A bit of Virtuality news has trickled in from this month’s TCA conference, and what I’ve read hasn’t exactly warmed the cockles of my heart. As things stand right now, director Peter Berg is busy recutting the episode – down from two hours to one – for nervous FOX execs who say the pilot is a little too “dense” for them.
When asked to comment, executive-producer Michael Taylor gave the following statement to newsite Televisionary…
Ron and I think the show is great as is. A lot of people definitely would dig it, and not just the Battlestar audience; this could have an even wider appeal, and as a network show it should. And we’ve also already cut it down quite a bit from its original two-hour run time to satisfy network concerns about pace and to prune some storylines.
But at the same time, Reilly’s right about it being a little dense. It’s dense in the same way Battlestar was/is, in that it introduces a bunch of complex, intriguing characters, along with a compelling sci-fi scenario with several layers to it. In other words, it’s dense in the way good science fiction often is. The pilot puts a bunch of balls in the air but I think it does a great job of juggling those balls and setting up the scenario up in a way that makes it easy for the audience to understand without having to be hit over the heads with a lot of heavy-handed exposition. That said, it’s definitely challenging material, the kind of story you need and want to pay attention to, especially in the pilot. But to us that’s what made it so much fun to create, and what will ultimately pay off in series, by allowing us to tell exciting layered stories in the mold of shows like Lost (and Battlestar, of course).
Pete Berg is confident he can recut the show into a one-hour format, and he certainly has the chops to do it, as well as the experience (Friday Night Lights) of creating network shows that are both emotionally compelling and accessible. So Ron and I are taking a hands-off approach and letting him do his thing. Hopefully, Kevin Reilly and the other execs at Fox will like what he comes up with and we can look forward to seeing this show on the air.
Of course, this is Hollywood, and projects can get stuck in Development Hell for years and years before finally airing, if they air at all. So, as awesome as this show looks/sounds/is, it would probably be best not to take anything for granted until we start seeing Virtuality commercials in between American Idol and 24, both of which will undoubtedly last another 10 years.