Saturday, November 17, 2012

Day Break, The Complete Series (live action TV series)

Day Break could be classified as action, drama, a thriller, and possibly science fiction (tough to say). The DVD set I own contains all 13 episodes on 2 discs. I got it from a bargain bin, with no prior knowledge of what the show was about or how well it had been received. I figured the answer was probably "not well," since only 6 episodes were broadcast. I decided to give it a chance anyway, because sometimes good shows don't get decent treatment. Maybe Day Break was a secret gem that got stomped on by its network.

Synopsis:

Detective Brett Hopper wakes up after spending the night with his girlfriend, Rita Shelten, at her place. Rita heads off to work, and Brett begins going about his day, only to have a SWAT team capture him. It turns out he's been framed for the murder of Assistant D.A. Garza. That night, Hopper is forcibly removed from his prison cell and taken before a very bad man who seems to be behind everything that's going on. He tells Hopper that, if he doesn't confess to Garza's murder, everyone he loves will die. To prove that he is serious, the very bad man shows Hopper video footage of Rita being killed. The same thing will happen to Hopper's sister if he doesn't do as he's told.

The next day, Hopper wakes up in Rita's bed again. Rita is fine, and everything appears to be going exactly as it did yesterday morning. Hopper comes to the conclusion that he is somehow repeating that horrible day. As he keeps repeating that day, he tries to find out more about what's going on, protect those around him, and clear his name, figuring that, if he can fix everything, somehow time will start moving forward for him again.

Some of the other characters include:
  • Andrea Battle - Hopper's current partner. She's in trouble with Internal Affairs right now and also has some issues with Hopper.
  • Jennifer Mathis - Hopper's sister. She made many attempts to call him the night before the repeating day, but he never picked up.
  • Damien Ortiz - Hopper's informant, and a member of the Latin Disciples, a gang. The safe house Hopper put him in was ambushed on the night before the repeating day. He escaped, but now he'd like some answers from Hopper.
  • Chad Shelten - Rita's ex-husband, and Hopper's ex-partner. Chad thinks Hopper stole Rita from him, so his feelings for Hopper aren't exactly warm and fuzzy.
Review:

While interesting and watchable, Day Break had some very big, very basic problems that, I think, doomed it from the start. I'm not sure how anyone involved in its creation thought it would ever last more than one season.

A brief look at some other reviews showed me I wasn't the only one who had several concerns about this show. First, how could a TV series with this kind of premise keep from becoming too repetitious? Second, what was causing Hopper to repeat the same day over and over again?

The way the writers kept the show from becoming too repetitious was by breaking the show's own rules. The writers might not have seen it that way, but that's how it came across to me, a viewer. You see, at the beginning of the show, it was established that, while Hopper's memories and physical condition carried over, nothing else did. For example, if he got shot, the bullet wound was still there (and in need of care) when he woke up and repeated the same day over again. Any notes he took would be gone, and no one around him remembered any of the things he'd seen in previous iterations of the day.

This idea is workable in a movie-length story, but I'm sure you can see how it could get old, fast, in something as long as a TV series, even if only one season had been planned right from the start. To keep things from getting stale, and to allow the story to move forward, sometimes Hopper's actions had lasting effects. Sometimes the people around him sorta kinda remembered what he did or said the last time he lived through that one day.

There was no explanation given for why this happened. It just happened whenever the writers needed something in the story to “stick” in order to have Hopper move on to the next part of his investigation without having to convince everyone, all over again, to trust him and help him. This, I think, is the single biggest thing that killed this show, and yet, without it, the story would have been stuck.

Had I been watching this series when it originally aired, I probably would have abandoned it early on, too. However, since I owned it on DVD, I just kept watching. At the very least, I can say that the story was interesting. I wanted to know what Hopper would uncover, what secrets the people around him were hiding, how everything would come together, and why Hopper was repeating the same day over and over again. I got almost all of the answers I'd hoped for, but the ones I didn't get were pretty important.

I don't know that this is entirely fair of me to say, since the series might have presented an answer of some sort if it hadn't been cut short. However, I can only review the episodes that actually exist, not the ones that might have existed, and the ones that actually exist never bothered to explain why Hopper repeated the same day. A couple things happened in the show that I think might have been intended to be clues about why Hopper was going through all of this, but it was hard to be sure.

That was the show's other big failing – there was just a touch too much mystery. Making the truth about Garza's murder a puzzle for the audience to follow along with and watch Hopper solve was good, and I had a lot of fun with that, but, in exchange, I needed some form of reassurance that the show's creators weren't just pulling stuff out of their butts where the day-repeating thing was concerned. Instead, I got one guy who was maybe going through the same thing as Hopper, and lots of examples of the show's characters remembering emotions they'd had in previous iterations of the day, even when they shouldn't have been able to.

Day Break made for some entertaining viewing, but its problems mean I can't recommend it without reservation. The twisty, complex story was fun, as long as I kept telling the part of my brain that asked too many questions to shut up. I enjoyed getting to find out more about what was going on with Garza's murder and seeing how Hopper wrapped everything up. In that respect, Day Break had a fairly satisfying (if rushed) ending.

Extras:

My DVD set included 15 audio commentaries – all 13 episodes had at least one commentary. Interviews with the cast and producers, along with a brief “behind the scenes” video, were also included. I listened to snippets of some of the commentaries but wasn't interested enough to listen to anything in full. The interviews with the cast were so-so, while the interviews with the producers were slightly more interesting. The “behind the scenes” thing was, in my opinion, boring and not really worth watching.

Watch-alikes:
  • Run Lola Run (live action movie) - In this German film, Lola has 20 minutes to get 100,000 DM for her boyfriend, who has gotten himself into trouble with a very bad man. The movie shows several alternatives for what happens, depending on things that occur during Lola's run. Those who enjoyed seeing how little changes could make a big difference in one small slice of time in characters' lives might want to give this a try.
  • 24 (live action TV series) - I wonder if I'm the only person left who hasn't seen even one season of this? I added it to the list because I think it'd appeal to those who'd like another intense concept drama. In this case, the concept is that each season takes place within one 24-hour period.
  • Memento (live action movie) - Those who loved the puzzle aspect of Day Break may enjoy this. The main character has short-term memory loss, and his knowledge of whatever situation he's in resets itself periodically. The way he keeps track of what's going on, who he's met, and whether he can trust those people is by taking pictures or recording what he knows on his own body or on various notes.
  • Lost (live action TV series) - Those who'd like another TV series with a long, involved, slowly unfolding mystery might want to give this a try. As in Day Break, each character has his or her own secrets and important part to play that isn't always immediately obvious and tends to shift as the story progresses.

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