I don’t have too much to say about this episode of Awake, particularly because I managed to see it live, and haven’t had the time to write about it since. In this episode, a new case opens and we get tension between his newly promoted partner in one universe, and more focus on his son in the other. I feel like the structure they’re beginning to get is that mix of episodic and series arc — the stand alone complex, as the Ghost in the Shell series had dubbed it, where ‘stand alone’ episodes are these cases, and the ‘complex’ episodes are the narrative reason we come back every week. In Awake, they’re both in the same episode, so we get Britten investigating between two worlds, dealing with skepticism at every turn, and learning how to cope with his family, an ongoing process.

The latter area is also an exploration of the world, which got a little bigger with the introduction of the chief character, who knows about Britten’s issue, and whose existence implies a greater mystery. Awake is the kind of show that may disappoint with its reveal, much like Lost, but I’m hoping that unlike that show, the guys behind Awake know how the series ends. In fact, I don’t know how one could start airing a show without having mapped out the story beforehand, but that’s the medium. There’s a business end of television that stands in the way a lot of the time.

I didn’t get a good read on this episode. I enjoyed it, but it felt like a continuation of the pilot in less than a good way. The jumpy style remains, which makes it feel hip, but I wonder how this show would’ve held up were I to watch it as I do all other shows, three at a time and on DVD. Luckily now I won’t have to wait long for the next episode, and hopefully I’ll have this review up sooner.

I also wanted to talk about the NBC show I sat through right before this, called Up All Night, which when paired with a show called Awake, makes me think that they’re sending me a subliminal message to stay up for the NBC late night news. So Up All Night, with Christina Applegate and Will Arnett, is a sitcom without a laugh track, so that’s one point in its favor. I don’t know what the deal is with these new shows like The Big Bang Theory and Whitney that have laugh tracks, but whatever. Aside from Will Arnett and the occasional appearance by Jason Lee, of Kevin Smith and My Name is Earl fame, that’s the only point in its favor.

This episode in particular was dreadful, talking about both feminism in the work place, and homosexuality. While the feminism part was embarassing, it’s the homosexuality part that really didn’t jibe with me. To their credit, they didn’t telegraph that they wanted to make a social statement, unlike other shows like The Simpsons, which in its 2007ish era seemed to rip topics from the local paper and say, “This week we’re gonna talk about evolution vs. creationism in schools… Go…” However, it isn’t any less flawed.

Their conceit is simple: gay people are hip. We know this, they’re so trendy because that’s just how gay people are. Setting aside that that’s in itself a dangerous stereotype (because all stereotypes by nature are dangerous), the biggest crime they perpetrate here is skipping point B in an A to C road to ‘how America sees gay people.’ Right now, we don’t see them very well. Especially in lesser TV shows, gay people have been depicted as either flamboyant and sassy males, or butchy or supermodel fantasy females. In this show, they aren’t being depicted at all, due to writing in a constrained, 22-minute format, but we’re being literall told that they’re cool.

You can’t tell us that these gay people are cool, and that gay people are now cool. That’s not gonna work on anyone. Good intentions, but you’re doing it wrong. It’s very nearly condescending, in fact — thinking that by saying “Man those gay people are cool,” I’m gonna start thinking it without thinking about anything, or letting my own personal feelings influence me. This is especially egregious for me after having started The Wire, a nearly decade old TV show whose character Omar, played by Michael Kenneth Williams, was one of its claim to fames.

Omar is a ‘stick-up boy,’ so he goes around robbing drugdealers, and he gets wrapped up in The Wire’s story by hitting the stash of the show’s main criminal group, the Barksdale organization. He carries around a shotgun and has a big old scar running down his face (Williams’s scar, in actuality), and is pretty much the most badass character on the show. Barack Obama even said so. As we discover midway in season one, Omar is gay. There you have it. McNulty didn’t say, “Man, Omar is such a badass. He makes me really think about gay people, how they aren’t just flamboyant and sassy.” He shows, doesn’t tell. His sexuality isn’t even a huge element of the show. He gets called a faggot or made fun of every now and then, but note that it’s always in a courtroom or when he’s not around.

When he is around, people start running and shouting “Omar’s coming, yo!” I’m not saying that Will Arnett needs to carry around a shotgun for Up All Night to be a smarter show, but it needs to go in one direction or the other: commit to saying something real and do it right, or do nothing and focus on the comedy you’re attempting. I don’t 100% hate you, as you don’t have a laugh track telling me when to laugh, but I do 98% hate you, as you do this poorly conceived grab at a social statement that tells me what to think. I might agree with you (not that all gay people are hip, but that they aren’t all America-hating weasels), but a lot of people don’t, and you might be doing damage.

The next episode of Awake airs at 10:00 PM Eastern, March 15…
Up All Night right before then

Return to the Awake Episode Guide