Josh Friedman, the creator and show runner of Fox's Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, wants you to watch his show. But don't expect him to tell you anything about it, not even about the big, massive cliffhanger coming at the end of the current second season.
The show moves to Friday nights at 8 p.m. on Feb. 13 as a lead-in for the new series Dollhouse. The last new episode ended with Sarah (Lena Headey) collapsing with the image of an HK entering her white light. Teasers for the upcoming episodes also show the return of Kyle Reese (Jonathan Jackson).
Friedman took part in a conference call this week to promote the back nine episodes of Terminator's second season. The following Q&A features edited excerpts of that interview.
It looks like we've seen Kyle Reese in the teasers for the rest of the season. How will he reappear?
Friedman: Let's all just wait and see what that one looks like. This is a whole larger thing. I wish no one could see anything. I wish everyone would just show up. I wish that 10 million people showed up every week and watched the show regardless of what was advertised during the week. That's just not reality. The reality also is our show is a bit ratings-challenged, or has been, and people want to do things to cut through the noise. I appreciate that, but what that usually translates to for marketing people is spoilers. It's hard to just tease things and not show anything. That's a long way of saying it's good that people know that Kyle Reese is in the episode, but I wish people were surprised that Kyle Reese is in the episode.
Will the season finale be closed-ended just in case you don't get a pickup, or are you operating on the assumption there will be a third season?
Friedman: Well, I'm always optimistic. I wrote the finale the way that I was planning on writing the finale for a long time. I think there were things that we've been building to all season, and you owe the audience that's been watching the show kind of a logical conclusion to the things that you've been building towards. Everyone says, "Well, fans get really upset if a show gets canceled and things are left hanging." But fans get upset if a show gets canceled. I think fans also get upset when you write a crappy finale. So I think that you have to try to write the best finale you can, providing closure to the stories that you're telling, but if I tried to kind of sum up every single thing in 43 minutes, it would be a disaster. I think you'd end up with like a clip show. Hopefully it's going to be something that feels satisfying for people who've watched all year and also certainly lets you know where we would be going in a third season.
Do you start the first episode back with any kind of catch-up, besides the usual recap clips?
Friedman: No. Maybe this phone call. The episode picks up pretty quickly after the things that happened in the end of episode 13. I seem to do that all the time. I did that after last season, when we had a shortened season, "Samson and Delilah" picked up, basically, 30 seconds afterwards. I kind of like doing that. I think it frustrates some of the powers that be sometimes, because I'm not much for resetting scenes or reminding people of things. I kind of feel like the people who watch the show know where we are. I also think it's pretty clear what's going on at that point.
What do you see are the advantages and disadvantages of your new Friday-night timeslot?
Friedman: Well, the advantage I see is that we were getting our asses kicked on Monday night. So I'm happy to move to Fridays. It was crowded on Mondays, and I think Friday gives Fox an opportunity to promote us together with Dollhouse, which seems like a pretty exciting show. I think that it's an opportunity for a fresh start, and we have a lot of great episodes in the back nine. I don't think anyone really knows what to expect in this environment, so I feel good about it.
Does Fox have different expectations for your show's performance?
Friedman: You know, I haven't really talked to them about numbers or anything. I think Fox has been very open to seeing what happens. I think they're excited by the possibility, but I haven't really talked to them about it. I think just generally statistically, Friday night has obviously been a lower ratings night, which is good and bad. I think it's good in that you have a different set of expectations, but I don't know exactly what they are. ...
Do you have any plans to explore the man from 1963 who built the time machine they used in the pilot?
Friedman: The Engineer! The Engineer. I love the Engineer character, I will tell you. We talk about the Engineer in the writers' room all the time. We have arguments about the Engineer. There are a lot of people in the writers' room who constantly pitch Engineer stories, and there are people in the writers' room who say, "I never want to see that guy in this series." I am determined to at some point have the Engineer on the show. I cannot guarantee—in fact, I'll tell you it probably will not happen in these last nine episodes, but I'm totally fixated on that guy. I have multiple thoughts about what's going on with that guy. So I hope so.
One of the standout episodes this year was "Goodbye to All That," where Sarah basically mothered the young Martin Bedell. How important was that to her character this year?
Friedman: One of the things that we tried to do this season with Sarah is to put her in sort of time-travel situations without traveling her through time. Put her in situations where she's sort of faced with alternate versions of her own life, like what could have been. I think the Kacy character is sort of that. She's a single mother who's pregnant, who's got her own concerns. That could've been Sarah, but it's not Sarah. Or she's taking care of a child that's not her child but could've been her child in a different world. I think different mother figures, different child figures; that's been something I've kind of wanted to weave through the first half of the season. I kept calling it time travel without time travel. They're like alternate versions of her life. It gives Sarah kind of an opportunity to contrast what her situation is with what could've been or what never could be. I find that sort of poignant.