For a show that people are calling "the new Lost," you'd think that FlashForward would've started their first episode in a way that didn't, well, seem exactly like a Lost rip-off. On the plus side: Joseph Fiennes > Matthew Fox.
Seriously: Opening the first episode with your leading man waking up, then wandering around to discover that he's in the middle of a disaster site...? Didn't we do this already? The deja hey! is not helped then cutting from that shock into a flashback, just like Lost, but with a title card helpfully announcing that it's four hours earlier for the easily confused and stupid. Thankfully, the easily confused need not be overly concerned with this show.
Four hours before people were running around on fire and yelling a lot, we meet Olivia and Mark, two annoying characters who have cute "I hate you no I mean I love you" in jokes - She's a surgeon, and he's an alcoholic FBI agent, which we know because, as soon as they're introduced (along with their daughter and babysitter, who'll later turn into a cliche by making out with her boyfriend while the parents are out), his next appearance is in a Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. Subtlety, thy strong point isn't FlashForward.
We also meet Bryce - one of Olivia's surgeon interns or students or something - who wants to kill himself, and apparently stands on a pier with a gun in his hand for a few hours preparing to do it - Aaron (Mark's AA sponsor) and Demetri, Mark's partner who has "comic relief but we'll soon change that" written all over him. Just in case the seven minutes of introducing all these characters has bored you, the producers throw in a car chase to make sure that you're paying attention before dropping that whole FlashForward thing on you.
This is what we know about the future from the flash: Everything is very blurry, with JJ Abrams' style lens flares. There's no visual cliche spared in what we see of the flash, including a lot of easter eggs to keep fans interested (Bullets with "not today" written on them, Olivia asleep, children smiling, FBI case files of someone called Alda Hertzog), before we see Mark's own flash - He's drinking, staring at one of those "only on television" notice boards full of pictures and notes ("BLUE HAND" and "D. GIBBONS" - Hello, Watchmen shoutout) and red string trying to tie everything together, scrawling paranoid notes like "WHO ELSE KNOWS" (on a calendar page so we can helpfully see that it's April 29th, 2010) before guys with laser sights, three-star tattoos and facemasks come in. And just before we get the shootout, we're suddenly back in the present, and it's the same scene we started with: Guys on fire and everything a disaster.
Around the world, everyone's waking up and collectively wondering WTF: Mark and Demetri find their terrorists, babysitter goes to comfort her abandoned charge (who melodramatically says that she dreamt there were no more good days. Jeez, pessimistic pre-teen), Olivia realizes that falling asleep during an operation is a bad thing, and Bryce - in a scene far more creepily effective than any amount of CGI-helicopters falling out of buildings - decides to be a doctor after seeing the corpses of surfers floating in the water. Luckily, mysterious disaster doesn't preclude cliches, as we discover when Demetri tells Mark to go and check on his wife and we're treated to a slow motion scene of Joseph Fiennes running through city streets filled with stereotypical chaos: Look! There's an out of control taxi! And looters! And a guy in his underwear! And... a kangaroo? Thankfully, that's interrupted by news reports saying that it was a worldwide event, thankfully clarified by a random onlooker telling the audience "My God... It's the whole world!"
Just in case we've somehow missed the fact that it happened to the whole world despite being told twice in the very last scene, the third act starts with Mark and Olivia on the phone, telling each other that it was a global phenomenon before Olivia starts to deal with all the people needing magic surgery as a result of this global phenomenon that happened to the whole world. Bryce appears, apparently deciding not to help the floating surfers after all, and a kid mysteriously knows Olivia's name. While she diagnoses the kid in an operating room - because the acoustics are so much better, obviously - Mark goes to FBI headquarters to make sure we're all being kept up to date: "What the hell is this, a worldwide phenomenon?" he asks his boss. "Near as we can tell," his boss replies, before telling us that everyone was out for the same amount of time: two minutes and seventeen seconds. Joined by Family Guy's Seth MacFarlane - No, really - they also let us know that no-one knows what's caused it while apparently doing a speedwalk tour of FBI HQ: It's not a nuclear attack, it doesn't seem to be chemical or technological and even the Pope has nothing (Suddenly, I want see a spin-off show Papal Investigations, where the Pope and a hot female sidekick solve supernatural crimes. Are you listening, Fox?).
In a very nice corporate meeting room, everyone in the FBI has been given expositionary duty, reminding us (again) that this happened around the world and telling us the Vice President of the United States died as a result when Air Force Two crashed before Mark finally gets the show on the road by admitting that he "was having a memory, but it wasn't of the past... it was of the future." Thankfully, expositionary boss sums it up again for the audience: "So you're saying what? That everyone's consciousness jumped into the future?" It's around this time that I wish that my consciousness could jump into a show that didn't feel the need to repeat itself so much.
Thanks to some transatlantic phone calls and a talking head expert on TV, we soon learn Mark was eerily correct - everyone around the world experienced memories of future events during the same blackout, and everyone seemed to see the same future. As the FBI begins to work out how to work out what happened, we get an obvious shout out to the show's online ARG: They're going to create a website to compare people's flashforwards! You too could work with Joseph Fiennes, people! Just log on! Mark and Demetri get a headstart on the investigation, Demetri admits that he didn't see anything and wonders... does that mean he's going to be dead?!?
For the non-FBI people, they're turning to God. The babysitter thinks humanity is being punished, Bryce is convinced it's a gift, and Aaron thinks it's a warning from God to tell Mark not to start drinking again. Mind you, he also thinks that his dead daughter is alive because she showed up in his own flashforward, so who knows how helpful he is?
As the day (and the episode) ends, Mark and Olivia compare future notes - Well, kind of; Olivia admits she saw herself with another man, but Mark keeps that whole drinking thing to himself, because he's an idiot. Meanwhile, the boy who mysteriously knew Olivia's name earlier? His dad appears, and he's the man in Olivia's vision! ZOMG, or something! But not as ZOMG as Mark's future friendship bracelet being made by his daughter, which has to be important because the music tells us so. But even that pales in comparison to the fact that not everyone collapsed at the exact same time - One person in Chicago was awake... and wearing a black trenchcoat. Yes, Fringe's Observer has crossed networks and nothing will ever be the same again.
Judging from the pilot, FlashForward wants to be Lost for people who don't really want to invest the time into Lost - we'll have less mysteries, and everything will be made very obvious by people repeating themselves over and over until they're sure you understand. It's not a bad show, at all, but it seemed a bit too hesitant and nervous, and more than a little unoriginal - maybe it was first episode nerves, but here's hoping next week sees less repetition and more development. But what did you lot think?