Kyle Killen, the creator of the new Fox series Lone Star, wrote an open letter beseeching the greater American television audience to watch his show. Why would a writer need to do such a thing? Well, in case you haven't heard, Lone Star debuted to terrible numbers: In today's television landscape, a 1.3 rating equating to 4.1 million viewers ain't gonna cut it.
Fox promoted the hell out of the show. In fact, with the exception of NBC's The Event and ABC's My Generation, no other series of commercials for new fall season shows had become more annoying. Additionally, even with as much ad money behind it, the Monday at 9 p.m. timeslot remains so competitive, Fox likely had reasonable and moderate expectations for the early numbers.
But the shockingly low number fell too far, and even worse was the consistent decline seen over each quarter-hour. After watching the pilot myself, though, and then re-examining the time-slot, I can't say I'm so surprised.
Don't get me wrong: Now having seen all but a few of the first episodes from this season's new shows, Lone Star definitely takes its place among the most intriguing prospects of this young season. As I wrote about Monday, a pilot can only tell so much, and my "first take"s are just that: initial impressions based on one hour of what will, would and should be just a small part of a larger story. Lone Star has so many twists and complexities inherent in its premise, its ability to sustain itself over the course of an entire season—much less several—remains highly suspect. But its first episode also does precisely what every pilot should, and that's make you want to come back for more.
Still, I can see how the pilot's opening minutes might have confused some viewers. For those hanging around for a few minutes after House, it would have been really easy to say, "What's going on here? Meh, I wonder if Bristol's dancing yet?" Simply following the opening 10 minutes of Lone Star took a certain degree of attention, not due to bad writing, but out of Killen and episode director Marc Webb's determination to set the scene with a degree of intrigue and complexity. This degree of sophistication in the writing, however, may have backfired, not from the perspective of quality, but from easy accessibility.
The series has an interesting pedigree: Killen is a newbee to the TV scene, but has had his fiction published in numerous notable places, and wrote the screenplay for Jodie Foster's The Beaver, still awaiting a release. Producers Christopher Keyser & Amy Lippman were responsible for the mid-'90s Fox hit Party of Five. Also on the producing roster? Paul Weitz (as executive producer) and his brother Chris (as consulting producer). Now, I don't remember the specifics of a lot of Fox's promotion for the series, but I don't remember seeing anything mentioning "From the people behind Party of Five, Ameican Pie and Twilight: New Moon. Granted, such promotion would have given an audience absolutely no realistic idea of what it was in for, but networks and film studios do that all the time, and it could have attracted more eyes.