We are in a golden age of television. We are also in an age of excess. As such, we often have to pick and choose what we watch, because we simply don’t have enough time to watch everything that is good. Unfortunately, that means that a lot of great shows slip through the cracks. As a fan of TV, who watches much more TV than the regular person, I am always sad to see some of the best TV shows slip so far beneath the radar that they become obscure and unknown. In an effort to improve the standing of some of these “lost” shows, I have decided to create Spotlight, a new Feature series at TVEnthusiast. Spotlight will be a regular article series that, with each iteration, pleads the case of a different series that has somehow slipped under the radar.
Our 6th entry in Spotlight addresses a little known single season American network television series about loss. Awake impressed, those few who watched it, with its high concept pilot. Though critics were concerned for the sustainability of the series as a whole, the pilot episode itself stands among the best pilots ever made, and can stand alone as a great short film. Thankfully, Showrunner and Series Creator Kyle Killen (Lone Star) had a larger plan for the series beyond its already high concept beginnings. Unfortunately the series never stepped beyond its first season. As a single season show (which was featured in our recent Top 10 Tuesday about single season shows) with a high concept and a great cast, Awake is prime territory for TVEnthusiast’s Spotlight.
What is Awake?
Awake tells the story of Detective Michael Britten, who finds himself in a peculiar state following a traffic accident. His reality has literally been split in 2. In one reality he lost his wife, but his son survived. In the other reality he lost his son, but his wife survived. Those are not the only differences between his realities though, he has different therapists, different partners, and in the crimes he investigates, different evidence and circumstances. He switches between realities whenever he becomes unconscious, if he falls asleep, or if gets knocked out, the result is the same. Britten soon find that he can use his knowledge of both realities to be a better Detective, using clues from 1 reality to find evidence in another. This poses a problem though, as these crossing realities might not even be real, and he cannot explain or prove his leads. Even if one reality is real, is the other? The pilot episode finds our protagonist deciding that he doesn’t want to know. That, by having his realities split, he can keep both his wife and his son. Though it can’t remain that simple, and it doesn’t, as Detective Britten begins to become paranoid of others who might know about his split realities.
What makes Awake good?
The very concept of Awake is fascinating. In essence, it is an exploration of grief, a study on the effects a tragedy can have on a family, and the conflict that arises from denial. In these ways, Awake is second to none. Simply put, Awake is one of the best concepts in television history. But the series has other strengths as well. Jason Isaacs (Harry Potter) shines as Michael Britten, who struggles to identify with the grief of those around him as he cannot let go of what might, or might not, be a reality in which he has lost no one. Showrunner Kyle Killen addresses nearly every concern the large concept raises, without ever giving answers that are too definitive. In this way, the series feels complete without ruining the mystique. Through the course of Awake‘s single season, our protagonist struggles to hold on to his sanity as he is split between his 2 rapidly diverging worlds. At first, Britten uses a different colored rubber band around his wrist in each reality, allowing him to quickly know where he is, but as his life continues to move in 2 different directions, this simple solution can quickly become ineffective. The way Awake navigates these hardships in a believable way, is on of the series greatest strengths. The shows ability to exploit the weak points of the precedents it establishes, in order to disrupt the calm of our protagonist, is how Awake is able to stay interesting beyond its pilot, which could be taken on its own as a great short film.
Why is Awake being featured in Spotlight?
Awake had a lot of critical attention when it was on, but since the series actually ended fairly well (for a cancelled series), and there was always the fear that the concept would eventually wear thin, there wasn’t much outrage at its cancellation. Awake simply worked as a single season, with a strong, natural, conclusion. The series didn’t require fan intervention to reach its conclusion, but the lack of need, lead way to a lack of attention for the series as a whole. This makes Awake a great choice for Spotlight, whose mission statement has always been to expose people to lesser known shows. As an added benefit, The entirety of Awake is only 13 episodes, which makes its binge time investment negligible.
Should I watch Awake?
Does the concept sound appealing? If it does, than rest assured, the series holds up to its lofty concepts. As mentioned above, the series also feels complete, despite its cancellation. Awake is a great meditative series on the exploration of grief. Subtle writing with huge concepts, great performances, and thought provoking writing. It is a great series to get lost in when you find yourself in need of a good drama.
Awake ran for only 1 season of 13 episodes which can be found on Netflix. Unfortunately, the series never found a large audience, and so, was featured in TVEnthusiast’s Top 10 list of shows that only lasted 1 season.
Have you seen Awake? Are you interested? Tell us in our comments, and stay tuned to TVEnthusiast for more coverage of all of your favorite shows.