Ken Tucker
March 19, 2010 AT 11:53 AM EDT

We don’t watch TV in a vacuum — our enjoyment and commitment to a series is affected by how many shows similar to it are on the air at the moment, what time-period it has, etc. In the case of FlashForward, it’s currently working against the best flash-back, -forward, -sideways show (probably, unless they screw up the ending) ever, Lost. Also, FlashFoward is a serial drama, and sometimes it feels as though we’re each carrying around the continuing plot lines of approximately 47 hour-long shows in our heads on any given week.

So with the return this week of FlashForward, I had both artistic and practical considerations: Would it hook me as drama, and could I get back up to speed with its large cast of characters without feeling I was doing homework? Because if it’s gonna be homework, I’d rather be using the time reading the Metaphysical Poets, because right now that’s what I’m most interested in studying.

As it turns out, I thought FlashForward did a good job of establishing its purpose last night. The show seems revitalized by new producers who, from the pacing of the two-hour episode, seem intent on streamlining and clarifying the show’s premise.

Jeff Jensen has a full recap, but I’ll just point out a few of the supporting players that caught my eye. Gil Bellows has emerged as a humble window-washer who survived his blackout to become a spiritual motivational speaker (“Everyone’s purpose is to give and receive love”) who may or may not be a huckster. Ricky Jay’s Flosso (the character name is a little in-joke reference by Jay-the-magician to real-life magic-shop owner Al Flosso) came center-stage this evening as a really vicious villain who said things like, “I’m a villain.” (Jay always, no matter whose lines he’s reading, seems to be performing in a David Mamet play different from whatever script the actors around him are following. And Lindsay Crouse (Mamet’s ex-wife among more distinguished credits) was bravely unappealing as the mother of Nicole Kirby (Peyton List).

By the second hour, there was too much false suspense: Simon escapes from agent Janis Hawk (Christine Woods) by faking an allergic reaction to pennicillin; after the commercial break, Janis had found and captured him again with ease. What was the point?

But seeing Dominic Monaghan’s Campos become Suspect Zero in that stadium from the series’ beginning gave me the tingle the producers hoped to elicit. Did it work for you? And seeing the connection between Campos and Flosso, followed so soon after by Flosso’s murder, was nifty. So was the promise that “there’s gonna be another blackout.”

So, bottom line? I wish the main characters had more depth. But I’ll save my reading of George Herbert for the train and stay with FlashForward for a while, at least. I’m still intrigued.

How about you? What did you like or dislike about the two-hour return?

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For more: FlashForward Recap: Moving Things Along

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