The Banff World Television Festival is an industry conference for producers, broadcasters, and creative folks to talk about their craft and make deals. And, in some cases, to spill the goods on what's up next on their popular shows.
Spoilerphobes proceed at your own risk. Except House fans. I've got little more than evasiveness and joking speculation for you. Don't blame me, blame close-mouthed writer David Hoselton. But Jason Katims of Friday Night Lights, Doug Ellin of Entourage, Jeff Greenstein of Desperate Housewives, and Hart Hanson of Bones were somewhat less reticent.
Friday Night Lights
Jason Katims, showrunner of Friday Night Lights, was thrilled his series will return for a third season thanks to an unusual deal between Direct TV and NBC. That third season, he said, will start fresh, with a new season and new school year, meaning some storylines that were left hanging thanks to the writers-strike-truncated second season will be resolved by seeing where the characters are eight months later. Smash, for example, has graduated, hasn't pursued his college aspirations, and remains on the series. Jason has had a child with his one-night stand. Riggins is now a senior.
Katims addressed the issue of the teenaged characters growing out of the show by first joking that "everyone knows high school only lasts seven years," then confirming that some will not return if the show's luck continues and it gets additional seasons. Katims hope is that new characters will be embraced and make the transition as seamless as possible.
Entourage creator Doug Ellin could be a character in his own show. A former stand-up comedian, the fast-talking Long Island native was writing the last episode of season five at the time of the festival, and shared that the new season will "jump forward from Cannes."
He talked about the negative reaction to the character of Dom, who shares a name with the actor who plays him (Domenick Lombardozzi). "I ruined his life," Ellin laughed, before revealing that the universally hated character would make a return appearance this season, which will see Vince and the gang trying to bounce back from a dismal reception at Cannes.
Consulting producer/writer Jeff Greenstein debunked the idea that his show would be Lostifying after the shocking five year leap ahead in the finale. "We will tell the story forward from that point. There will be no flashbacks after the first episode," he declared, and though he's known as a comedy writer, I don't think he was kidding.
As for the reason behind that decision, he said the show wanted to reset the predicaments of the women, returning them to their desperate housewifely roots. "We wanted to see Lynette with teenage delinquents, and Gabby with children," and they didn't want to wait years to "reset to what the show was about."
Hart Hanson, creator of the romantic comedy procedural crime drama – say that twice – would say little about the new season other than that the two-hour premiere was being shot in England, and he remains puzzled as to why FOX agreed to the expensive proposition. "It's a huge pain in the ass to write," he indicated, saying the network wanted it to be a cohesive episode but able to be aired as two separate episodes. "So it has to be seamless but with a great big seam in it." About the plot, all he would say was that "someone's going to die, and we find their bones."
As for the fate of Zack (Eric Millegan), Hanson was apologetically unapologetic. He believes in the creative choice to shake up the ensemble, indicated that because they hadn't killed the character, the door was open to revisit Zack "with his poor hands in black gloves or something," but admitted that the strike-shortened season made that arc too compressed. "It should have been seamless. We failed. There are no excuses in television. We should have found a way to make it land more elegantly."
House writer/producer David Hoselton, whose festival session was on the process of taking a concept to the final script, refused to say much of anything about season five. Not that I'm bitter. "Every episode is a writer's baby, and at the end of each episode there's some hook or twist or surprise. When I reveal that then they get ticked, because it's like, 'thanks for ruining my show,'" he explained in our interview.
He was careful to phrase his session examples as examples instead of future storylines: "If you wanted to bring in Wilson's parents – not that I'm saying we're doing that – where are they from?" He stopped himself at one point to evaluate whether he'd just said too much and decided he hadn't, but his hesitation makes me hesitate to reveal what made him stop. I'm not that bitter.
The big "spoiler alert" from our interview was the revelation that House will still be solving a medical case each week with his usual dark humour. Who would have guessed? My jesting inference is that, reading between the lines of the following exchange in that interview, clearly a chastened House is going to adopt a baby and a puppy:
Q: We've seen House as this person who refuses to acknowledge he needs to change, refuses to admit he's miserable, he's just fine the way he is. The finale is kind of a game changer on that but I'm guessing you can't go too much further down the kinder, gentler House route. Is there anything you can say about season five about how you're going to deal with that?
A: [Hoselton looks to the PR person, who jokingly threatens to tape his mouth shut.]
Q: In general, I mean. You can't make House adopt a puppy and babies but …
A: [He cringes.]
Q: Oh great, that's episode one, isn't it?
Turns out, no, he was remembering the episode where House did actually get a dog: "Of course it was done in the most cynical, bitter, horrible way, in keeping with him."
He wouldn't talk much about the future, but he did say about the recent past in his festival session that the show was looking for a way to bring in "new blood," suggesting — not that this is a news flash — that the reset button will not be set on the Survivor arc. "It gets harder and harder to write fresh material for cast members who have been around a while."Powered by Sidelines