Lost among all the news about Jay Leno’s cancellation at 10 p.m. and his return to 11:30 p.m. was this (disappointing) update from NBC: the suits have decided to air Day One – an apocalyptic drama from Heroes scribe Jesse Alexander – as a two-hour backdoor pilot (that’s industry code for: it’ll run as a TV movie and if viewers like it, it may be turned into a series).
NBC had originally planned to air the high-concept show as a 13-episode series after the Winter Olympics, but ended up downgrading the project to a four-hour miniseries back in October. Now Alexander’s handiwork has been cut back to a TV movie that has yet to get an airdate – a decision that was no doubt fueled by the disappointing ratings for the similarly themed ABC’s sci-fi series FlashForward and V. Despite lots of early fanfare, FlashForward’s audience dropped from 12.5 million to 7.07 million in just three months, while V lost 35% of its audience (14.3 million to 9.3 million) over just four airings.
But other concerns about making it into a series may have been in play, like the show’s potentially high cost given the amount of computer-generated images it was expected to demand (in a rough trailer leaked last year, the drama features smoke columns that rise from the city). Alexander described his high-concept show this way on his website: “It is the story of ordinary people working together to save the world from an extraordinary threat. Though Day One’s prime time adventures are simple and compelling, its mythology is vast and designed to be experienced across multiple media platforms.”
Entertainment President Angela Bromstad tried to temper expectations at NBC’s press conference for the nation’s TV critics Jan. 10 by saying what she didn’t expect from Alexander’s show – that is, before it was turned into a two-hour movie. “We’ve always looked at Day One as a big event for us and not necessarily a show that would be an ongoing…you know, a returning show for a second season. It would depend on its success. I think just by the nature of the genre, [these genre shows] tend to get a little narrow.”