Word Balloon: Jesse Alexander on 'Day One' & More

Word Balloon: Jesse Alexander

On this episode of the Word Balloon podcast, we talk comics and television with writer/producer Jesse Alexander. Jesse wrote last month's Marvel one-shot story Shotgun Opera, an untold WW2 adventure of Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos. We discuss the story's gung-ho attitude and Jesse's collaboration with artist John Paul Leon.

In terms of his television career, there are few guarantees from over the air TV networks to producers of genre fiction action shows. The potential viewing audience is still larger than the basic cable shows and the budgets are higher, but the network suits patience to grow a loyal and profitable audience is a risky guess.

The summer television season has begun and cable television reminds us that there's an equal amount of quality dramas this time of year as during the fall and spring. Networks like FX the SciFi Channel, TNT, ABC Family and USA trot out plenty of genre fiction, while the big five TV networks struggle to find the next Lost or Smallville.

Fringe made it to a renewal. Reaper didn't, neither did Pushing Daisies or The Sarah Connor Chronicles, which was edged out by Joss Whedon's Dollhouse, it's own future to be determined this fall. Chuck and Heroes are also returning next season, but their futures with NBC are also "on the bubble."

Alexander is a veteran show runner and producer from three recent genre shows that made it past the second season sophomore slump: Alias, Lost and Heroes. He was let go as a supervising producer from Heroes by NBC execs last winter, but a new regime at the Peacock network has given him a green light for a new sci-fi series he's created coming in early 2010, Day One.

Some of the show's details are still under wraps, but Alexander gives us an idea of what the show is about, and discusses the challenges of doing genre fiction in today's network television environment.

Some quotes from the audio interview...

Day One cast promo picture

On Day One:

"We're in post-production editing the two hour pilot and adding digital effects. NBC has liked what they were seeing so much that we're being picked up as a series and we'll be debuting in March of 2010. That seems far away, but it's quite exciting because we'll be promoted during the coverage of the Winter Olympics, when many more viewers will hopefully be watching...

"Day One follows a group of people who live in a small apartment building... who start as strangers living their own lives... then this earth shattering event happens that changes the way the whole world has to move forward…and they're very surprised to learn that they have key roles to play in the new world order they are facing...I'm being a little cagey hiding the big reveal...

"This is a big event series, the kind of story you see in a summer blockbuster film...I love the idea of bringing a massive high production value entertaining story that people can get for free."

On the initial response to early descriptions of the show sounding similar to the now defunct CBS series Jericho:

"I think the Jericho comparison is based on the initial general description that came from NBC, but the real influences that I'm trying to bring to Day One come from so many different places ...there's some Star Trek, Star Wars, Galactica, Doctor Who - all sorts of elements from many different shows ...and if you think about what all those shows examples represent, I think you'll find it far from the idea of Jericho...

“Sci-Fi really is the genre I love and I'm obsessed with trying to figure out a way to bring that genre to a mainstream TV audience...we're on NBC a broadcast network where the rubric for success is pretty high. We need to have a lot of people watching the show for it to stay on air, and I'm trying to figure out a way to do that. Hopefully I've come up with a show that will be fun to watch.

“The spirit of Day One is entertainment and optimism ...real cool characters working together to push through some challenges... I think the tone of the show is going to be fun, exciting and inspiring in a way that I like in my genre entertainment. It's going be really interesting to see if that works for people. If not than it's my fault, you can come blame me (laughs) because NBC has been so supportive and encouraging to let me do what I want on this thing."

Shotgun Opera

On last month's Sgt Fury & His Howling Commandos one shot, Shotgun Opera:

"It was written to be a prequel to Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale's Captain America: White story...I was trying to capture the mood of those early Sgt. Fury stories ...I know it might be grim to do a fun war book, but I was trying do something that evoked war movies like The Guns of Navarone, Von Ryan's Express, Dambusters ...this dispirit group of guys that come together and become a family through their adventures...these men were so well drawn in who they are and how they work together in those early Howler stories...I tried to give everyone a line or two showing who they are. It was so much fun to get that much character out of just one or two lines..."

On how much if at all, has Fury has changed from the WW2 era till today?

"The best heroes are the ones that don't change ...that's what I love about Fury, he changes his environment to suit himself, and not be changed by it."

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