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AT the risk of sounding flippant, police dramas are a dime a dozen.
Seriously, the television industry is saturated with them. The long-running Law & Order still reigns supreme, while Rizzoli & Isles, Rookie Blue, Hawaii Five-0, NCIS, The Mentalist and Scott & Bailey vie for a piece of the entertainment pie.
It is one of the most successful genres and certainly a money-spinner for networks. As such, it means there is that added pressure on the writers to come up with more ingenious storylines.
Defying the clichéd cop format, they are conspicuously imbuing more conflict and emotion into their character etchings.
In Awake, which admittedly has shades of Perception, the protagonist, Michael Britten (Jason Isaacs), a detective with the Los Angeles Police Department, finds himself torn between separate realities after a car accident. In the first reality (distinguishable by his red wristband), his wife, Hannah (Laura Allen), survives the accident. And in his other reality, this time distinguished by his green wristband, his son, Rex (Dylan Minnette), is alive.
His contradictory realities somehow empower him with the ability to spot details and, in so doing, solve his cases.
And Isaacs (best remembered for his role as Death Eater Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter series), certainly taps into his accrued acting experience to deliver a compelling performance.
In an interview with Collider.com, he shed light on this groundbreaking drama and his demanding role: “The only reason I wanted to do this show – and I hope people find it and like it – is that it’s completely universal. Although he has a unique situation, through that prism, we can explore what it’s like to be a father, what it’s like to be a husband, what it’s like to reboot a marriage if you don’t get it right the first time, and what it’s like to explore your subconscious. We’ve all got dreams… fears, anxieties and hopes.”
On maintaining the suspense without losing the audience from being too drawn-out, Isaac said: “One of the challenging and fun things about this – and you can ask the writers how much fun they have – is that no episode is the same as things progress.
“When we first find Michael, in the pilot, he absolutely wants things to stay the same. With these two worlds, he doesn’t know which one’s real and he’s fine with that. He’s not stupid, he knows one of them must be a dream, and he must have either lost his son or his wife, and he doesn’t want to engage with that loss. But that will take its toll on him and there will be consequences for that kind of denial.”
Awake is undeniably bolstered by a blueprint that is gripping – hopefully, with the pooled imaginative minds of the creator Kyle Killen (Lone Star) and the executive producers David Slade (30 Days of Night, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse and Breaking Bad), Howard Gordon (Homeland) and Jeffrey Reiner (The Sentinel, Columbo and Friday Night Lights), the reception is flattering.
After all, going against convention isn’t always a bad thing.
• Awake airs on M-Net Series (DStv channel 114) on Thursday at 8.30pm.