Fans of ABC’s FlashForward are buzzing about last night’s episode—and especially what they learned about the about the immediate future of the series after the episode was over. The sci-fi drama’s fall finale was an eventful affair, and you can read my recap of it in our TV Watch section. But the meaty three-minute tease of the second half of the season was pretty provocative, too. For starters, there was the intimation that another global blackout event is looming. And then there was the revelation that the final 13 episodes of FlashForward’s first season won’t be returning in January as previously announced but rather in March. What happened? We caught up with FF co-creator and showrunner David S. Goyer (who also co-wrote Batman Begins and wrote the story for The Dark Knight) and asked him.
EW: So… FlashForward isn’t coming back until March.
DAVID GOYER: Why?
The answer is simple. We originally planned to come back in January, but about three weeks ago we sat down with ABC scheduling and looked at what our programming schedule would be like. And I think on serialized show like 24, Lost, and Prison Break the most important thing is to air consecutive episodes without repeats or preemptions. To be brutally honest, our programming schedule in January was going to be awful. We were going to be off for four or five weeks [through December and into January], then back on for two weeks, then off for two weeks because of the Olympics, then back on four weeks, off for two weeks again, back on three, off for two again… Our first 10 episodes had one preemption; our last 13-episode arc was going to have four. I just think when we saw that, the studio and the network and all the producers looked at each other and said, “This is crazy.” We’d rather bite the bullet, come back in March, and air all 13 episodes consecutively without preemptions.
The overnight ratings for the show have steadily declined since the premiere. [FlashForward has dropped from a little over 12 million viewers to a little over 7 million viewers over the course of 10 episodes. The numbers don’t reflect DVR usage, which is substantial for FlashForward.] If the ratings hadn’t been dropping do you think ABC would have made this move?
I don’t honestly know. I just know that when we first heard about this possibility three or four weeks ago, we were all looking ahead to the series of preemptions ahead of us and were feeling very concerned. One of our staff writers is from Prison Break, and he made a comment that every time their show had been preempted, it would get knocked down [in the ratings] and they’d have to build back up, and after being preempted, they’d get knocked down again and have to build up yet again—they felt like they were continually treading water. … I know for me, as an audience member, I feel incredibly annoyed when I’m watching a serialized show and have to deal with preemptions. … Our production schedule hasn’t changed at all. We’re shooting episode 14 now; we’re prepping episodes 15 and 16. We’ll have all our episodes written and most of them shot by the time we come back in March.
Which I was actually a bit bemused by, commenting on it as if it was a big deal.
No! We only shut down for one week. And I’ll tell you why: we were given the reins to speed up the storytelling, and we had broken episodes 15 and 16 and done some very major moves in those episodes. When the network and the studio saw the scripts for those everyone looked at each other and said “Let’s move those up to 13 and 14.” So we swapped those out and moved episodes 15 and 16 into the 13 and 14 position. In the process, we needed to take a week to re-prep.
How does the new 13-week scheduling strategy for the second half of the season affect the writing of the show?
I know we’re all as writers breathing a sigh of relief. We feel like we have all the chess pieces on the board and now we can just knock the dominos over and watch them fall in interesting ways. I kind of feel like we did when we got into working on The Dark Knight after finishing Batman Begins: we got done with the origin story, we don’t have to do that anymore, we can now hit the ground running.
So, is there really going to be another global blackout event? [SPOILER ALERT for the answer that follows!]
That may be. Look, I wish next week we could air episode 11 and then episode 12, because our biggest reveals of the season so far happen in those two episodes. On one hand, I wish those could air right now. On the other hand, they’re pretty strong episodes to be coming back to. I can give you some teases. We’ve only seen part of Mark’s flash-forward so far, but when we come back in episode 11, you’ll see all of it. And you’re also going to find out pretty early on when we come back who Suspect Zero is.
Based on your Season 1 experience, do you think Season 2 will be scheduled differently?
Yes. Definitely. But look: these decisions are not all on my shoulders. Programming is a very complicated process with a lot of influences. I wish I could say it was all me and do whatever I want.
Photo Credit: Ron Tom/ABC