“FlashForward,” ABC’s new drama built upon a simultaneous mass blackout of humanity, has already spawned predictions about its inevitable success and even drawn comparisons to “Lost.”
To David S. Goyer and Marc Guggenheim, creator and executive producer, respectively, the friendly buzz has created a definite upside -- and a downside. As the producers of other once highly touted, would-be hits like “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” “The Nine” or “Pushing Daisies” can attest, heavy expectations can overwhelm and crush a budding show.
“Actually, it’s a triple-edged sword,” said Goyer, whose writing credits include “Batman Begins” and its sequel, “The Dark Knight,” as well as the popular “Blade” films that featured Wesley Snipes as a heroic, haunted half-vampire. “On one hand, it’s great because people are seeing the value of a big-scope show like this ... [but] it’s always easier to be the underdog than the heir apparent.”
Added Guggenheim, who wrote “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” and was a key producer on several television series, including “Eli Stone,” “Brothers & Sisters” and “CSI: Miami”: “The buzz is so great, we think, ‘What do the numbers have to be to satisfy the expectations?’ The bottom line is, all we can do is create a show we would want to watch.”
Like that of “Lost,” the premise of “FlashForward,” premiering Thursday at 8 p.m., is fantastically surreal, but has enough grounding in the real world to be taken seriously. On a seemingly normal day -- Oct. 6, 2009 at 11 a.m. Pacific time -- everyone around the globe suddenly loses consciousness for 2 minutes 17 seconds. During this state, people see glimpses of their own future -- April 29, 2010, at 10 p.m. Pacific time, to be exact.
As the show unfolds, people begin to chronicle their “flash forward” visions, which are then posted on the Web and become known as the Mosaic Collective. For some, the visions are comforting. For others, they are deeply disturbing. And some don’t see anything at all, which is particularly unnerving. (Meanwhile, the main characters begin to ponder their destiny, whether it can be changed -- and what consequences changing a destiny might have.)
In attracting the new season’s spotlight, Goyer and Guggenheim face a situation similar to one confronted last year by J.J. Abrams and other producers of Fox’s “Fringe.” While many thought that the supernatural-tinged thriller would be an instant hit, the series, while attracting a loyal audience, fell far short of blockbuster status. On the other hand, CBS’ “The Mentalist,” which launched without much fanfare, became the season’s top new hit.
If the “FlashForward” producers are stressed out about the challenging road ahead, they weren’t showing it during a recent lunch at Burbank-based Walt Disney Studios, where the show is filmed. The shorter, tattooed Goyer and the taller, more strait-laced Guggenheim expressed confidence in their project, and interacted like old friends even though they had never met before they teamed on the series.
In the show’s production office, hidden from most others working on the show, is a large chart mapping out developments and stories for the first season . . . and beyond. Said Goyer: “There’s stuff only Marc and I know. No one else.”
The expectations aren’t the only outsized thing about “FlashForward.” The large multicultural cast combines film stars (Joseph Fiennes from “Shakespeare in Love,” John Cho from the latest “Star Trek”), with TV veterans (Courtney B. Vance from “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” and Dominic Monaghan from “Lost”). The series films on one of the most massive sets on the Disney lot (the movies “Pearl Harbor” and “Pirates of the Caribbean” were also shot on the set).
Much of the buzz surrounding the pilot can be traced to a climactic twist that sets up future episodes (don’t worry, no spoilers here). But Goyer and Guggenheim say “FlashForward” is much more than clever turns and gimmicks.
“If people are only tuning in for what caused the blackout,” Goyer said, “then we’ve failed.”
Unlike “Lost,” where mysteries are often answered with even more elaborate mysteries, the producers of “FlashForward” promise to provide clarity -- and some answers early in the season. What they hope to set up in subsequent episodes is a wide arena in which to explore a predicament felt across all cultures -- the pull and power of destiny.
“Everyone has seen a glimpse of their future, and they can either fight it or confront it,” Goyer said. “That’s the theme of the show.”