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<I>Awake</I>:  Two Realities, One Show, Big Letdown

Awake follows detective Michael Britten (Jason Isaacs) as he copes with a car accident that either killed his wife or his son. See, he's living in two very different realities, one where his son Rex (Dylan Minnette) survived and one where the wife Hannah (Laura Allen) did, and he's not entirely sure which is real, so as he doses off each night, he goes from one world to the next and people in both are convinced that he's crazy and/or dreaming.

In the wife reality (signified by a red rubber band around his wrist), she's redecorating the house and talking about moving on, and he's talking about his feelings to therapist BD Wong, who sternly warns him of the dangers of this restless existence. He's also been teamed with a new partner (Wilmer Valderrama), who is sent to look out for crazy talk on Michael's part.

In the son reality (green rubber bracelet), Dylan is coping with the loss of his mother by taking up her favorite sport (tennis), and Michael's therapist is played by Cherry Jones. She seems set to convince that her reality is the one that actually exists by having him read. And Michael's partnered up with his former partner Det. Freeman (Steve Harris), who seems loyal to a fault.

And both realities seem to overlap, particularly in the cases that Michael is trying to solve. Street names and random clues, piece together from one world to the next and he's able to suss out what's really happening. But which crime actually happened? We don't know.

It's a great concept, to be sure. One man, two completely different lives and with the unsettling feeling of waking up in a place that you are unsure of, it vaguely reminds us of Life on Mars. And Isaacs is certainly compelling in the role. But one problem will be sustaining these two realities beyond a season. At some point, audiences will get frustrated with the unknown of which world is real, and Michael is bound to crack. And the real issue lies in the fact that the show is largely a procedural and is limited in its more psychological thriller/supernatural elements. We want more details on why this is happening to Michael, but a sneak peek at subsequent episodes seems to indicate that the emphasis is largely on the cases that Michael is trying to crack. We'd like each episode to offer up some clues, or more insight, but that doesn't seem to be the direction this show is necessarily heading.

Given that we've already been burned this winter season by the promising pilots of The River and Alcatraz, both of which left us unsatisfied by episode two, and earlier this year by Person of Interest, we're skeptical about the future of this show. We'd like to keep watching, but the mythology really needs to be stronger to keep us engaged week to week. If we had to pick between this and Alcatraz to fulfill our oddball crime drama slot, we'd pick Alcatraz due to the novelty of the weekly cases, the occasional Lost references, the historical factoids and the steady development of the backstory. But since we really don't have to choose, we'll still keep a sleepy eye on Awake if for no other reason than to see if poor Michael has been able to take a nap yet..

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