Here’s a warning: Don’t get your hopes up for NBC’s newest drama, “Awake.” It’s not that it’s a bad show, because it is certainly far from it. But the 10 p.m. Thursday time-slot has its reputation for maiming recent shows such as “Prime Suspect” and “The Firm.” So for the time being, I’m not going to allow myself to become too attached to this series until further notice.
That being said, “Awake” is a unique collaboration between a procedural cop show and a psychological drama. I was thoroughly impressed by how balanced the pilot episode was, but am slightly concerned how balanced it will remain as the season progresses. The show is about a Los Angeles cop, Michael Britten (Jason Isaacs), who gets into a car accident with his family, which consists of a wife and a 15-year-old son. The problem is Michael doesn’t know who survived the accident.
In one reality, Michael is still grieving the lost of his son with his wife, Hannah (Laura Allen). But after he goes to sleep, he wakes up in his other reality: the one where his son, Rex (Dylan Minnette), is alive and Hannah is diseased. Each reality is slightly different but from the pilot you can speculate that they’re most definitely going to overlap. Michael has different partners and is seeing a different shrink in each reality, but both are concerned for the well-being of Michael’s “dreams.”
How does Michael keep track of which reality he’s living in? Simple. He wears a red rubber band on his wrist when Hannah is alive and a green rubber band when Rex is alive. This gimmick pays off when Michael becomes utterly distraught when he wakes up without any rubber band on his wrist.
Awake is also a cop show, but the catch here is that Michael is working on two cases an episode. This seems like it’s a lot of work for the writers and if every double-case is going to be linked, it’s hard to imagine some areas of the procedure to feel forced, but everything worked in the pilot.
What the show does exceptionally well is providing an insight to the emotional and psychological despair of a man mourning the death of a loved one. At the moment, Michael is content living two lives because he isn’t willing to accept that one of them is actually dead. Which life is real and which is a dream? That’s the gimmick the show wants you to become hooked onto. For me, I’m looking forward to the drama that might set in when Michael realizes that having both in separate lives isn’t a compromise that he wants. But right now, there are plenty of directions this show can web off to and I’m on board to find out exactly where it goes.