Several interesting comments from JJ. Abrams from the recent press tour have arrived. The super-producer weighs in on getting the question/answer balance right on Alcatraz, why he dreams of a fifth season of Fringe, his thoughts on serialization, and updates on his upcoming TV projects.
See what Abrams had to say below (HT Collider.com).
On being mindful of the ratio of questions to answers with Alcatraz:
Yeah, I think it’s a really good thing to learn lessons from. You can’t expect audiences to sit there asking fundamental questions for years. It’s unfair and it’s wrong, on the one hand. However, I also think that sometimes people can miss the point a little bit. Sometimes situations exist to create great stories. It’s important that we not have people asking, as a consensus, fundamental questions that we never answer. It would be cruel and unusual. So, there are lessons to learn from all past experiences. We are going to make sure that people aren’t banging their heads against the wall. But, if we answer everything at the end of Season 1, that’s never a good thing for any show. I would be lying, if I said, “Yes, by the end of the first season, you’ll know everything.” Of course not! But, it’s a multi-tiered story, so there isn’t just one answer.
On whether he thinks serialization has become a dirty word in the TV industry:
I think it has, which is an unfortunate situation because I do love it. A lot of serialized shows were purposefully complex and about asking big questions that they became so quickly impenetrable. I know what they’re trying to do. When there’s an authentic mystery, as opposed to just a question being asked, that’s what makes you lean forward. Usually, there’s an emotional connection to that, that makes it interesting. All I know is that I’ve made some big screw-ups, and I’ve done some things that have done all right. I just keep trying to learn from the mistakes I’ve made. At the same time, I can’t help but like shows that have an ongoing mythology. It’s the way life is. It’s a weird thing, to me, to feel like things are always just wrapped up completely. Hopefully, Alcatraz will allow things to exist over the long term, and also have a week-to-week, specific puzzle that needs to be solved.
On Alias, and attempts made by the network (ABC) to nix its serialized DNA:
I loved doing Alias. It was one of my favorite things. In fact, that show was really built as a serialized show. And, when we were instructed by the network, at the beginning of Season 3, to stop that, we then went to episodic shows, and I think that the show suffered for it.
On how Alcatraz compares to Alias:
Having said that, [Alcatraz] was designed, very much, as an episodic show with an over-arcing large story, and with mythology stories that we’d be able to get to, over time. But, the premise was that every episode is about these underdogs having to track this person down. It’s very different from the Alias SD-6 conundrum.
On how his pilot with Eric Kripke, Revolution, is coming along:
Great! I love Kripke. Kripke is killing it. He’s doing a great job. Fingers crossed. He’s turned the script into us, but we’re doing some work and it’s awesome.
On how his pilot with Mark Schwahn, Maine, is developing:
He’s also writing, but I haven’t seen a draft of that. It is, as of yet, unread, since he hasn’t turned it in yet, but I’m loving working with him.
As for Fringe, Abrams admits that his ideal scenario would be for the series to get a finale fifth season to wrap things up:
My dream would be that the next year would be the great ending for the show, to have one more season, but of course, any producer would say that.
Full transcript at Collider
On the serialization front — who wants everything to be completely wrapped up and ribbon tied? That’s just not how life is. Some were too hasty in announcing the death of serialized TV, it’s clearly alive and kicking. The best shows on television right now are serialized. You know their names because, like us, you journey with them every day on Seriable.
There are a lot of challenges facing serialized TV, particularly on broadcast, but 2011 was a great year and 2012 looks set to be even better.
While the ratings system remains flawed, we’re going to see more ‘hybrid serials’ (on broadcast) attempt to fuse high-concept procedural/monster-of-the-week with overarching story, which is certainly better than nothing. We understand what a lot of these shows are trying to do, but we also hope that more of them can find a way to embrace serialization under the noses of networks.
As for Fringe. I agree with Abrams — a fifth and final season would be ideal. I’m not convinced the show can be satisfactorily resolved this season.