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Fall TV: "A Gifted Man" vs. "Awake "

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Looking at the upcoming fall TV season, we've noticed a few shows that appear to be filling the same void with similar themes. Over the next few days we'll be breaking some of them down for you.

    Today we start with "Men Being Haunted by Their Dead Wives," or more accurately, "Men Named Michael Being Haunted by Their Dead Wives Named (H)anna(h)".

    A Gifted Man (CBS)
    Dr. Michael Holt (Patrick Wilson) is a world-renowned neurosurgeon who one evening runs into his ex-wife, Anna (Jennifer Ehle). He convinces her to go back to his place for dinner, where they catch up after eight years apart, but the next day he discovers that she has died several days previous. Soon she returns and convinces him to help save the free clinic that has been left in disarray since her death, and he slows starts to realize what's important in life.

    Awake (NBC)
    Det. Michael Britten (Jason Isaacs) is behind the wheel during a terrible car accident while driving with his son and wife. When Britten comes to he finds himself trapped in a bizarre limbo where he vacillates between two distinct realities, one in which his wife died and his son survived, the other where his son died and his wife survived. The show co-stars BD Wong and Cherry Jones as the therapists trying to help Britten determine which is real and which is reality, with each of them advocating for their world in which they live.

    The Dead Wives
    There's one major difference between the dearly departed: Anna on "A Gifted Man" knows she's dead and seems strangely OK with it, despite being trapped in what most might call limbo, while Hannah of "Awake" has no idea she's dead—and may in fact not be. Because of their varying levels of self-awareness, the spouses are naturally depicted in very different ways.

    Before Dr. Michael Holt learns that she's actually dead, Anna appears perfectly normal. But from then on, she starts appearing magically out of nowhere, occasionally bathed in heavenly light, and while she professes not to know why she's being sent to Michael, it's pretty clear that He wants her to teach him to be a better person.

    Hannah, on the other hand, is depicted as a living breathing person who's dealing with the loss of her son. Complicating matters is the fact that while Michael tells her that he sees their dead son in his dreams every night, he doesn't come clean about the fact that she is literally dead to him when he's with the kid. Hannah's continued presence in his life isn’t part of any grand design; it's part of a tragic trap Britten's caught in.

    The Creators
    Susannah Grant, who wrote "Erin Brockovich," "28 Days" and "The Soloist, is the creator of "A Gifted Man," and appears too once again be telling a story of redemption/rebirth. "Awake" is the brainchild of Kyle Killen, who wrote the screenplay for Mel Gibson's failed comeback bid, "The Beaver," which was a seriously dark, often bleak, look at a man trying to break out of a cycle of depression, nearly going totally insane in the process—Det. Britten is clearly a man who could identify. Their two shows cover a fair amount of common ground using a similar narrative technique with very different tones.

    A Gifted Man debuts Sept. 23 on CBS, while "Awake" is being held back as a mid-season replacement on NBC.