Four Fatal Flaws of ‘FlashForward’

by | May 27, 2010 at 6:56 AM | Finales 2010, FlashForward, SciFi Tracker

Joseph Fiennes in FlashForward (ABC)

Joseph Fiennes in FlashForward (ABC)


Of all the ABC shows that got the merciless axe this season, it was the cancellation of the freshman mystery drama ‘FlashForward’ that had fans outraged the most in a somewhat surprising outcry.

From the well-attended debut of ‘FlashForward‘s promising pilot, the series soon found itself on a slippery slope toward cancellation, and ended up as nothing more than a flash in the pan. (The unexpected series finale aired on Thursday, May 27). What went wrong?

From this riveting case study, much can be gleaned about the preferences of the average American television viewer. Here are a few theories – none of which rely upon a postdoctoral education to grasp.

Never Rely Upon Quantum Physics As A Plot Device.
TV dramas about cops, lawyers and doctors are real crowd pleasers. Why? Even gerbils can comprehend plots that center around a murderous rapist who needs to be arrested (murderous rapist = bad!), a murderous rapist who needs to be convicted (murderous rapist = bad!), or a glob of malignant cells (cancer = bad!). But start throwing around phrases like “accelerator calibration” or “hypothetical subatomic particles,” and lines get blurred. Are hypothetical subatomic particles “bad”? Wait – what’s a hypothetical subatomic particle again? It’s enough to make a viewer start fumbling around for a dictionary. Alas, they might spot the TV remote control en route to the bookshelf. Spotting the TV remote control = bad (for ratings).

And of course, if your show hinges upon a plot device like quantum physics, you might have to get quantum physicists involved in the action. Uh-oh…..

Never Rely Upon Quantum Physicists As Central Characters.
Quantum physicists spend a lot of time obsessing over quantum physics. Occupational hazard. The thing is, when you are obsessing over quantum physics, you sometimes forget to have sex.

Apparently viewers hate that.

Lloyd (Jack Davenport) spends an entire season so obsessed with Q.E.D. technology that he forgets to take actual steps toward manifesting that future vision of Olivia (Sonya Walger) in her undies – and even in his flashforward, Lloyd can’t think of anything better to do with his lover’s lipstick than jot down a complicated equation pertaining to quantum entanglement. Why, his best attempt at a pick-up line involves asking Olivia if she can help him identify a symbol within that equation. Now, Lloyd’s quantum physicist buddy Simon did get a little nookie from time to time, but Simon (Dominic Monaghan) was still more aroused by the prospect of getting his horny little hands on an accelerator mainframe.

Never Neglect to Include Bare-Chested Vampires In Your Cast.
Yes, it’s an obvious corollary of flaw #2, but it bears special mention. Vampires are hot. “Hot” in both the “trendy” as well as the “How do the undead manage to cultivate such awesome biceps?” sense of the word.

Throw a hot, bare-chested vampire or two into the mix, and viewers will forgive you nearly anything. Even forcing them to Google phrases like “quantum physics.”

Never Have The Guts To Experiment With Genre Boundaries.
Audiences like tidy show categories, like “Cop Drama,” “Sitcom,” “Soap Opera,” and “Reality Competition In Which Someone Gets Voted Off An Island, Stage, Runway, or Out of A House or Kitchen.” Just don’t deviate from the formula (and we’re not talking about that quantum entanglement formula). “A Cop Drama That Relies On Quantum Physics As A Plot Device” is gonna raise serious questions from viewers. Questions like, “Um, is this a cop show, or a show about quantum physics? What do you mean, both? What are you trying to do, make my brain bleed?”

Sci fi fans (who can endure smarter-than-average plotlines) were eager to claim this show as one of their own and jump on the ‘FlashForward’ bandwagon – upon which they noticed a conspicuous absence of Daleks, and alternate universes, and Dharma Initiatives, and spontaneously regenerating cheerleaders, and Leonard Nimoy cameos.

Audience members just didn’t know what to make of a show in which the cast of ‘NYPD Blue‘ appears to have got lost in an episode of ‘NOVA.’

At the end of the day, was FlashForward simply not flashy or fleshy or futuristic enough to fulfill fans? Did you count more than four fatal flaws? Expound below.