The Event aired last night, but you’ve probably been hearing it about it for months. Network previews and promotions, interviews with producers and cast members, “leaked” clips and trailers all designed to get you to wonder, “What is the event?!” (Importantly, NBC doesn’t want you to wonder what The Event is, just about what “event” might be at the heart of the series.) Every television premiere gets promotional support from its network, but the efforts made on behalf of The Event demonstrate the ways the network and producers have worked to reach, excite and soothe the series’ potential fan base before a single episode aired.
The Event is yet another iteration of the hyper-serialized, sci-fi/mystery format that has worked well for some series (Lost, early Heroes) and gone awry for others (Invasion, FlashForward). The Event has sought its audience among fans of those other series—sci-fi geeks, appointment TV viewers, and perhaps most importantly, Lost fanatics looking for something new to fill the void. But all these shows faced the same obstacle: keeping audiences invested in the mystery by giving them some answers, but not all of them—a balance that has proven fatal in most cases.
To reach their audience, The Event’s cast and producers made a trip to ComicCon 2010 in July, where they screened the pilot and offered a brief Q&A panel. The video at left offers some clips from the panel, and highlights the attempts of the promoters and producers to focus on the hype and intrigue, while soothing fears about the storytelling. To begin, moderator Kristin dos Santos identifies with the audience, exclaiming, “I was so afraid to get sucked into a show like this, but after seeing the pilot, I’m so on board,” echoing the worries (and enthusiasm) of the audience to whom she’s speaking. Executive Producer Evan Katz takes a page from Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, promising answers and asserting that those behind the scenes know where the series is headed. Throughout, the theme of being “sucked in” and yet eventually rewarded for viewership continues, in an effort to create buzz and address concerns.
Pre-season promotional events like ComicCon offer networks and producers an opportunity to get out in front of the series itself, to round up audiences, get them excited, and make them promises before they’ve seen a single episode. Examples like The Event’s panel demonstrate the strategies deployed to generate interest and respond to concerns—and, of course, to create headlines like “Everyone at ComicCon loved The Event!” based on extremely scientific data.