Why There Will Not Be Another ‘Lost’ or ’24’ or ‘Buffy’ on Broadcast Network TV Again, As Explained by J.J. Abrams (Co-Creator of ‘Lost’) and Joss Whedon (Creator of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’)

Jul 23, 2010  •  Post A Comment

Two pop culture icons, J.J. Abrams and Joss Whedon, don’t believe that the broadcsat networks have any interest in producing serialized TV dramas anymore, despite the past success of such shows as "Lost," "24" or "Buffy the Vampire Slayer."

The two  made their comments before  6,000 fans at Comic-Con on Thursday, July 22. It was the first joint appearance for the two, who said that they first met when both were at The WB, Abrams working on "Felicity" and Whedon on "Buffy" and "Angel."  Despite meeting back them, they said they rarely see each other and do not know each other well.

The two were introduced–to thunderous applause and shouts from the  audience–by Jeff Jensen, a reporter for Entertainment Weekly, who moderated the chat between Abrams and Whedon.

TVWeek was also in the audience.

Here’s a partial transcript that focuses on Whedon’s and Abrams’ assessment of where the broadcast networks are today:

Jeff Jensen: Joss, ‘Dollhouse’ has come to an end, unfortunately—

 Joss Whedon: What?—

Jeff: And you produced “Dollhouse” after being away from television for awhile. Now that ‘Dollhouse’ is over, how are you feeling about television? What lessons have you learned about what television wants and supports right now?

Joss: I don’t know why this question sounds like ‘Well, are you proud of what you did? Maybe you should sit in the corner and think about it.’ [Lots of laughter] (Sarcastically): Or that might just be me projecting. (more laughter).

You know, it must’ve been the wrong place and the wrong time. I definitely was trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. And we [meaning himself and J.J.], I think, both benefited from the great square hole of television—The WB—where they were just interested in people like us who had a story we knew how to tell and they let us do that. That is very rare. It doesn’t exist anymore. Literally. The WB doesn’t exist anymore.

My experiences at Fox have not been successful. Ultimately it is just because there is a certain kind of incompatibility that is very easy to miss, because I like genre stuff and that’s what they wanted. You say the word sex and they think that’s sexy, but can you not mention sex?

I clearly have more of a cable mentality than I realized. I had been away from television for awhile and I didn’t know that. I didn’t know how much things had changed. I didn’t look at Janet Jackson’s nipple. And I didn’t know how much trouble that had caused.

What I learned was ‘know your audience.’ And your first audience are the people paying you to make the thing. Which is why, right now, I’m at Marvel. I’m extremely happy working with Kevin Feige. It’s a very different experience. Kevin and Jeremy [Latcham], the two people I work with, the executives, they’re the studio. They’re the producers. It’s the same entity. And they know what they want. And [they’re] upfront. They are very clear when they don’t get [what they want]. And that’s a great experience….

Television I love. I love serialized storytelling. But I didn’t quite think that one through [referring to his return to Fox to do “Dollhouse”].

Jeff: You love serialized storytelling. Is there still a market right now for intensely serialized stories? ‘Lost’ is over now, unfortunately. And it seems that as it went out, the TV landscape turned against intensely serialized stories. Do you sense that TV networks are not interested in that format right now?

J.J. Abrams: I think typically they are not. They want shows that can repeat, the studios want shows they can syndicate. I’m just personally less interested in non-serialized shows. I enjoy the investment in and the anticipation in the characters and what’s going to happen, and what conditions are REALLY going on. To me, that’s the thing that always grabs you.

I think they [the networks and the studios] want it too. They just don’t know it. When they talk about stories, stories imply time. Stories imply inevitability and some kind of progress. The trick is—and I know the showrunners on ‘Fringe’ have been working really hard to maintain an ongoing story as well as keeping every episode feeling as much of a self-contained [story] as possible—I’m personally drawn to that.

This new show were doing on NBC, ‘Undercovers,’ is a show that is much more self- contained, but it naturally will have—and as we’ve been working on the episodes, develop the story that is being told over time. You don’t need to watch [episodes] 1 through 5 to get what’s happening in No. 6. But to me that’s the story. For whatever reason I’m naturally drawn to that kind of a story.

Jeff: Joss, did you want to take that question at all?

Joss: Just that I think the networks will never, ever ask for that. They will never admit that people want that. They see the easy cash cow of ‘The Mentalist.’ Let’s all make “The Mentalist.”

When ‘Lost’ first hit, and it was just blowing up huge, and everyone was loving it, and we were all so into it, they [the networks] were still ‘we don’t want that.’ ‘That successful Emmy-winning thing? No, we don’t want that.’ They would speak against serialized storytelling while it was the only thing people were watching on television. Because they are thinking bottom line.

It’s very weird, because ultimately the serial is ALWAYS going to be what people are going to remember. What do they remember about ‘Cheers’? Sam and Diane, not a great joke. I like both. I like to have some sort of resolve…I’m still angry about “The Empire Strikes Back.” Okay? The movie doesn’t have an ending. I like to split the diff. The progression is what it’s all about.

Well, it doesn’t. He’s frozen in carbonite.#


  1. The trick is to have a continuing story, but to also have episodes that engage the viewer by having something happening, an independent story that has a beginning and an end, that answers questions for loyal viewers but is still accessible for casual viewers.
    They are wrong that TV isn’t offering that now, the CW is in the most superb example of Supernatural, another show that started on the WB. Eric Kripke has taken the genre to a higher level, giving us drama, action, comedy, horror and an on-going theme all wrapped up in the most intense and personal journey of two brothers.
    I love Whedon, but Dollhouse became tedious and lacked that emotional connection to the characters. The concept was great but impossible to produce. The viewer has to care about the character and their situation and the story needs to move.
    Simply put we want to be entertained along with all the great concepts that broaden our minds. Supernatural is the new role-model, the template on how to make an engaging, meaningful, quality piece of art and entertainment.
    The absolute best thing about Supernatural is the relationships, between Dean and Sam Winchester, and also the recurring characters, John, Bobby and Cas. Even guest stars have an impact, based on their previous episodes and the interactions they have with the brothers. It is the history between characters and the continuity of the stories that gives it deeper meaning.
    And if you are lucky enough to cast awesome actors like Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki, then you have instant chemistry and artistry in how they bring these fantastical characters to brilliant life.
    I’m quite disappointed that neither JJ nor Joss mentioned Supernatural. Maybe they truly don’t know what is happening on TV these days?

  2. I just wanted to agree with everything bjxmas said above. Eric Kripke has created a wonderful show and an amazing story in Supernatural, a story that resonates with humor and heart and brotherhood wrapped around and through tales about monsters and demons and angels and the apocalypse itself. If you’re not already watching, do yourself a favor and check it out. It returns for its 6th season on September 24 at 9:00 PM on the CW. You won’t be sorry.
    Oh, Supernatural is at Comic Con also – Sunday, 11:15 to 12:15 in Ballroom 20. Tell Kripke and the talented gang with him hello and thank you for me.

  3. SUPERNATURAL is a successful show that no one cares about, not even the CW. Their development slate wants to emulate the “success” of GOSSIP GIRL (itself a highly serialized show) but not SMALLVILLE, which is in fact more popular.
    Networks actually love serialized shows. But the serialization they want is more soap opera than space odyssey. Additionally, cable’s done a great job continuing what USA calls the “faux-cedural”, procedural shows with series arcs like BURN NOTICE & ROYAL PAINS. JJ actually innovated that with ALIAS, which was a spy case of the week set against a larger mythology. Unfortunately, more often than not that mythology becomes convoluted and inaccessible to casual viewers, leaving just a die hard fanbase. I think the success of LOST stems from the procedural element of focusing on one character each week and as the series ended, when it strayed from that sort of format more into a serialized show, it lost viewers and disappointed fans.
    There is a place for the serial show, but it should be a simple background and not over-emphasized in the foreground… like Sam and Diane.

  4. Just wanted to add my vote to SUPERNATURAL being the BEST SHOW ON TV!
    If I could only watch one hour of television a week that would be the show I pick…FYI when Lost and Supernatural were on at the same time I watched Supernatural and DVRed Lost. (Sorry JJ)
    Congrats to Eric Kripke, Sara Gamble, and the rest of the writers for such a GREAT show.
    To all of you who are at Comic Con today to see the Supernatural presentation have fun!
    Wish I could be there with you!

  5. IMO, Dollhouse was a mess. Networks are quick to give established showrunners a chance with new shows, because of their past successes. JW peaked with Buffy, which wasn’t even his own original idea. Nothing against the guy personally, but I think he’s overrated. (Also, I am not holding out too much hope for THE AVENGERS, given the way Ed Norton’s departure was so immaturely handled. Not an auspicious beginning.)

  6. Umm, Critic, ‘Buffy’ was entirely 100% Joss’s creation and his idea, I don’t know what you’re smoking to think that it wasn’t. I think maybe you’re confused because of the movie. Joss wrote the original script for the film based on his own ideas but he had some serious disagreements with the studio, producers, etc about the tone of the film. So, he eventually kind of left the film as far as I know due to this and was unhappy with the final product. Years later, the WB approached him with the idea of turning his idea into a television series so that he could do justice to his original concept. So yes, Buffy is totally Joss Whedon’s work, through and through.
    I don’t really think Joss is overrated at all. He certainly has made some bad storytelling decisions at times, but the great far outweighs the not so wonderful. I think it is also unfair to say BTVS was his peak. While it is his most popular and long running work he has still created new and innovative things such as ‘Firefly’ and ‘Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-long blog’ over the years.
    Sure, he makes mistakes, but I definitely prefer him to JJ. I like JJ as well, he just feels less involved in his projects than Joss is. For instance, I love and adore LOST but as far as I know JJ was only truly involved in the first season. LOST is really run by Lindelof and Cuse.
    Also, I agree that Dollhouse often kind of sucked. Though I think Season 2 was a MAJOR improvement and had the occasional really great episode. Topher was the only character I really enjoyed. Adelle was alright. I didn’t care for Victors character, as he didn’t have much of one obviously, but Enver is a BRILLIANT actor, so meeting him was nice.
    Ramble over. Nice interview, BTW. I agree with others the ‘Supernatural’ is great, but it lacks things like any interesting, strong female characters and IMO is not as deep, intelligent,witty, or metaphorical as shows like ‘Buffy’ and ‘LOST’. It’s a great show, but at the end of the day I wouldn’t put it in the same league. That said, it is currently my favorite thing on TV without LOST.

  7. I have to agree, its rather sad. Every show I like ends up getting cancelled. The market is just so strange now and I wish the WB could just come back. They always believed in cult/genre shows. ABC’S Eastwick should have been on the WB as ABC treated the series very badly. I miss the “Buffy” type shows and that really has not existed since. I mean, true blood is really trying to incorporate tons of supernatural elements but its the only supernatural show I like right now. Dead Like Me is over, Charmed is over, Buffy is over. I am part of the market that networks wont cater to. I don’t really like much on TV these days.

  8. Hands down, Apple’s app store wins by a mile. It’s a huge selection of all sorts of apps vs a rather sad selection of a handful for Zune. Microsoft has plans, especially in the realm of games, but I’m not sure I’d want to bet on the future if this aspect is important to you. The iPod is a much better choice in that case.

  9. hey buddy,um joss whedon is the creator of buffy,he created nearly every aspect,and yes he created the movie,too dont talk about stuff you dont know,yes they are right THE CW IS TERRIBLE,sci fi is nearly dead and suprnatural while a good show is highly influenced by buffy,also its not as succesful as the others,doll house has its great moments but wasnt thought out right,heros was terrible and sarah connor chronicals a waste of time,the only good fantasy shows on right now are tru blood and fringe,smallvile should’ve ended 5 years ago and dark angel should have gone for 6 years,and erm ed nortons hulk wasnt that good (it bombed and sucked)

  10. Hey how are you doing? I just wanted to stop by and say that it’s been a pleasure reading your blog. I have bookmarked your website so that I can come back & read more in the future as well. plz do keep up the quality writing

  11. Nice blog subject. thanks for letting me add something!

  12. I really like the colors here on your blog. did you design this yourself or did you outsource it to a professional?

  13. Neat blog layout! Very easy on the eyes.. i like the colors you picked out

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