ABC's 'FlashForward,' best drama of the new season

On the season premiere episode, "No More Good

On the season premiere episode, "No More Good Days," it's just another normal day in Los Angeles. FBI agent Mark Benford and his partner, Demetri Noh, are in the middle of a car chase monitored by their boss, Stanford Wedeck. (Credit: ABC/CRAIG SJODIN)

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THE SHOW "FlashForward"

WHEN | WHERE Thursday at 8 on ABC/7

REASON TO WATCH The best new drama of the fall season.

SPECIAL BONUS The American TV debut of Joseph Fiennes - brother of Ralph - who's spent most of his career on the London stage. He's famously picky about roles and is best known for "Shakespeare in Love" (he played the Bard).

WHAT IT'S ABOUT On a bright and lovely morning in downtown Los Angeles, FBI agent Mark Benford (Fiennes) suddenly emerges from . . . what? He (and you) can't exactly say. But Benford was unconscious, upside down, while a dozen lemons rolled around his head. Someone screams. He drags himself out from under his ruined car, and there, before him stretches almost unimaginable devastation. The world - it would appear - has been destroyed.

And then, the flashback, to four hours earlier . . . a scene of domestic bliss as Benford says goodbye to his doctor wife, Olivia (Sonya Walger, "Lost"), daughter Charlie (Lennon Wynn), and welcomes the baby-sitter as he heads off to work. We meet other characters - each experiencing their lives in their own ways, when zzzzaaapppp: They and everyone else in the world blacks out for 2 minutes, 17 seconds.

After they awake, they realize the dreams they had were actually visions of a precise moment six months hence: 10 p.m. April 29, 2010. Why did they black out, and what did they see in the future?

BOTTOM LINE Mystery, numerology, time manipulation, even odd animals in the darnedest places (keep an eye out for the kangaroo), and you quickly realize this is "Lost"-like. Similarities are purely intentional. Let's take that date: April 29, 2010, is the first day of May sweeps, so clever ABC may have planned a big reveal for this night (a Thursday, coincidentally). But "Lost" also ends soon after, and "FlashForward" is designed to fill that huge void.

Will it? Produced by "The Dark Knight's" David S. Goyer and other A-list talent, the pilot is almost a poster boy for promise. It's evocative, smartly structured, well acted and insists that the strange ride you are about to take will be worth every minute.

GRADE A

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