Early buzz has already called ABC's new series FlashForward the new Lost—probably because the network loses that hit series after next season—but the show's creators embrace the comparison.
Speaking to the Television Critics Association summer press tour in Pasadena, Calif., today, co-creator and executive producer David S. Goyer said that Lost gave him the confidence to bring FlashForward to ABC, even though he began developing it as a spec script (originally for HBO) prior to 2004.
"I'm an enormous fan of Lost, because I just thought it was a genre-breaking, bold show," Goyer said in a press conference. "It proved to me that [on] network television, there could be a place for a show like that. Once I started talking to [Lost co-creator] Damon [Lindelof] even more, and he was saying how supportive ABC had been, I became convinced it was the right home. By the way, we'd be happy with half the rabid fan base of that show."
In FlashForward, based on Robert J. Sawyer's SF novel, every person in the world blacks out for 2 minutes 17 seconds, during which time everyone has a vision of the future—April 29, 2010, to be specific— and the show's characters, notably FBI agent Mark Benford (Joseph Fiennes), begin to piece together what happened. Goyer said that the show is built so that about one-third of the characters are eager for the future, a third will dread what may be in store and a third are neutral about it.
During the press conference, which included new cast member Dominic Monaghan (who is not in the pilot), Goyer revealed that Alex Kingston's character will return and that Gabrielle Union will be a cast member (playing the fiancee of John Cho's FBI agent character, Demetri Noh) and that a kangaroo glimpsed in the pilot episode will appear again as a leitmotif (kind of like Lost's polar bear?).
"Lost taught me you can do a show with a large ensemble cast," Goyer continued. "You can tell a big cinematic story, and Lost traffics a lot in shades of gray, different shades of morality, which is something I find really interesting. We're huge fans of TV. Whenever we're breaking story with [executive producer] Mark [Guggenheim], we approach it as if we were watching a television show. What would we like to see?"
As the master of a new mythology, Goyer and company take their responsibility seriously. "I feel as a viewer I really like to feel the storytellers know where they're going," Goyer said. "We have an enormous obligation with a show like this, where we state this claim: April 29, we constantly talk about the obligation we have to really figure it out and know where we're going."
Part of the plan is that viewers will see the events of the future on April 29 by the end of season one, Guggenheim said. "The answer is yes," Guggenheim said. "By the end of the first season, we will get to April 29, 2010. That's not necessarily the season finale, but we will definitely get up to the future."
Goyer added, "April 29 is a Thursday when we're airing, conveniently enough. Somebody actually did look at a calendar."
Perhaps the only mystery FlashForward plans to hold back is just what caused the flash-forward blackouts. "By the end of the first season, most of the questions raised in the pilot—including the one you see at the very end [of the pilot]—will be answered," Goyer said. "The over-arcing sort of cause of why the blackout happened, that's our background-radiation mystery of the whole series. I think to really do the show justice, we would need at least three seasons."
The series is only loosely based on Sawyer's book, with different characters, setting and time frame. But one character imported from the book is Lloyd Simcoe, played by Jack Davenport. Goyer said the book won't provide much in the way of clues about the show's version of Simcoe.
"He's a version of that character," Goyer said. "The book obviously jumps 21 years in the future and concerns a group of particle physicists at CERN. We thought if we led with that, it's a group of wacky particle physicists at CERN. We met with Robert Sawyer, who completely grasped that in order to make a TV show, we took the premise, truncated it and provided more points of entry. Robert liked it, and he's going to write an episode for us the first season."
The pilot features an epic freeway accident that occurs during the blackout. That was all shot practically, Goyer said. "All real freeways," Goyer said. "We shut down the 110 freeway [in Los Angeles]. That was awesome. I had a lot of friends texting me saying, 'Is that you shutting us down? Thanks.' We shut it down intermittently for three days. It was cool."
FlashForward premieres Sept. 24 on ABC.