Will 'Inception'-y Drama 'Awake,' Starring a Harry Potter Villain, Pay Off for NBC?

Putting Pilot Online Sparked More Chatter Than Super Bowl Ad, Networked Insights Finds

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You've been seeing on-air promos as well as print and outdoor ads for NBC's "Awake" pretty much nonstop for weeks now. It's safe to say that the show -- which features an "Inception"-esque plot and stars Jason Isaacs, best known as villain Lucius Malfoy in the Harry Potter franchise -- is highly anticipated. How highly? Ad Age has been working with Networked Insights, a social-media analytics company that advises brands and agencies on media planning, to track social sentiment surrounding the fantasy-drama in advance of its premiere Thursday night.

Here's the top line:

Some notes and context:

  • "Overall conversations around 'Awake' have trended very positively," says Networked Insights CMO Paul Dunay. "And the show's lead, Jason Isaacs, has driven a lot of the conversations and is considered a great casting pick. Harry Potter fans are particularly excited to watch because of Isaacs."

  • Various online constituencies have been reacting differently to various bits of news about the show. For instance, the Twittersphere seemed most excited about the announcement of the series-premiere date and the airing of a preview during the Super Bowl, while people on Facebook reacted most markedly to the early release online (via Hulu, YouTube and iTunes) of the pilot episode. Meanwhile, bloggers and the pop-culture addicts who care enough to post at forums seem incredibly well versed on not only the show and its development, but the importance of "Awake" to NBC. NOTE: Conversational themes, of course, overlap -- particularly on blogs and forums -- so the percentages shown in our graphic add up to more than 100.

As for the show's high-concept "Inception"-y plot, well, maybe we should just let NBC, via the official "Awake" website, explain:

"Awake" is an intriguing drama about a detective who finds he is leading an arduous double life that defies reality. Following a tragic car accident, detective Michael Britten (Jason Isaacs) finds himself awake in two separate realities: one where his teen son, Rex (Dylan Minnette, "Saving Grace"), died in the crash and his wife, Hannah (Laura Allen, "Terriers"), survived, and another where Hannah has perished, leaving Michael and Rex to pick up the pieces. In order to keep both of his loved ones alive, Michael begins living in two dueling realities, churning up confusion.... Trying to regain some normalcy, Michael returns to solving crimes in both worlds with the help of two different partners, Detective Isaiah "Bird" Freeman (Steve Harris, "The Practice") and Detective Efrem Vega (Wilmer Valderrama, "That '70s Show"). Michael is assigned a different case in each reality and quickly discovers that his dual existence is actually a powerful tool. He begins to solve impossible cases by using his two realities to gain unique perspectives and link clues that cross over from world to world.

Are you going to tune in? Not tune in? Watch it in your sleep? Simultaneously watch it while also watching another show on your smartphone or... in your brain?

And most importantly, will the show make sense -- in this dimension or any other? As @kamikameleon tweets, "At the end of that new TV show 'Awake' I hope we find out that it was all just Lucius Malfoy's dream about being a muggle."

Simon Dumenco is the "Media Guy" columnist for Advertising Age. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco. You can follow Networked Insights on Twitter @NetInsights.

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