I got hooked on NBC's "Awake," this season. That was hard enough to do given two things: The show was never adequately promoted, so I wasn't aware of it until a couple shows into the fall season; and the premise is so far out that it was hard to buy into. For those who don't know, the protagonist, a police detective, has been in an automobile accident wherein his wife and teenage son were either one or both killed. We don't really know, because whenever he falls asleep, the next time he wakes up he is in a different reality where either his wife or his son is the one who has survived. In each version of his life, he is seeing a psychiatrist. They each think he is dreaming the other half. When one of them says, "I can tell you, you are not dreaming right now," he says, "That's what my other shrink told me." Both think he is psychotic. I got hooked.
I watched the entire season on the NBC Website and was disappointed, as the season was coming to a close, to learn that the show would not be renewed next year. However, given the plot device, I couldn't see how they could carry on much longer in any event. Yesterday, I viewed the final episode. And as the last two episodes proceeded, it seemed as if the writers had found an intelligent way to wind it down and reach a meaningful conclusion.
Remember "Life on Mars?" It had the same problem. It was a great show that didn't have a following. So it had to be ended prematurely. The bailout was the trick that any fiction writing workshop will tell you never to use: The protagonist wakes up and finds out that he was only dreaming. In that case, he was on a spaceflight to Mars. In the case at hand, our man was dreaming that he was dreaming, that he was dreaming.
Holy crap! How can you get away with this kind of stuff in this day and age?
Not that this device hasn't been used to good effect in some notable cases. Take "The Wizard of Oz"or the second Newhart show for instance.
But most of the time, the viewer's investment in time and emotion, and believe me "Awake" was an emotional roller coaster, deserve better.
While we're on the subject of emotional investments in TV land, let's revisit "Lost." For six years-or-so, I lived for every next episode. When Blockbuster started closing stores in our area, I bought the the first five seasons on DVD, used at a big discount. I was prepared to buy the final season, once the show was over. I planned to watch the whole thing all over. Then came the biggest cop out of all, bigger even than "I'm okay now, it was all just a dream." I call it "We've all died and this is hell." Rod Serling disposed of that one some 50 years ago.
Ya know, it just doesn't pay to get too caught up in television.