From the creator of Lost comes Six Degrees, a romantic drama that follows the intertwining lives of six people in New York. And this time, there’s no plane crashes, polar bears or hidden conspiracies. Words Matt Pomroy
There’s a belief that a chain of six people or fewer connect everyone on earth. Six degrees of separation between us and everyone – The President of the United States; a rickshaw driver in Nepal; the chief of a remote tribe in the Congo; famous or not, there are just a handful of names that make the connection between all humanity. It’s a profound notion that was cleverly demonstrated by students at the University of Virginia by developing an online computer programme called The Oracle Of Bacon that enabled you to connect the actor Kevin Bacon to any other actor through films they have been in – in six degrees of Kevin Bacon, or fewer. Ironically, this computer programme became the most talked about thing that the actor Kevin Bacon has been in for six years or more, but that’s showbiz for you. The series Six Degrees uses this principle to connect characters in New York City, as their lives intertwine and begin to influence each other.
It comes from JJ Abrams, who gave us the phenomenally successful series Lost. It’s worth noting that he used a similar principle in that series, as increasingly it appears the lives of the people on the island were connected back in civilisation and before the plane crash, but this is no Lost. For a start, there are only 13 episodes, so you won’t be wading through it two years down the line wondering why Hurley still hasn’t lost any weight and contemplating giving up on the whole farrago.
Six Degrees is a little more grounded and opens the first episode with this voiceover: ‘Let me ask you this. I live in New York City and there are eight million people, and the only thing that separates us is chance. Do you think any one of them can walk into your life and change it forever?’ That opening voiceover was by the character Carlos (Jay Hernandez), a struggling New York City public defence attorney, who’s hopelessly romantic and a relentlessly optimist.
The others who randomly find each other are Mae (Erika Christensen), a free spirited and independent young woman trying to find her way in the big city; but also hiding from something in her past. Laura (Hope Davis), a recently widowed mother who’s raising a young daughter alone after her husband was killed while working as an embedded journalist during the war in Iraq; Damien, a towncar driver and gambling addict, who is trying to overcome his criminal past with honest work, while his brother is trying to pull him back into a life of crime; Whitney (Bridget Moynahan), a beautiful PR executive who seems to have it all and is about to get married, but has doubts over the fidelity of her fiancée; and finally, Steven (Campbell Scott), a brilliant and formerly well-respected photographer whose family and career were shattered by his ego and substance abuse.
If those characters and their personalities sound familiar then it’s no coincidence, as they come right out of the big book of TV characters. It’s how they work that elevates them above the normal. It’s also no coincidence that when Six Degrees was first broadcast in America, it went out straight out after Grey’s Anatomy, which is a fair indication of the sort of viewer they were after. Like Grey’s, it’s based around romantic complications and that televisual yearning that is usually accompanied by Coldplay-esque music. But in parts it goes deeper and darker, and hints at the inter-connectivity displayed in the film Crash.
We won’t give the plot away because there are only 13 episodes, although the final five were never aired in America and ended up being shown on the website. Thankfully, we get them all here. It’s a shame the American network dropped Six, because it was a decent story from the talented Abrams, and a rare drama that didn’t involve police work, hospitals or someone with supernatural powers. It’s just a nice play on the degrees of separation concept.
But as a slight aside, there was a film called Six Degrees Of Separation that came out in 1993, based on the play of the same name, and staring a young Will Smith in his big screen debut. Not only is it a great film, it’s also one of Smith’s best performances and well worth tracking down. I mention this because JJ Abrams appeared in the film as a minor character (under the name Jeffery Abrams), which just goes to prove: if the world is actually quite small and builds on chains of six people, then Hollywood is even smaller and built on six original ideas that get reworked every so often. This series is one of them, but thankfully one of the better ones.•
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