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The online journal of Vermont filmmaker, Bill Simmon.

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Dear producers of FlashForward…

Posted on Oct 2, 2009 by billsimmon in SF, TV | 8 Comments

Hi. I like good dramatic TV. I like science fiction. I’m a LOST fan. I’m in a very desirable demographic for your advertisers. I have a blog and a radio show. Nice to meet you, I’m your target audience.

Here’s the thing: I want to like your show. I saw your extended trailers online and on movie screens this summer and I was totally intrigued by FlashForward’s premise and excited by the star power in the cast. But seriously? You’re blowing it. You’re treating me like I’m an eight year-old.

In this most recent episode (the 2nd episode in the series) half the episode was spent in exposition. I mean you folks pulled out the expository stops! There was a “previously on” montage preceding the episode, and then all of the characters ham-handedly restated the overall premise and their own personal struggles with that premise in every scene in the first half of the episode. And the characters repeated the information throughout the show, hitting the same dramatic beats over and over. You even resorted to flashbacks to events that occurred EARLIER IN THIS VERY EPISODE.

I know that there will be some new viewers who didn’t see the first episode and those people need to be brought into the fold, but seriously, we’re adults. This is complex drama and fans of complex drama don’t need to be spoon-fed the relevant dramatic elements. We’re sophisticated people. We watched The West Wing for crying out loud. We can handle a little confusion if the drama, writing and acting are all up to snuff. Hook us with compelling drama, not a list of plot and character points.

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel here. Other great and successful shows have shown how exposition can be minimal and effective. LOST (right there on your own network) actually handled this pretty well. The aforementioned West Wing is another network example. HBO does this particularly well, allowing themselves long “previously on” montages with lots of information so they can keep in-show exposition to a minimum.

I’m rooting for you, FlashForward producers. I want your show to be good and to succeed. So please take a few moments to read the chapters on TV in Stephen Johnson’s Everything Bad is Good For You and re-watch the early episodes of LOST. You want your audience asking questions. You want us a little confused every now and then. When you reveal something to us, let us feel like we figured something out by connecting some dots — don’t explain it to us with lots of pretty pictures and single-syllable words. Give us a little credit.

Thanks for listening.

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8 Comments

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  1. On October 2, 2009, G C said:

    I cling to the idea that it took LOST four episodes to turn out a truly great episode (the first Locke episode, “Walkabout”) — and that the show was never REALLY superb until season four.

    The ratings are good. Maybe they don’t need us.

    http://airlockalpha.com/news/6741/flashforward-takes-small-beating-but-still-leads-demo.html

  2. On October 2, 2009, billsimmon said:

    My fear is that the terrible influence of Brannon Braga will prove uncontainable and FlashForward will slowly become more and more like the horrid Threshold — interesting premise and great cast in an god-awful POS.

  3. On October 23, 2009, nana said:

    I was very disturbed at the homosexual kissing scenes by the two female characters. Scenes of this nature have no bearing on the main story line. So why must you compromise?

  4. On October 24, 2009, billsimmon said:

    Wait, what makes you think it was a compromise? I haven’t seen the scene you’re referring to, but maybe the creators really *wanted* hot lesbian kissing to be in the show. That’s not compromise — that’s just artistic integrity.

  5. On October 28, 2009, Lev said:

    The only time I have a problem with hot lesbian kissing is when it’s obviously only done to be sensationalistic and grab ratings. Well, maybe not even then, if I’m being honest…

    Bill, I wondered what you might think about my problems with FlashForward. I too like the premise, but my major problem with the show is that it’s filtered through the lens of the police procedural, which is the most worn-out, boring approach to the material there is, and that approach makes the show boring as a result. I expand on the argument here http://levsarea.blogspot.com/2009/10/why-im-not-optimistic-about.html. To me, it’s as if Lost had been a show about some cops investigating the plane crash from the first episode and find a new strange clue from the paperwork or interviewing people every episode. Theoretically you can make a show out of that, but it would be really dull. In a lot of ways, I think FlashForward is that dull show, but the padding in between clues is insufferable. Have you no storytelling ambition, sirs!

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