Whatever the event is, Jason Ritter says he doesn't know, and Blair Underwood says he isn't telling. The stars of "The Event," NBC's big-ticket new fall drama, play coy when asked by reporters to define the action that gives their show its title.
Just as the Peacock Network has spent the summer telling us what the event is not, Ritter and Underwood aren't telling us what it is either.
"I'm just in the dark, so I'm trying to figure it out," Ritter says.
"I mean, for me it's great because I'm pretty terrible at keeping secrets, so it's actually a relief for now not to know what the event is, so that when people ask me I don't have to lie," he adds.
Underwood, who is in the know, doesn't offer much more when asked.
"The event is something very eventful, but it is something that is -- can potentially change the course of mankind as we know it. In a nutshell that's what is to come," Underwood says.
What we do know is the event, the occurrence, involves a massive government cover-up -- unbeknownst to President Elias Martinez (Underwood) -- involving a secret, arctic underground group of detainees who are led by a shackled Sophia Maguire (Laura Innes). Across the ocean, a young man, Sean Walker (Ritter), and his girlfriend, Leila Buchanan (Sarah Roemer), are off on a romantic cruise. Suddenly, she goes missing (abducted?), and he's drawn into the conspiracy in a way that threatens the president's life.
"The Event," the show, is something of a mash-up of "Lost" and "24," with rich mythology, science fiction elements, and complex government scheming. Like those two iconic shows, "The Event" offers plenty of edge-of-your-seat adventure. Unlike those two shows, however, Underwood promises viewers will have immediate access to key plot points.
"In terms of what the event is, of course that's the overriding question, the way the series is laid out is that there's a pre-event. The event is something that is to come. It's all about ramping up to the event. We will see the event at some point, and then it's the consequences and the aftermath of that event," he says.
Underwood says the creators of "The Event" realize today's television audience is not as keen about waiting (and wading) through season after season of elaborately connected storylines.
"This is important to know that because of -- again, NBC and our producers have been very acutely aware of some of the (mythology-based) shows in the past that felt as if to the audience they weren't thought through. And sometimes the audience can be frustrated," he says. "And I can tell you ... by the second episode a lot of the questions will be answered in terms of who these people are, who the detainees are. So, we don't want to frustrate the audience. We want to keep the mystery but not frustrate people."
Ritter says "The Event" can succeed with both the casual viewer and the viewer looking to become immersed in a web of plot points.
"I think it's an exciting show and I think that it's one that, certainly for me, it really hooked my imagination, and it's the kind of show that you watch and you're thinking about throughout the week," he says. "And I know, certainly for me, a lot of the shows that I watched I really enjoyed having something to chew on in that time between, you know, in the week between the episodes. And I don't know. I feel like people -- the audiences have shown that they're ready to go with a show and be taken on a fun ride."
"You know, I think a lot of times it's frustrating when you have a cliffhanger where someone says, ‘I want you to tell me everything you know.' And then they go, ‘All right. I will.' And then it comes back from commercial and they go, ‘Oh, wait, first we have to go do this other thing and I'll tell you in three episodes,' " Ritter adds. "What's great about this show is that if they pose a question ... when they come back from the cliffhanger, it picks right back up where you left off. And I think the thing that's frustrating to people is not necessarily ... getting every answer immediately but not having it -- not making a situation where it would make sense to finally learn something and then not giving that to the audience. You know, that's when sort of the teasing comes in.
"And that's been great about this show is, you know, at the end of the pilot, Sophia says ... something and it's very intriguing and mysterious, and so it's nice that the second episode starts with basically them saying, ‘So what do you mean by that? Why don't you elaborate?' Which is great."
Plus, as Underwood says, " ‘24' is gone. ‘Lost' is gone. ‘Heroes' is gone. ‘FlashForward,' people liked from the very beginning. All those shows are gone now, so this show, ‘The Event,' fills the void and it's not just tapping into those touchstones and those elements. It really is well done and well written."
Though serialized dramas such as "Lost," "24," "Alias" and "Fringe" haven't always netted large audiences, Underwood doesn't see "The Event" faltering because of its complex storylines.
"I have to say the fact that there was backstory was the golden goose for me," he says. "I mean, that's what attracted me to the project. So no trepidation there at all. You know, it's a tricky thing, and not being a producer or a writer on the show I don't know if I'm qualified to answer that, but I can say they've been able to strike that balance thus far. Now, of course, we're new into it, six episodes (of filming) into it, but again, they're aware of that. I mean, we now have the benefit to learn from the mistakes of the shows that have come before -- what worked and what didn't work in that genre -- in this genre."
"The Event" debuts Monday, Sept. 20, at 9 p.m. on NBC.