Awake (NBC) - Series Premiere: Synopsis and Review

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‘Awake’, formerly known as ‘REM’ replaces NBC’s John Grisham flop ‘The Firm’, starting on March 1st. The pilot episode is already available for free on the NBC website, Hulu and iTunes.
The show stars Jason Isaacs (‘Harry Potter’), and the role of showrunner is taken on by Howard Gordon, who has written for FOX’s ‘24’ and is currently also writing on Showtime’s hit political drama ‘Homeland’. In ‘Awake’, the theoretical issue of quantum immortality is taken on; when someone dies, there is an alternative reality where that person survived. One person, however, is able to cross over between realities by falling asleep.

Michael Britten (Isaacs), his wife Hannah (Laura Allen, ‘The 4400’) and their son Rex (Dylan Minnette, ‘Prison Break’, ‘Lost’), get in a serious car accident. From that moment on, Britten starts to live in two separate realities, which he labels by wearing a green rubber band in one reality and a red rubber band in the other. In the green reality, his wife died in the car accident, and Britten and Rex are trying to cope with that loss and are also struggling with their father-son relationship. In the red reality, on the other hand, Rex didn’t survive the accident, and Britten and Hannah are mourning the loss of their only son.

In both realities, Britten is forced by his captain (Laura Innes, ‘ER’) to take counseling following the death of either his wife or son, to make sure he is still fit for his job as police detective. In the green reality, Dr. Judith Evans (Cherry Jones, ‘24’) is a kind and understanding shrink who tries to help Britten to find out what exactly is going on. Dr. John Lee (B. D. Wong, ‘Law & Order: SVU’) in the red reality, on the other hand, is a lot less considerate and tries to convince Britten that it is all just a bad way of him trying to cope with his son’s death.

At work, Britten works on a case of killed cab drivers in the red reality, while in the green reality, he’s working on the case of a missing girl. After a while, he starts to see strange parallels between the two realities, and these parallels appear to give him new insights in both of his cases.

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Because this show works with two different realities it can be hard to keep them apart, especially in the pilot episode when you’re still getting to know all the characters. When Britten is with his wife or his son it is obvious, but when he is at work it can be confusing. Because we can’t always see Britten’s system of the rubber bands, the series has also incorporated green and red hues in the screen. You have to really look closely to see those, but you can use this system, together with the rubber bands, to keep track of the realities.

Something that is quite strange is the way Hannah and Rex act during the episode. Hannah is redecorating the house, doesn’t want to talk about Rex at all and impulsively wants to get pregnant again. These aren’t really strange things to do or want for a grieving mother, though because of the way they are presented right now, it feels like something is up. Rex, on the other hand, starts as a typical teenager, though not really impressed by his mother’s death, apart from her not being there. Later on in the pilot, he finds a mother figure in his tennis coach Tara (Michaela McManus, ‘Law & Order: SVU’), and acts exactly the way his father needs him to be: kind, understanding and forgiving. However, those are not really personality traits that characterise the average teenager.

What do you think about 'Awake'?

  • It is great!
  • It is ok
  • I don't like it
  • I haven't seen it yet
  • I'm not even going to watch this
See results without voting

‘Awake’ is a series that grabs your attention from the moment you start watching. After seeing only two minutes you immediately want to know what’s going on. The pilot eases you in the story and the show will unravel the mystery piece by piece. With this strong episode, ‘Awake’ makes a really good start; it’s a good sign if the viewer is grabbed by the story and can’t wait to see the next episode. I’m really looking forward to seeing more from this show.

Are you going to watch Awake?

  • 86% Yes, it seems great!
  • 5% Yes, it seems ok
  • 5% I'm not sure yet
  • 4% No, it doesn't really interest me
56 people have voted in this poll.

This poll is now closed to voting.

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28 comments

Nickalooch profile image

Nickalooch 4 years ago from Columbia, MD

I really cannot wait for this, although im scared for the future of the show as I hardly see any kind of marketing for it. I feel like NBC doesnt trust that the series will do well.


alocsin profile image

alocsin 4 years ago from Orange County, CA

This is the most original premise network TV has had in years, and I've wanted to watch it ever since I heard of it. Hopefully your hub will put the series in front of more people.


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina

I think this will definitely be an interesting show. I think NBC is finally taking the right kinds of risks, so hopefully it will pay off. Thanks for spotlighting the previews.


Robin Oatley profile image

Robin Oatley 4 years ago Author

Nickalooch, the thought of this show being on NBC has never appealed to me much, because NBC isn't really doing that well lately. I just hope that this won't be a reason for Awake to get cancelled..


Robin Oatley profile image

Robin Oatley 4 years ago Author

Aurelio, it seemed great right from the start, I agree. And the pilot episode lived up to my high expectations, while I feared it wouldn't. I hope everyone is going to watch this show! (though really only the Nielsen families make a difference)


Robin Oatley profile image

Robin Oatley 4 years ago Author

Alecia, NBC is indeed struggling, but they have some great new shows with The Voice, Smash and now Awake. I hope this'll be a turning point where NBC starts doing better again.


Nickalooch profile image

Nickalooch 4 years ago from Columbia, MD

I watched the pilot early, and it's just as good as I hoped. I love the direction, and Jason Isaccs performance. Some of the best scenes in my opinion are in the therapist's office.


Robin Oatley profile image

Robin Oatley 4 years ago Author

Yeah, it is a great episode indeed. I just hope they manage to keep up with the high expectations we all have now! The scenes at the therapists' are great, though Lee annoys me. How much of a therapist are you if you say: "Oh well, the things you are seeing/experiencing are nonsense and you'll just have to forget about them, that's all." On the other hand, it's quite nice that both therapists have such opposite approaches. Funny thing that Evans has him quote the constitution, by the way!

Of course, there are only a couple of possibilities; the red reality is the real one, the green reality is the green one, or Britten is in a coma or something like that and neither one is real. And what if the red and green realities are in fact parallel realities? Ideas, anyone?


Nickalooch profile image

Nickalooch 4 years ago from Columbia, MD

I did a Hub on the pilot and where I think it can go. For one, I think the car crash is a bit mysterious. What if the police station was behind it and thats why the station wants to know how he is progressing? It's a bit out there but it's pretty evident to me that someone caused the accident. I think both realities are real, but the show will center around how well Michael is able to keep his sanity through it all.


Matt 4 years ago

I thought it was a brilliant episode, but for me there is the nagging thought that its sustainability is questionable. For the first series at least, perhaps the concept of overlapping realities could prove to be effective, and could offer for some intriguing plot developments, particularly if they continually aim to have one case to be solved parallel to each other in every episode, but I fear for how long this can keep audiences interested. Also most fundamentally the one aspect that will keep viewers watching will be to find out exactly which reality is the true one, but if the show succeeds and seasons grow, it could lose some audiences who are simply watching to find out, and there is of course the possibility that we could reach no conclusive resolution, although after the Sopranos I am not sure a show would be daring enough to try that again. This would make for a brilliant mini series, but ultimately they will squeeze the show for all its worth, and that could prove to be its greatest downfall.


Kelly 4 years ago

Really? Why doesnt he ever look at a clock or a newspaper. Its so predictable, they are both dead, Mother and Son. does he ever eat? or go to the bathroom to see what he ate...Really?!

Is America that "hard up" for storylines....Really?


Robin Oatley profile image

Robin Oatley 4 years ago Author

Matt, you make an excellent observation. What I hope they'll do is introduce some intriguing sub-plot lines that keep us watching in the short term, while the big red/green/both/neither question keeps going on in the background. That's how most successful shows do it anyway, though the hard part is to decide how much to reveal of the main question. Because if they reveal too little, it gets boring, and if they reveal too much, we have no reason left to watch the show. I think many shows have difficulties with this, as some shows seem to keep dragging on just to postpone the final revelation of the secret.


Robin Oatley profile image

Robin Oatley 4 years ago Author

Kelly, clearly the story hasn't really grabbed you. Though I don't really understand why not looking at a clock or not reading a newspaper is clear evidence for the fact that both his wife and his son are dead. Do you mind explaining that a little more?

Also, in other shows I rarely see people eating, reading a newspaper and going to the bathroom, except when it's absolutely necessary for the story line. So to me, it isn't really clear why you think that that is so odd.

Thanks for reading and commenting! And I look forward to reading what you meant, exactly!


vivasuzi profile image

vivasuzi 4 years ago from Somewhere in Michigan

Sounds interesting. I will add it to my DVR :) I have nothing for Thursdays anyway except The Office!


Robin Oatley profile image

Robin Oatley 4 years ago Author

This show is definitely worth a try, I'd love to hear what you think of the show!


Heather 4 years ago

Yeah.... I'm starting to think they're both dead too


Robin Oatley profile image

Robin Oatley 4 years ago Author

Heather, that's possible too. I can't wait to see if we're going to find out something more in tonight's episode!


jenniferg78 profile image

jenniferg78 4 years ago from Philadelphia, PA

I love this show and started watching with my friend the other night. We think that the plot is good and the writers have given the characters a good base. Beyond that, the writers will come up with some bigger plot and it could make a turn in many ways, they could even turn it into a conspiracy or both "realities" could be in his mind and he could be lying in a hospital somewhere. There is so many tangents that this could go on and we are excited to see more. (Bear in mind, we've only seen the 1st episode)


Bee Weare 4 years ago

Me and my husband voted for thus show while vacationing in Vegas almost a yr ago!! We loved it!


Robin Oatley profile image

Robin Oatley 4 years ago Author

Hi Bee Weare,

Awake is a great show and I love it too! What exactly do you mean you voted for the show?

Thanks for reading and commenting!


Jools99 profile image

Jools99 4 years ago from North-East UK

Robin, interesting hub. We will have to wait a while in the UK to see this show, which will probably appear on Sky Atlantic first. There seem to be quite a lot of almost supernatural shows on US TV at the moment, not really my cup of tea but I'll watch the first one to see what I think.


Robin Oatley profile image

Robin Oatley 4 years ago Author

Hi Jools, it seems to be almost supernatural indeed. However there no actual supernatural references. Also, there could be still a non-supernatural explanation, where one or both 'realities' are in fact a dream.

I'd like to hear what you think of the show when you get a chance to watch it!


Cyndi10 profile image

Cyndi10 4 years ago from Georgia

I started trying to watch this and something interrupted me. You review and the subsequent comments have given me a reason to try to catch up on the episodes. Thanks for doing such a good job.


Robin Oatley profile image

Robin Oatley 4 years ago Author

Hi Cyndi, I think this is a great show and Jason Isaacs is doing a magnificent job. The strange thing is that though so many people seem to like this show, almost nobody (at least no Nielsen families) is watching Awake. That makes this show, for me, the most underrated of the 2011-2012 season. And that IS going to get it cancelled. That's a real shame.


Brightonbreezy profile image

Brightonbreezy 4 years ago from Brighton, UK

'Awake' is a much better title than 'REM', the latter sounding a bit cheesy.


Robin Oatley profile image

Robin Oatley 4 years ago Author

Hi Brightonbreezy, I like the actual title better too! But more importantly, I like the series a lot. I really hope that it will survive the coming month of cancellations.

Thanks for reading and commenting!


michele 4 years ago

I can't believe they cancelled Awake. it's a great show along the lines of lost. it's really the only show i watch.


Robin Oatley profile image

Robin Oatley 4 years ago Author

Hi Michele,

Awake is really the best show I've seen in a while. I'm bummed that it is cancelled, too..

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