Stars say show returning with plenty of action, intrigue
Behind the Screens with Joshua Maloni
From day one, NBC's "The Event" has had the deck stacked against it.
The sorta' sci-fi, sorta' poly-sci drama was branded as a hybrid between "Lost" and "24," two iconic series that will never be replicated. It was placed head-to-head on Monday nights with "Monday Night Football," "Dancing with the Stars" and "Two and a Half Men" - each a ratings juggernaut. And then, to top things off, it was pulled off the air for three months as show writers tweaked it and Peacock execs sought to fix small cracks before they expanded (unlike, say, "Heroes").
Still, the show isn't half bad - the tale of detained aliens trying to live among the human race (or conquer it, they can't seem to decide), as evil government puppeteers try and sabotage President Elias Martinez (Blair Underwood). "The Event" does have some of "Lost's" twisty-turniness and "24's" suspense. It also has a solid cast, which includes Underwood as the president-in-peril; Zeljko Ivanek as Martinez's somewhat shady director of national intelligence, Blake Sterling; and Jason Ritter (Sean Walker) and Sarah Roemer (Leila Buchanan) as star-crossed lovers on the lam.
Though we've seen large-scale events, the stars say we have yet to see the actual event, itself. Moreover, the actors claim to not know what the event is, so it may not happen anytime soon.
In any case, when the show returns Monday, March 7 (8 p.m., NBC), "The Event" faces its toughest challenge yet: reconnecting with fans who haven't seen a new episode since last November. Just last year, ABC pulled the equally hyped, plot-heavy "FlashForward" after it returned from a long hiatus sans fans.
Though Underwood and Ivanek aren't crazy about their time off, both say the trade-off will be worth it for fans. "The Event," taking a page from "24," will run through the end of the season without repeat.
"You know, I'll say when I first heard that (we'd be off the air) - yes, I was frustrated and concerned just because, you know, momentum is always a good thing and people need to be - you know, to become more and more engaged and care about something," Underwood says. "It takes time to garner an audience.
"And for that reason I was frustrated, but for that reason I understand that's why we were taken off for three months, so when we come back ... we'll be on for two hours initially, starting at 8 o'clock on March 7, and then we can be on the air for 11 weeks straight, without any interruptions.
"We'll have a chance to have momentum, but we (also) needed a three-month window off the air to create the episodes, to put them in the can and not have any interruptions."
"You know, it's difficult," Ivanek says. "You obviously want to build an audience and this doesn't make it easier. The people who liked you have to come back, and you have to try to (get) people to come in.
"So, you know, obviously the hope is that, starting with an episode like this double episode, we'll get people hooked back in. I've also seen the ad for the first time just a couple of nights ago that they've done. I think the new ad campaign is terrific, as well, and intriguing, and we just hope that it will bring some new people into the fold."
Both actors say they're excited about the episodes yet to air.
"Most of what is coming is just like one surprise after another, and one turn after another, and I think that's exactly what they don't want us to be discussing, but I would say what's coming up very soon is like a major shift in the relationship between, you know, (detainees leader) Sophia and the president," Ivanek says. "And that's kind of a driving force for the rest of the season in a sense, as far as I can tell, and that's been fascinating to me to see that again. You know, I had assumptions about where things were going and how things would play out that have been upended pretty much with every script that I've read. And I'm hoping, you know, obviously it will do the same for the audience and make you go, like, 'Oh my God, now what?' over and over again. And hopefully just keep you in suspense and let you ride through the rest of the season."
Underwood says he "fell in love with this story and these characters from the very beginning. So I'm very excited about where it's going. But what I'm most happy about, I have to tell you, is the fact that we are - the construct of the storytelling is more linear.
"So one of the complaints I heard a lot of, and I think most of us heard a lot of, was the fact that people were saying, 'I love the show, but the time jumps and the flashbacks are confusing me.' And we've now ... it's important I think for people to know - that watched the show, like the show and maybe felt like they got lost or left behind - that we're no longer doing that.
"It doesn't change the quality of the show. It doesn't change the intensity and the integrity of the storytelling, but the way in which we tell the story in linear from beginning to end ... it's much easier to flow, it's much easier to understand, and much easier to follow."
Here's hoping Underwood is right.
Follow "The Event" online at http://www.nbc.com/the-event.