The Addictive Dreamscape Of “Awake”
“Awake,” Kyle Killen’s new drama for NBC, is his second time on network television. His last outing was with “Lone Star,” which was cancelled after two episodes. “Lone Star,” which starred James Wolk as Robert, a con man with two wives, was wonderful to watch, but it was also morally challenging and genuinely strange for network television.
“Awake” is about a cop named Michael Britten (Jason Isaacs), who has survived a tragic car accident, only to find that he is living two parallel lives. Each time Britten falls asleep, he wakes up in the other life. With its dreamy, Philip K. Dick-ian premise and a strong performance by Isaacs, “Awake” is one of the most affecting explorations of grief on TV. It does not seem like a coincidence that a viewer may recognize the show’s actors from their work on other network procedurals: Cherry Jones from “24,” B.D. Wong from “Law & Order,” Laura Innes from “E.R.,” and Britten’s partner, played by Steve Harris, from “The Practice.” While ordinary procedurals involve pain, they reduce it to capsule form; we feel grief only in the final act.
In contrast, “Awake” is flooded with a recognizable human horror—the sensation, after a tragedy, that what’s happening can’t be real. Too often, modern television audiences are walled off in their own taste silos. “Downton Abbey” fans or “Battlestar Galactica” buffs are afraid to step outside the walls of whatever they consider “quality” TV. “Awake” may be hard to categorize, but it’s worth our attention.
The New Yorker
by Emily Nussbaum