Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Breaking Day Break...

...I'm still trying to form an opinion of Day Break, the recent Wednesday Night offering from ABC.


It's a mystery/conspiracy actioner. Our cop/detective guy Hopper (Taye Diggs) has been framed (or has he?) with a murder and then has to relive one day (or episode) over and over trying to evade capture and dicipher clues as to who set him up and why. That's the hook. And like 'Groundhog Day', the scifi element of being trapped in a time loop seems to be just apparent to our hero, and there are no visual effects to depict this anomoly in the time/space continuum.

The setup was as follows...

#1 Pilot
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.
I admit I've enjoyed the first four episodes - it's been kinda cool to see the ripple effect as our guy Hopper (Taye Diggs) replays the same day over and over with the knowledge of what he learned from the day before. But that payoff only occurs if you've watched every episode. So give it a point for rewarding viewer loyalty.

But if I'm a casual viewer, or just dropping by to check it out, the work that's gone into paying off those repeated beats is lost on them. The show tends to usually try to wrap up something in each episode to reward said viewer, but it's a bit of a wank wrap up. As in, if someone dies or gets hurt or arrested or what have you - when the next day starts again, all is as it was. It's like it never happened, except to our hero. Subtract a point...

Now have a look at the synopsis for the past couple episodes.

#3 What If He Let's Her Go
Hopper discovers that somebody close to him may have had a role in framing him for Garza's murder. Meanwhile, some critical clues come to light that may aid Hopper in making his hellacious day come to an end.
#4 What If He Can Change The Day
While trying to break the day, Hopper begins to unravel the mystery surrounding what partner Andrea did that caused her run-in with Internal Affairs.
And now the synopsis of tomorrow night's episode.

#5 "What If They're Stuck"
After trying to get some crucial information from Chad that could help exonerate him and end the never-ending day, Hopper finds himself in a hostage situation.
Sounds pretty repetitive, doesn't it. Like they are recycling the same story over and over. Which I guess in a way they are. But because each day begins the same way and everyone involved back at the same starting gate (except for our hero who knows what happened the day before so can try to change or influence events), the element of consequence seems to be entirely removed. Save the woman from the speeding bus, but arrive late to the hospital and sister gets taken downtown...bummer. But the next day we're back to square one, so our hero can save the woman from the bus AND get to the hospital or warn his sister - but he isn't able to stop his partner from hooking up with a bad seed. Awww man.

So there are Choices and episode specific Consequences, but those consequences start lose some of their uummph when we see the day start over again. It's like one big do over. And one might begin to cease to care. Take away another point...

Yes there is action, and beautiful people (like Moon Bloodgood...add a point), but it doesn't seem like it has serious episodic legs. It still feels like a cool movie hook.

That said, I'd really like to see the whiteboard in this writers room. Must be HUGE. And extremely COMPLICATED. Usually, when mapping out a season, you create a chart with your character names across the top and the episodes down the side. And you start at episode one and beside each characters name you fill in what happens to them in that episode and how it relates to other characters and their relationships.

And you kinda start at the beginning and the end of a season at the same time - the beginning to give yourself a start (George begins new job at ad agency and meets Marcie in the coffee shop downstairs) and the end to give yourself a destination (George gets fired on same day he proposes to Marcie)...and then fill in the spaces top to bottom and bottom to top in relation to what plot is specifically happening in each episode.

And as scripts get written and shot and you get feedback this board will evolve and change, but a lot of it needs to stay fixed so everyone in the room is grounded and pointed in the same direction.

Now for something like Day Break, I'd presume you'd start at the end and work backwards. But maybe they started at the beginning and said let's see what happens - destination unknown. No idea, but I'd be interested in finding out.


At any rate, since the points kind of cancel each other out, I'm gonna say Day Break doesn't have what it takes to be a successful continuing series. But like I posted last week, I think it would make a great 'maxi-series. Inform the viewers now of a date certain when the mystery will be solved and story resolved, say in episode 13 or episode 22, and hope interest builds to that climax. And then put Hopper to bed and let him wake up to a brand new day.

P.S. And if anyone thinks this was just an excuse to post another Moon Bloodgood photo...well...um...so what!

CROSSOVER ALERT! Callaghan weighs in with a Day Break broadcast schedule update and I know you've all already been there but McGrath writes a nice complimentary post to the above and highlights the importance of the rules of a show (plus more of the hottie factor)

SONG&ARTIST? - "Well, it's a marvelous night for a Moondance
With the stars up above in your eyes
A fantabulous night to make romance
'Neath the cover of October skies..."

24 comments:

Diane Kristine said...

I kinda liked Groundhog Day but thought it was too repetitive. Yes, I know that’s the point.

I felt the same about the Day Break pilot. It was pretty good, but I got restless with it quickly. I am curious (but not enough to watch more) about how the writers see it as an ongoing series. People said that about Prison Break and The Nine, too, but I’m hearing those people might have been right.

Bill Cunningham said...

Well if the whole of each episode was set up in the pilot (i.e. he knows certain things are going to happen at certain times and he must stop/steer those away from their results) then each episode must be ***relatively*** easy to write - the structure is ALWAYS there.

You just need to diverge from it as necessary to amass the clues (which at this last viewing, point in multiple directions. Anything could be a real clue or a simple red herring).

I'm wondering if they came up with the murder and frame-up plot and as you say, worked backwards...or they might not have the solution yet, but want to wander in the fields of speculation. If they are just speculatin' then they better get over it and quick.

I'd like to think they came up with the story, got the scissors out and cut up the pieces, threw them in a hat, then started writing episodes based on the clue pulled.

What's interesting (to me) is that Hopper learns something about the character of the people around him (and himself) with every episode.

Callaghan said...

I was really entertained by the pilot of Daybreak, but after two more episodes, I'm not quite as thrilled. Not that ep's 3 and 4 were bad...just not as much fun as the pilot. Probably because, like you say Dixon, the stakes don't seem to be there.

I suppose there is always the chance (from the character's POV) that he never knows when he'll wake up and it will be the next day. So he needs to make sure that his loved ones are safe every time.

But we all know that day isn't coming until episode 13...so we don't need to worry.

I'll keep watching, probably for the entire 13 episode run. But like Diane said, I'm already just a bit restless.

But Dixon, there's no need for any excuse to include another picture of Moon Bloodgood. It's always appreciated. Rawrr. In fact, I think you should include a picture of her in EVERY post.

Oh, and Moondance. C'mon...that was easy. "It's too late to stop now!!" (I know...different song...but the greatest part of his double live album)

The Film Diva said...

I'm in British reality tv hell right now, but your point about the series is well-taken. I still can't wait to get back and catch up. Also, I'm really shocked you buried the lede. I know your only continuing interest in the series is Ms. Bloodgood. :-) Lots of wow factor there with her and Taye.

DMc said...

Dude. We are so having a blog crossover tomorrow.
Believe it.

wcdixon said...

I'll link ya Denis and then we'll blogbattle to the death (presuming you don't agree with my simplistic analysis)

"It's too late to stop now!" - great double live cd indeed, and I'll be yelling that as I hit 200 posts with Ms. Bloodgood's pic at the top of them all. Moon Bloodgood. I just like saying her name, that's all.

Oh watch it Diane...just so we have something to talk about now that House is in Xmas hiatus.

Bill: 'relatively' easy to write...boy I don't know, though I get what you're saying. It just seems impossible to send off your staff to write a bunch of episodes after discussing stories in the room...there'd be no room to maneuver. You'd have to know exactly what everyone else is writing.

Chopped Nuts said...

Tru Calling with Eliza Dushku kinda sorta had the same premise - repeating a day to save a victim, though not the same day over and over. What they did eventually, since it was getting stale, was bring in an anti-Tru, someone who deliberately worked to doom people. So maybe something similar would work in Day Break - just when our hero thinks he has it licked, up pops a baddie who tears the whole kit and caboodle apart.

Portnoy said...

wc, what was that post about?


or -


i read uninflected images for the stories, man.....

Bill Cunningham said...

It just seems impossible to send off your staff to write a bunch of episodes after discussing stories in the room...there'd be no room to maneuver. You'd have to know exactly what everyone else is writing.

Yes, but you reboot the day every episode (with consequences, which is what I like about it).

But, if the timeclock for each day is basically set - with Hopper being the only anomaly to the equation - then you have all sorts of room to explore each minute of the day. Each day is one more clue to the whole and one more introspective clue to the man.

Then you reboot with the clues as your guide to another point on the clock.

But it looks like this is going to be wrapped up soon anyway...

No more "Moonshine".

jimhenshaw said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mystery Man said...

Great post, man. Your analysis was great, and I completely agreed with you. Of course, this makes me think of your sensational post on my blog about the subtext of Groundhog Day. Hehehe...

Personally, I don't think this one has legs, because frustration settles in after a while because the story never advances. You learn new things, but you never move forward.

Kinda like my love life.

-MM

Mystery Man said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mystery Man said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mystery Man said...

Great post, man. Your analysis was great, and I completely agreed with you. Of course, this makes me think of your sensational post on my blog about the subtext of Groundhog Day. Hehehe...

Personally, I don't think this one has legs, because frustration settles in after a while because the story never advances. You learn new things, but you never move forward.

Kinda like my love life.

-MM

Mystery Man said...

Great post, man. Your analysis was great, and I completely agreed with you. Of course, this makes me think of your sensational post on my blog about the subtext of Groundhog Day. Hehehe...

Personally, I don't think this one has legs, because frustration settles in after a while because the story never advances. You learn new things, but you never move forward.

Kinda like my love life.

-MM

Mystery Man said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mystery Man said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mystery Man said...

Great post, man. Your analysis was great, and I completely agreed with you. Of course, this makes me think of your sensational post on my blog about the subtext of Groundhog Day. Hehehe...

Personally, I don't think this one has legs, because frustration settles in after a while because the story never advances. You learn new things, but you never move forward.

Kinda like my love life.

-MM

Mystery Man said...

Great post, man. Your analysis was great, and I completely agreed with you. Of course, this makes me think of your sensational post on my blog about the subtext of Groundhog Day. Hehehe...

Personally, I don't think this one has legs, because frustration settles in after a while because the story never advances. You learn new things, but you never move forward.

Kinda like my love life.

-MM

Mystery Man said...

Great post, man. Your analysis was great, and I completely agreed with you. Of course, this makes me think of your sensational post on my blog about the subtext of Groundhog Day. Hehehe...

Personally, I don't think this one has legs, because frustration settles in after a while because the story never advances. You learn new things, but you never move forward.

Kinda like my love life.

-MM

Mystery Man said...

Great post, man. Your analysis was great, and I completely agreed with you. Of course, this makes me think of your sensational post on my blog about the subtext of Groundhog Day. Hehehe...

Personally, I don't think this one has legs, because frustration settles in after a while because the story never advances. You learn new things, but you never move forward.

Kinda like my love life.

-MM

Mystery Man said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Mystery Man said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
jeremy said...

Here's my take: from the first episode, I also thought to myself, "hey, this can't possibly go more than one season." It would get awfully cumbersome to see these same characters going through the same day over and over for more than 13 episodes. It's kind of like eating a great meal: every bite brings some new flavor or texture to the table, each new thing is interesting and delicious. But no one wants to eat the same meal, however delicious it is, over and over and over again ad infinitum.

So this story has to come to a close. But I think they will probably try to do a second season. Here's how: new story, new location, new characters. Everything entirely new. But the situation is the same. Some character keeps on waking up to the same terrible day over and over again.

Here's how it could work: if they get a great cast in, and wrap a great story around them.

It could fail in a thousand ways I don't even want to mention. But I hope they do it, and I hope it works.

And lastly, here's how they set it up: there's one question I haven't seen a lot of discussion about. For me, it's the biggest question, after "will he ever get out of today." It this: what forces have put Det. Hopper into this situation?

Whatever they are, if they ever get defined, they can be applied to another person, in a different part of the world, who for some reason "qualifies" for multiple second chances.

Anyway, we'll see how it goes. I'm watching the whole thing just to see.