NBC featured a screening of their upcoming new drama Awake, set to premiere Midseason 2012, after which series star Jason Isaacs, and executive producers Howard Gordon and Kyle Killen answered questions about the pilot.
Awake begins with Jason Isaacs' character Detective Michael Britten in a devastating car accident, which severs his family. This is where things get tricky. The series is split between two different realities, with Michael's wife dying in the accident in one, and his son dying in the other. When he goes to bed at night, he wakes up in the other reality. He doesn't know which one is real, and neither do we. You'd think this could get confusing, but the pilot manages to bounce between both realities without getting lost.
In addition to Michael's attempts to cope with his new situation, which includes being there for a grieving wife in one reality, and helping to raise a son who has lost his mother in the other, Michael also has police-work to do and his investigations are different on both sides, but may end up tying in with one another in strange ways.
One of the most intriguing and in some ways, amusing aspects of the show is Michael's therapy sessions. Living in two different realities means two different psychologists. Cherry Jones plays one and BD Wong plays the other. Their commentary during Michael's sessions helps to lay out the possibilities for what might be happening to him. Is his mind doing this to help him cope with losing his son, or his wife? That's the question we're forced to ponder as the pilot moves forward.
During the Q&A portion of the panel, someone commented on the use of color and how they differ from one reality to the next. It was an interesting observation and one that the writers seemed to appreciate as it was apparently intentional. This is a mark of how well the pilot works in terms of the more subtle, tonal ways of taking us through the story without getting twisted up in knots trying to figure out which reality we're in.
Howard Gordon commented on the newness of the concept, and while he may be right about that as far as TV shows go, the pilot reminded me a little bit of the film Sliding Doors, which also played out two separate realities for the same character. When watching Sliding Doos, I asked myself which reality would be the "better" one for the lead character and the same question came to mind during Awake. Which world is he better off living in; the one where his wife is alive and his son is gone, or the one where his wife died, but his son is alive? I'm not sure it's possible to answer that question, and certainly not after just one episode, but I am looking forward to watching more when the series premieres next year.