Friday, March 2, 2012

Connecting with Characters

So last night I'm watching this new show called AWAKE, which had an awesomely amazing premise, and I was super excited about it. There will be no spoilers here since I only watched the first few minutes. Any guesses as to why I stopped watching? (hint: refer to post title, please :P)

You guessed it! I couldn't connect with the main character. Let me tell you why:

From the commercials leading up to the air of the pilot, I had a few preconceived notions as to how the show's premise would be delivered, the plot being that after a car accident, a man has lost a member of his family, and his brain has made up a realistic dreamworld in which his other family member (wife or son?) is still alive. But he has no idea which reality is REAL. Sounds compelling, non?

Well, silly me, I THOUGHT that the story in the pilot would unfold in a linear manner, that we the viewer would be with the main character as he discovers that he doesn't know which reality is real, whether it's his wife or his son that's dead. Instead, we see the car accident, his son's funeral with his wife, and when he wakes up the next morning, the wife is gone, yet the son is still alive. And the main character HAS NO REACTION TO THIS CRAZINESS! We are to believe he's been through this before, that he's been living with it since the accident. Wah-WAH.

Now, I understand that this is the pilot episode and that they probably wanted to get right to the action, but I think the writers missed out on a lot of character development and intimacy by not showing the actual moment the mc realizes what's going on. That he's living two lives, but only one of them is real (Although I swear to God if the guy wakes up from a coma at the end of the series and discovers his wife and kid are BOTH alive, I'll scream!).

We weren't allowed a chance to grieve with the main character, or to see how he reacts to such a frustrating situation, we're just thrust into this dual-reality, with two therapists (both of whom assure the mc that he's awake in their sessions, of course) and two partners at work.

And then it turns into a police procedural with a slight twist.

But that "slight twist" wasn't enough to compel me to keep watching, not on its own merit. Now, if I'd sympathized more with the mc, been in his shoes when he was devastated, shocked, feeling any kind of emotion other that the numbness of grief, I probably would have kept watching even though cop shows aren't my cuppa.

What do you all think? Did anyone else watch? Can you think of a better way to introduce the premise rather than the straight up "telling" the show used?

I'd love to hear it!


Sophia Chang said...

Awwwww that's too bad to hear!

Girl, this is TV, what do you want from us, depth? We gave you action and attractive people, what more can you ask for from Hollywood? :D

I watched the pilot on Hulu earlier this week and LOVED IT. The plot's enough to make me go, "what's happening?" and keep watching. Plus my bf and I LOVE seeing B.D. in a main role again - any Asians on air warrants a try for us.

I dunno, the concept is just so compelling I HAVE to see how they play it out!

Tere Kirkland said...

LOL, I guess I'm asking too much from TV!

I still have it on my DVR (which, in my head, I still refer to as "on tape". Duh.) and intend to give it a second chance (Wilmer!), but I was just not as sucked in from the get-go as I wanted to be. I had high expectations that there would be more emotion at the start, and when there wasn't, I figured watching Project Runway Allstars would be a better use of my time. (it wasn't)

I really like the idea that the mc may not want to know which is real and which is a dream. If he finds out, he's lost one of them. So while I like that idea, I just wasn't that impressed by the opening.

Glad to hear you enjoyed it!

Krispy said...

I DVRed and watched it last night too! I actually thought it was pretty solid. I'm hoping they go back in later episodes to the grief and the confusion, but even if they don't, I liked the glimmers of emotional development and change he had later in the episode with his wife and son in the different realities.

I want all the things you want, but the pilot was solid enough that I'm optimistic about the show. That and I also do love crime procedurals/dramas. So there's that. Haha.

Plus, I always think about how the first few eps of Fringe didn't really do anything for me, but somewhere halfway through the first season, I was HOOKED - like omg, how is this show so good?! hooked.

Glad to hear you're thinking about giving it another shot. Unless I really hated or didn't connect with the pilot, I usually give shows a few eps after the pilot to get on their feet.

JEM said...

Great post, and I totally agree. We got none of the disconcerting first-person approach to the issue. AND they started with the car wreck, which was so out of context it just felt like a random prologue no one needed.

The Golden Eagle said...

I've seen ads for it on YouTube, but didn't watch it. But it does sound strange that they'd start off with the main character showing so little emotion--perhaps they thought it would be good contrast to "normal" if he didn't react or something.

Missed Periods said...

I haven't heard of this show, but do you watch Mad Men? The character development is fantastic. I am so obsessed with it; I should probably win an award for watching four seasons in record timing.

Sarah Allen said...

Very, very interesting. Lessons from TV shows are my favorite :) And you're absolutely right, whatever craziness or awesomeness we're trying to do in our work, we do need to keep our audience in mind. We really can get away with a lot if we can make our audience care about our protagonist, but it looks like your TV show didn't reach that point.

Sarah Allen
(my creative writing blog)