Awake is an ambitious enterprise; it is a cop drama and a psychological character study, a family drama and a bit of a mystery. Because it is so many things in one package, it can be hard to categorize and difficult to jump in mid-story. In recent weeks, Awake has been faltering in the stacked nighttime slot on Thursday nights, but I think this has more to do with complication than quality. As a freshman drama, Awake needs the chance to fully flesh out and deserves a second round to really prove it can punch.

Awake has a tone and an outlook that is different than anything else most of us have ever seen. We have a man, played by Jason Isaacs, living in two realities after a car crash, waking up in one and finding his wife dead and waking up in the other and finding his son gone. This sort of psychotic two-world reality with different family lives, different cases to solve at work, and different therapists is hard enough for lead character Michael Britten to keep unraveling but also difficult for new audiences to jump right into. It only takes one episode though, one episode to bravely jump into the grit of the cop drama and the emotion of the family drama and all of the other minor complications, and audiences will find a show that is extremely rewarding, not only for its plotline, but also for its cast.

Ultimately, Awake is at its best when it is focusing on relationships. BD Wong and Cherry Jones help Isaac’s character with his psyche, while Steve Harris and Wilmer Valderrama help him to navigate his position at work. Even Britten’s kid (Dylan Minnette), plays a teen struggling with his father after the horrific accident with the right level of attitude, leaving the still-awesome Terrier’s Laura Allen to be able to sit back and play the grieving mother to less harrowing effect.

Thursday night has a lot going for it, including comedy blocks early on CBS and NBC, with The Mentalist and Person of Interest catching criminals, and with Fox smartly throwing Idol into its best time slot. There’s a lot of genre television to occupy our attention and Awake does not easily categorize into any of them. But that does not mean it is not worth our support.

I’m the kind of woman who is a sucker for any sort of drama with crime, but I recognize not everyone is the same way. The great news is, Awake’s mysteries are a trope to allow Britten to investigate himself. Eight episodes in, we don’t know if Michael is being manipulated or dreaming, we don’t know if there is some underlying science fiction premise accounting for these multiple realities, and we have not really even been given enough time to begin making guesses. Eventually Britten will have to take the big plunge into his consciousness and come up with some results, but it would be much better for the character and the show should he be able to do this in his own time.

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