TV Review: “Awake” – It Might Keep You Up At Night

Written by Mitchell B July 19, 2012

NBC’s “Awake” revolves around the life of detective Michael Britten (Jason Isaacs). The series kicks off after a car accident, which kills one of Britten’s family members and results in Britten living alternating parallel lives. In one reality, Britten’s wife (Laura Allen) has been killed and his son (Dylan Minnette) has survived. In the other reality, the opposite has occurred. Every time Britten goes to sleep, he wakes up in the alternate reality. Intrigued? You should be.

Though the premise of the show is fantastic, it definitely would have been better explored on a cable channel, rather than NBC. The primetime slot on network television means procedural, so each week Britten attempts to solve not one, but TWO cases. I’ve mentioned before that procedurals are painfully boring to me, but “Awake” keeps things fairly fresh with the way the cases are solved. Britten will stumble upon something in one reality that gives him a new lead in the other. It also gives him second chances and the ability to correct mistakes. Within the procedural element of the show are clues to the over-arching question of the show (Which reality is the real one?), which makes the cases more interesting to watch and see solved.

Aside from its great premise, the other major strength of “Awake” is Jason Isaacs. I’ve long been a fan of his and “Awake” proves that he can act with the best of them. He is believable in moments of pure bad-assery, but also sincere as the loving father and husband. With a lesser actor the show might lose your interest in the episodes where the story doesn’t really progress, but Isaacs alone is reason to give “Awake” a chance. For the most part, the rest of the actors are very good, particularly the duelling therapists (BD Wong and Cherry Jones). The only actor who stands out as a weak link is, not surprisingly, Wilmer Valderrama (Fez from “That 70s Show”). Someone at NBC must have owed him a favor because he is incredibly out of place in this show. His lines are delivered as if he’s reading off the page and there is rarely any emotion displayed by him. Despite this, he isn’t featured in the show enough to be too large a distraction.

“A well-acted, thought provoking series”

As you may or may not know, “Awake” has concluded its 13 episode run on NBC and was cancelled due to poor ratings. However, I am of the opinion that this was a blessing in disguise for series creator Kyle Killen and company. Had “Awake” continued for more than a season or two, it likely would have become stale and the mystery no longer intriguing (See: “The Killing”). I won’t delve too deep into the show’s ending, but I will say that I wasn’t sure how I felt about it at first. It’s one that will likely split viewers but after a day or two of thinking I was pleased with the way it finished.

So if you’re surfing through the channels and realizing that there is nothing worth watching on the tube right now, get to your computer and start watching “Awake.” It’s a well-acted, thought provoking series that you’ll probably binge through in a couple of days. It’s definitely worth watching, even if you can’t stand procedurals and typical network television.

My Rating: 8/10

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