Here's my transparent attempt to segue into an untimely essay about Lost (which won't premiere until January but my guestblogging stint ends next week): the promos for Flashforward were so ubiquitous - I first remember seeing one after the Lost finale in May - that I found myself watching it Thursday night with a sense of obligation rather than pleasure. It was, in fact, so terrible that I turned it off after fifteen minutes of wordy expository dialogue that leapfrogged over any compelling sense of dramatic tension the show might have possessed. Which is funny, because this is the show that's supposed to replace Lost for us, when Lost airs its final episode this spring. And yet, Flashforward is thus almost the mirror opposite of Lost.Lost's watchwords are mystify, obfuscate, contradict. Flashforward's are explain, tell, lecture. And so, other than observing to yourself how much Joseph Fiennes is, as he ages, resembling Ralph ever more, particularly in profile... well, there's very little to get interested or invested in in Flashforward. (Oh, and spotting the Oceanic Airlines billboard.)
In fact the only thing that Flashforward and Lost really have in common is that they both belong to this new generation of mainstream fantasy/science fiction - the kind that has better production values than Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica combined - that has finally made its way into network television in primetime slots. These shows have come up with the mainstreaming of ComicCon and the sudden retroactive chic of comic book culture, which, it seems to me, started emerging around the time Michael Chabon's Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay came out. It's not that we haven't had sci-fi and fantasy in primetime before; it's just that these shows aspire to a sort of network television legitimacy we haven't seen before. They don't just want to be invited to the Emmys; they expect to receive one. And actually, we, the audience, tend to expect that too, on their behalf. And being an obsessive reader of, say, Lostpedia, just doesn't have that stigma attached to Trekkieism, does it? The mainstreaming of fantasy may be good for formerly underdog geek culture, and certainly it seems some people have felt their inner nerd liberated by the trend. But it is still very much the kind of thing that plays out with men, among men, by men and about men. I'm not trying to be dismissive here; I can see that writers of this genre are struggling to find a place for women within it. But they haven't made much headway.