Up until Comic-Con, NBC has been oh-so careful to control the flow of information about its new high-concept drama The Event: Members of the press were only allowed to see it during special screenings – no early DVDs were distributed – and journalists were expected to keep mum about the show’s surprise ending. Today at Comic-Con, the network screened the full-length pilot from creator Nick Wauters (The 4400) in hopes that the fanboys would keep the ending to themselves, and yet pontificate madly about what caused that shock-and-awe moment in those final minutes.
What is this, the next Heroes or Flashforward?
It could be – but for now, NBC appears to be keeping it on the down low that their new series starring Blair Underwood, Jason Ritter, and Laura Innes is not so much a deep mythology (with obvious science-fiction elements) as it is a conspiracy thriller in the vein of 24. ”We would never market it as any kind of deep mythology,” says Adam Stotsky, NBC’s president of entertainment marketing. “If you take a step back, all shows – regardless of whether they are serialized or close-ended – have some sort of mythology. We try to boil the entire idea down to one singular thought – one clear, compelling message that will draw the widest possible audience.
“This is a thriller, and a mystery – that’s the way we are presenting it,” Stotsky continues. “Obviously there is a payoff at the end of the pilot when something extraordinary happens, which leads to some potential questions. But our goal is to position this as broadly and widely as possible, and the way you do that is to position it as a thriller in the spirit of 24 with mystery that’s in the spirit of Lost.”
Make no mistake, the writers – which include Wauters (The 4400) and showrunner Evan Katz (24) – have mapped out the show’s first season much in the same way the writers did for FlashForward and also rely heavily on the kind of non-linear storytelling that was employed by Lost. And yes, the writers admit that science-fiction will continue to play a role in the series. But they’re also mindful that the track record for genre shows on the Big Four has been spotty, at best, so they’re going to have to work hard to convince fans that genre shows can and will continue to have a place in prime time. To that end, the writers told the Comic-Con crowd that some of the pilot’s burning questions – like what caused that big surprise at the end – will be answered as soon as the drama’s second episode.
The show bows on Sept. 20.
“I think it’s really about trying to learn from other people’s mistakes and achieving our goal,” Wauters told EW. Adds Katz, ”You have to earn the audience’s loyality and attention. We are going into that knowing and aspiring to that.”
Meanwhile, NBC hopes to generate buzz for The Event by offering a walk-on role in the series – one of many incentives for loyal fans that is offered through the network’s Fan It Campaign that launched in May (others include tickets to The Biggest Loser finale, exclusive online access to the pilot for Chase, bleacher tickets at the Emmys, and a neck tie signed by The Office’s Rainn Wilson). Fans can sign up for the ongoing incentive program by going to www.NBC.com/fanit.