Series of Tubes: "FlashForward" Returns to Low Ratings

When I wrote my "returning from hiatus" entry last week, I wondered why more shows weren't returning this week, like "FlashForward" was. And then Thursday came around, and I remembered why.

Going up against the first day of the NCAA Tournament, the two-hour spring premiere of "FlashForward" got destroyed in the ratings, posting a new series-low and grabbing just over half the viewers that this fall's series premiere drew in. And it resulted in me not watching the episode until Sunday, which means I'm not getting around to sharing my thoughts until now. 

The episode itself was solid, but suffered from the same problem that crept up during FlashFoward's 10-episode run in the fall: too many characters. The main story was sort of a triangle of revelations between Agent Mark Benford, Lloyd Simcoe and Simon Campos, detailing more of Benford's FlashForward while also revealing what happened to Simon during the blackout (SPOILER ALERT: he was awake and was partially involved in the blackout plot, and has been involved in some way since he was 13 years old. So now we've at least got a real bad guy on the show). That story was interesting and captivated me. There were side stories that tangentially related to the main story, specifically the one with FBI agents Demetri Noh and Marshall Vogal (Michael Ealy, who has joined the cast in a regular role), and Janis (the lesbian FBI agent who saw herself pregnant in her FlashForward) continually being given the slip by Dr. Campos. Those weren't terrible, and are to be expected in a two-hour episode.

However, as much as the creators of the show have tried to make me care, I just can't bring myself to care about Dr. Varley, the suicidal intern who has a new perspective on life thanks to the blackout and wants to find his future Japanese girlfriend. Nor do I care about Nicole, the girl who saw herself drowning in the flashforward. In fact, I care so little about them that I had to go and look up their names while writing this, because they just don't resonate. They aren't quite the Nikki and Paulo of "FlashForward", but they may be the Rose and Bernard (they're not bad characters, they just don't drive the main story in any way, or, if they do, they haven't done it yet).And while I love Gabrielle Union, the less of her character the better. She didn't appear in this week's episode, and she wasn't needed. Until Demetri either dies or survives his projected date of death, she really doesn't need to be seen again. Her story is pretty much complete.

I think if "FlashForward" can focus on its core group - the Benfords, Lloyd and Simon and on a lesser level, Demetri (whose future death is tied directly to Mark Benford) -- the show can prosper. When you bring in the Dr. Varleys and the Nicoles and the Janises and Mark's AA sponsor, you end up with an unfocused show that people can't follow from week to week, and that's how you end up losing half your audience.