Fox is taking a wait and see approach with the two-hour pilot movie "Virtuality," airing June 26.
While co-creator Ronald D. Moore said it doesn’t look like the project is going to series, he cautioned, "Never say never."
"They [Fox] haven’t picked it up to date. Their attitude, I think, is kind of wait and see. They want to see what the reaction is going to be," Moore said in a conference call. "I think right now it doesn’t look like it’s going to series, but if enough people watched and enough people got excited about it, anything is possible."
If the pilot, which doesn’t completely resolve itself in two hours, is not picked up for series, Moore said it could continue in another medium, such as comic book form or as another TV movie.
"We’ve talked about all those possibilities. It depends on where we go after the broadcast," he added. "Sometimes these things have a bigger life that blossoms a few weeks after the broadcast."
But with dense, sci-fi shows like “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” getting canceled and “Dollhouse” just barely earning a surprise renewal, “Virtuality’s” situation seems even more precarious. Moore, who was able to juggle “Virtuality” with cable sci-fi shows “Battlestar Galactica” and “Caprica” thanks to the proximity of their Vancouver sets, expressed concern over the state of network television and reinforced the need for patience on the network’s side.
“I think it’s a difficult time for the networks in general. Everybody in the business has a sense that television is changing right underneath our feet,” he said. “While we all say we’re going to be ahead of the curve, nobody has an idea of what it’s changing to. That sort of anxiety and lack of knowledge of where we’re going contributes to an atmosphere of panic and of fear.”
Moore thinks that panic is to blame for many shows getting pulled from the airwaves far too quickly. He pointed out that many of TV’s most successful shows started out on uncertain ground, singling out “Seinfeld” as an example of a show that eventually went on to become both extremely lucrative and a critical favorite after a rocky start.
“There’s certainly a strong argument for having patience and faith and trusting your audience and trusting your instincts and going with programming,” Moore said. “Unfortunately, we’re in an atmosphere where everyone is just afraid and everyone’ really worried what’s going to happen next week. I would not want to be in charge of one of these networks because it would be really hard to know how I’m supposed to program this thing.”
Fox executives faced similar fears when they screened “Virtuality’s” complex and multi-layered two-hour pilot, which was filmed for last fall’s development slate.
The sci-fi thriller stars an ensemble of twelve actors, including Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Joy Bryant and Clea Duvall, as astronauts on a 10-year journey to a distant solar system in order to save Earth. In their downtime, the crew enjoy virtual reality modules to pass the time, but a bug develops in the system. They’re also being filmed for a reality show airing back on Earth.
The initial reaction from Fox Entertainment President Kevin Reilly was positive, but there were doubts about how it would play on TV.
“He said, ‘Wow. If this was just a movie, I would say ship it right now. It’s fantastic, but it’s a pilot for Fox,’” Moore recounted.
The pilot was recut by director Peter Berg into a one-hour version at the request of Reilly, but the creative team and network didn’t feel like it was the best version of the show and decided to just air the original two-hour pilot on June 26.
Now, Moore is left waiting to see what the future holds for “Virtuality.”
Regardless of its fate, the show will have a life outside the TV screen. Webisodes from "Edge of Never," the reality show within "Virtuality," will be put up on the show’s Facebook page. Although he started out as a “skeptic/hater” of the genre, Moore decided to include the reality show within the show because of the dominance of reality TV in our popular culture. He now lists “Deadliest Catch,” “Project Runway” and “Top Chef” among his favorite reality shows.