05 March, 2007

Day Break

This intricate, intelligent and imaginative drama is one of those brave commissions from US network television where they trusted that viewers would stick with something they have to make an effort for. Unfortunately not enough viewers did and it was cancelled with half the episodes still to air.

Although I was very disappointed, I'm aware of the harsh realities of the US market-place and think, overall, it's good as it raises standards to a much higher level, as opposed to a more laissez-faire market where there might not be an incentive to do proper development or second drafts.

However, this ruthless policy left serial dramas in a vicious circle. Audiences realised that it wasn't worth committing the considerable time to a serial drama as it might get cancelled without them knowing the ending and so serial drama had lower audiences which led in turn to them being more likely to get cancelled.

So to encourage viewers networks promised to show the rest of the series online should it be cancelled. I'm not convinced that entirely resolves the issue but fans do get their closure. This is what happened to Day Break and having caught up with the unbroadcast episodes on ABC.com, I would have to say it was well worth it in the end.

So what is it about? It's Groundhog Day meets 24. "Detective Brett Hopper is accused of killing Assistant District Attorney Alberto Garza. He offers a solid alibi which no one believes. He realizes he's been framed. And he runs, discovering en route that not only he, but also his loved ones are in danger. He then wakes up and relives the same day over and over again. In order to break the cycle and move on, he has to figure out who framed him and solve the complex mystery surrounding Garza's death. He is also forced to heal the fractured relationships with those he loves. Either Hopper can break this day, or this day will break Hopper."

It shouldn't work but it does. Each day begins the same and you get variations on that as Hopper uses the knowledge he learned the previous day to avoid problems, find more clues or help people. That could get repetitive but it doesn't at all. Being a logic-fascist I was certain that it couldn't hold together all the plot-threads - especially after a minor logic-flaw early on - but it did.

"This is the hardest thing I've ever done. It's not just a puzzle that has to be different every week, but it needs to be emotional. The thing that people will respond to, beyond the delight of how the day is repeated in different ways, is the character of Hopper. They're going to be invested in him." Jeffrey Bell, showrunner

To be honest the week before it was pulled from the schedules, I was wondering if I should continue as there is just so long you can withhold answers before people get frustrated and wonder if it's going to be worth it. I was thinking that maybe it would have worked better as a mini-series of 8 or so episodes. However now I've seen the rest of the season, I'm disappointed that we won't ever see season 2.

Because the season was completed before it was cancelled, they weren't able to resolve why the repeating day was happening (as that was meant to be a season 2 revelation) so I would say don't worry about the 'why' just enjoy the fun of the consequences.

This is recommended but I suggest sticking with it past the slightly muddled first couple of episodes and see if you've enjoyed or you're annoyed.

Podcast with creator, Paul Zbyszewski (mp3)
Jeffrey Bell, showrunner, interview

Day Break,
Bravo, Wednesdays, 10:00pm


jim treacher said...

"they weren't able to resolve why the repeating day was happening"

I dunno, that very last shot gave me a pretty good idea... [looks skyward]

Thanks for the MP3! Can't wait to listen to it. I've been a Jeffrey Bell fan since Angel. (Also featuring the mighty Adam Baldwin!)

Robin Kelly said...

Yes, you're right, that shot tells you pretty much what's going on, if not the specifics of how and why, which does give some closure. But I nearly didn't recognise him.