Flash Forward

FlashForward, ABC's intriguing new drama (premiering Thursday at 8/7c), chronicles a frightening world event in which everyone loses consciousness simultaneously for two minutes and 17 seconds. During that time, each person experiences a "flash-forward" to the same date about six months into the show's future: April 29, 2010. FBI agent Mark Benford (Shakespeare in Love's Joseph Fiennes) leads the investigation into the phenomenon. "The opportunity to get off a horse, out of a flouncy shirt, into a guy that wears a gun on his hip and some cuffs on the back of his belt, I'll tell you, that's quite nice," the actor says. Let's answer some burning questions about the show that many critics (including us) are calling the next Lost.

Is this a Lost spin-off of any sort?
No, but I think it's fair to say that ABC sees this show as a companion piece to Lost, which will of course wrap up its six-season journey in May 2010. FlashForward is actually based on a novel that hit bookstores long before Darlton's island drama ever existed. The show takes its major themes from this book, but the plots diverge sharply on some points. For example, in the book, the characters see a vision of themselves 21 years into the future. "We were both so taken with [the book]. It stayed with us for eight years," says co-executive producer Jessika Borsiczky Goyer. "What if you could know your destiny? What if you could know where your choices would lead? What would you do about it if you could know?"

Where do I know that guy/girl from?
I know -- there are a lot of familiar faces in the cast, right? Sonya Walger, Penny from Lost, plays Olivia, a surgeon who is also Mark's wife. Courtney B. Vance (Law & Order: Criminal Intent), John Cho (Harold and Kumar) and Seth McFarlane (yes, that Seth McFarlane, the creator of Family Guy) play Mark's FBI colleagues. Swingtown's Jack Davenport, ER's Alex Kingston and Mad Men's Peyton List all have small roles in the pilot episode; Lost's Dominic Monaghan (R.I.P., Charlie) and Gabrielle Union have been added to the cast, but will not appear until Episode 3. Plus: A kangaroo appears in the pilot, and believe it or not it's a recurring character too.

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Does this series have a predetermined end date like Lost does?
No, but co-executive producer Marc Guggenheim promises that we'll see April 29, 2010, by the end of the first season — in fact, we'll see it on April 29, 2010, which is, as luck would have it, a Thursday. "The significance of the date is one of the mysteries of the show," he teases, but emphasizes that it won't be the last episode of the season.

What do people see during their flash-forwards?
One character describes her flash-forward thusly: "I dreamt there were no more good days." That said, it's not all bad news. The producers have broken down the show's characters into three categories: those who fear their future vision; those who want their future vision to come true; and those who are indifferent or just plain confused about what they see.

The visions themselves run the gamut from the sublime to the ridiculous: One character, who is desperately single, sees herself having a sonogram. Another sees himself reading the paper on the toilet. A recovering alcoholic falls off the wagon. Dead people are alive. Most frightening of all, some people see nothing — and what does that mean exactly?

Mark's flash-forward serves as a repository of clues to solve the mystery of the mass blackout, as we see him examining a wall pinned with significant words, documents and photographs, and how they are interconnected. It's a real Easter eggy scene, sure to be pored over by conspiracy theorists.

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Is this the next Lost?
That remains to be seen, but it's certainly as intriguing. "We would be thrilled with half the rabid fan base of that show," says co-executive producer David S. Goyer.  "We should be so lucky."

Watch full episodes of FlashForward in our Online Video Guide and follow TVGuide.com on Twitter for more breaking news and scoop