Is one of J.J. Abrams' two new genre series in trouble before it even premieres?
Maybe not, but its showrunner seems to have already walked. Deadline is reporting that co-creator and showrunner Mark Friedman has left the forthcoming Abrams-produced NBC drama Believe, which is also co-created and executive-produced by Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men, Gravity). According to the report, Friedman made the decision to leave and the decision was "agreeable" to Warner Bros. Television and Abrams' Bad Robot Productions.
The fantasy/superhero series, set to show up midseason in the 2013-2014 TV cycle, tells the story of the “unlikely relationship that develops between a young girl with a gift and a man sprung from prison who has been tasked with protecting her from the evil elements that hunt her power.” The cast includes Jake McLaughlin, Kyle MacLachlan, Delroy Lindo, Sienna Guillory, Jamie Chung, Johnny Sequoyah and Arian Moayed. The show perhaps doesn't have the same kind of instantly grabbing premise as Abrams' other new series -- the human/android buddy cop show Almost Human, which will air on Fox -- but there's definitely potential for something with real depth here. If the show can survive, that is.
Of course, it obviously won't take Abrams and Cuaron long to find a solid replacement for Friedman. The thing is, this isn't the first time this has happened with a recent Abrams-produced genre effort. Two years ago, showrunner and co-creator Elizabeth Sarnoff left the Fox sci-fi series Alcatraz just months before it was set to premiere, citing "creative differences." Abrams later said that Sarnoff "didn't feel like she was the right person to run the show," and that may have been true (it's also true that she probably had a big hand in producing episodes before she left), but when the Sarnoff-less Alcatraz made it to air it lasted five months and 13 episodes before low ratings led Fox to pull the plug.
That certainly doesn't mean there's a definite connection between showrunner shakeups and series failures, but it's probably not the best omen. What do you think? Based on what you've seen so far, can we expect Believe to stick around for a while?