Created by Kyle Killen
Starring Jason Isaacs, Laura Allen, Steve Harris, Dylan Minnette, BD Wong, Cherry Jones, Wilmer Valderrama
US network television is always charged with pandering to the lowest common denominator. There is a lot of truth in this, but sometimes a network comes up with a show with sophisticated content and great drama. And a recent case of this was Awake.
The show is the story of Michael Britten (Jason Isaacs). He’s a police detective with troubles: His wife Hanna (Laura Allen) was recently killed in a car accident. Or, rather, his teenage son Rex (Dylan Minnette) was. Or both. Or neither.
The fact is, Michael is living in two realities. In one, his wife is dead and he has to deal with not only that, but also helping Rex cope. Then, when he goes to sleep, he wakes up in a different reality, where Hannah is alive, but Rex was killed in the crash. The only people who know his secret are his two psychologists (BD Wong and Cherry Jones), one from each reality, neither of which believed him.
The concept could have been confusing, but one clever trick helps keep things straight: the realities are color coded, one shot in a blue tinge, the other in a yellow one.*
One nice feature was that the events in one world could be used to affect the results in another. Michael might learn an odd fact in the blue world that helps him solve a case in the yellow one. He’s sad about his losses, but he still can see his wife and son, and uses that to help both of them cope. And, as the show goes on, the timelines start to diverge.
The show never got traction in the ratings. The concept was difficult to explain and it only lasted 13 weeks. The final episode did give it all closure.** Ultimately, it was an ambitious series about loss that probably would have been better on a cable network than broadcast.
*They are referred to by the writers as the red and blue realities, for the color of a rubber band that Michael wears in each. But the color schemes are clearly blue and yellow.
**Though the writers said they intended that it be a jumping off point if a second season was orders.