Third-episode verdict: Awake (NBC)

The CarusometerA Carusometer rating of 2

In the US: Thursdays, 10/9c, NBC
In the UK: Not yet acquired

And thus we continue with Awake, in which homicide detective Jason Isaacs has a car crash and wakes up to find himself in two realities: one where his wife died, one where his son died. When he goes to sleep in one reality, he wakes up in the other. Which is real, which is imaginary? Or are they both real?

The really very good first episode largely looked at the two different lives Isaacs now leads, having to deal with two deaths yet still having his loved ones alive in another reality. Episode two then shifted the focus to the murder cases that Isaacs has to investigate, with clues in one reality helping to solve the case in another reality (although not quite vice versa); episode three then sees Isaacs having to help a man in one reality who’s dead in the other reality.

Slightly problematically, the murder cases, while intelligently done, just aren’t as compelling as Isaacs’ home situation and the ideas about grief and loss that it raises. We’re also starting to get ‘rationalisation fatigue’, with therapists in both realities coming up with increasingly unconvincing explanations for how Isaacs can know things that he shouldn’t possibly know unless the other reality truly existed – when there’s obviously no good reason at all, the therapists conveniently ignore that particular difficulty. And then there’s ‘patient partner’ syndrome, familiar from dozens of sci-fi and fantasy shows, with Isaacs’ partners being fobbed off with equally implausible explanations for the impossible and deciding to accept anything for a quite life.

Lastly, episode two saw the head of a worrying conspiracy theory rear its ugly head, which adds an extra implausibility to a show that’s been trying to stay fully convincing outside of its central conceit. That’s really not a good sign. And despite the producers’ stated intent to make us not want to care about what has caused this reality split, that conspiracy is really doing the exact opposite.

Yet, despite these caveats, this is still one of the most fascinating, intelligent, adult shows on network TV at the moment. It’s going to get cancelled, obviously, because its ratings aren’t great and it’s NBC. But I’m hoping it will stick around to find its feet.

Carusometer rating: 2
Rob’s prediction: Fingers crossed for more than one season, but I doubt it

Author

  • I’m Rob Buckley, a journalist who writes for UK media magazines that most people have never heard of although you might have heard me on the podcast Lockdown Land or Radio 5 Live’s Saturday Edition or Afternoon Edition. I’ve edited Dreamwatch, Sprocket and Cambridge Film Festival Daily; been technical editor for TV producers magazine Televisual; reviewed films for the short-lived newspaper Cambridge Insider; written features for the even shorter-lived newspaper Soho Independent; and was regularly sarcastic about television on the blink-and-you-missed-it “web site for urban hedonists” The Tribe. Since going freelance, I've contributed to the likes of Broadcast, Total Content + Media, Action TV, Off The Telly, Action Network, TV Scoop and The Custard TV.