Two highly-touted new television shows have appeared on the schedule, both with intriguing one-word titles – Touch and Awake. Both have high-concept premises and each one has a big star– Kiefer Sutherland in the case of Touch and Jason Isaacs, a hunky British actor, in Awake.
At our house we’re always hungry for intelligent television. That was an oxymoron as little as a decade ago, but since the ground-breaking work of shows like Six Feet Under and West Wing it’s no longer a stretch. So we watched both pilots and the first two episodes of each show.
And guess what? We fell big time for Awake, but no longer put the PVR on for Touch. Taste is a personal thing of course, and there are lots of factors involved. But when we talked about it one night, we realized that the big difference for us was in the writing.
There’s nothing fancy about the dialogue in Awake but it’s tight and mostly feels pretty real. Although the premise is fantastical, the plots are delicately wrought and have internal logic. The characters are believable and in most case, likeable. There are touches of humour, just as there are in real life. All in all, not rocket science but excellent story-telling.
Come to think of it, creating a compelling story – whether on network television or in your monthly newsletter – is a bit like building a rocket. There are lots of moving parts, and it takes skill to put them together right. But when you do, things can really take off.