“The Event” is NBC’s marquee new show this fall and definitely its most serialized and blockustery, so it carries a lot of burdens for the fourth-place network.
On top of that, it is also the program most that will bear the most scrutiny as the potential heir to departed series like “Lost,” “24” and the Peacock’s own “Heroes.” So today’s panel for the show greatly amounted to a vetting of the Jason Ritter starrer in that context.
Example: How tightly would “The Event” hold its secrets?
“We’re very cognizant of the audience’s patience, of rewarding the audience,” said showrunner (and “24” alum”) Evan Katz. “The show’s designed to answer questions to satisfy people, to keep them hooked, frankly, but to keep posing questions. … In the second episode, we are clearly answering the two largest opening questions in the pilot.”
Added “Event” creator and co-exec producer and self-proclaimed TV geek Nick Wauters: “I’ve been a big fan of ‘24’ and ‘Lost,’ ‘Battlestar (Galactica)’ and all those shows for years. That definitely influenced my writing, so I’m very conscious of that, which is why we’re going to try to reveal as many answers as we can as we go.”
And from series co-star Laura Innes: “I think all of us had long meetings with (the producers) before we signed on, because we all had the same fear. We don’t want to end up on a show that drives people crazy.”
But it’s a tightrope walk. The initial answers, as former Variety scribe Joe Adalian of New York Magazine’s Vulture pointed out, almost seemed to go too far in making the show sound like it would be hand-holding. After all, “Lost,” which suffered from criticisms that it held back too much information (whether justified or not), is one of the most creatively successful shows in TV history.
Exec producer Steve Stark responded that “The Event” has plenty of plot in reserve.
“I think when NBC bought the pilot, I think the bible was longer than the script,” Stark said. “The dance of intrigue and satisfaction is something we’ll be doing all the time, but we have (story) benchmarks we want to hit.”
The irony, of course, is that for “The Event” to succeed, it will do so not by aping any of its genre predecessors, but by being original enough to retain an audience that can be very jaded about this sort of thing.
“You just have to go on faith that we know what we’re doing,” Wauters aid. “The pilot is really an invitation to the series – it’s an appetizer.”
Other notes from the session:
1) Though the pilot episode does a great deal of time-shifting – in Stark’s words, “50% flashbacks” – future episodes will be more linear. “It’s definitely something we’re going to keep using in the future as long as it serves character and story,” Wauters said, “but you may not see as much of it.”
2) Katz said that while there will be some similarities to “24” in style and intensity, “The Event” won’t be as dark. He added that a key distinction is that the central character, Ritter’s, is more of an innocent than Jack Bauer.
3) The actors are being told information on a need-to-know basis, but they’re not completely in the dark. “Before we shot the pilot,” Ritter said, “we each got these character dossiers that explained to us who we were, so we weren’t just going blindly into it. We all know as much as our characters know … and now as the episodes come out, we learn more. But we don’t know a heck of a lot.”
4) Wauters said they hope the show draws significant online interest. “I’m actually a major geek, so going into the show, that was something that was very important to me, so I see that as an extension of the show in a way. So I’ve been working very closely with NBC digital to try to create and expand (the experience) of the series.”
5) Innes, the former “ER” star who has spent much time in recent years directing, felt that “Event” scratches her itch to act again. “I think when I was done with ‘ER,’ I was ready to take a break from the process,” she said, “but sitting behind camera and watching people … I was missing it. So when I read this script, which I loved, and when I saw the pilot, I felt in a very economical way the characters were so compelling to me.”
6) Katz talked about the show’s timeslot challenges, which include airing opposite Monday Night Football, CBS’ sitcoms and promising Fox freshman “Lonestar.” His former series, “24,” typically stayed off the air until after football’s regular season was over and aired without hiatus. “NBC is scheduling it as straight through as possible,” Katz said. “I think if people are interested, people are interested, and I don’t think the intention would be to take a terribly long hiatus off air.”