NBC’s “Awake” pits gay actors against each other

One of the gay people pictured isn’t real.

Yeah, we’ve heard that before.

Not the actors of course — Tony and Emmy Award winner Cherry Jones and Tony winner B.D. Wong — but the characters they play on Awake. Both play psychiatrists; both treat the same patient. Only one of them doesn’t exist.

It’s not just that they are two very talented gay actors that I have cleaved to this relatively minor point (that is part of a much bigger concept). It’s because one of them doesn’t — and never did — exist. And they are the only ones.

It’s confusing, as the series, which debuts tonight on NBC, can be. The series would probably fare better on cable, where its quirkiness would play better. The idea is that a cop (Jason Isaacs, hunky as ever) was in a car accident with his wife and son; he survived; so did one of them. But in one reality, it’s his wife who lived; in the other, his son. He’s not sure which.

And that’s where the gay therapists come in.

In his sessions with them — one in each reality — he can admit that he alternates between waking universes, not sure which one is the true on. Both Jones and Wong assure him that their reality is the actual one. Which means one of them is wrong.

There are many other changes in Isaacs’ worlds: Different cop partners, different cases to solve, but all intertwined. It’s only on the psychiatric couch that everything is separate. They are the only characters aware of the competing realities. So I found myself rooting, not for his wife or son, but for which gay actor I wanted to return for season 2.

That’s probably not a problem. As soon as they answer the question, the series is over.  I saw a screener of Awake two months ago before the network even knew when it would debut on the schedule. They dropped it pretty quick — right after February sweeps ended and before May’s begin. Doesn’t show much confidence in it.

Lesbian or the gay man… How to choose? It’s likely to keep me awake.

Watch the trailer after the jump.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones