At the fairly impromptu premiere for FOX’s “Virtuality,” held on the Universal Studios lot on Wednesday (June 24), spirits were high among the cast and crew about audiences finally getting a chance to see their sci-fi opus.
Airing on Friday night, “Virtuality” is an oft-dazzling blend of flashy effects-driven science fiction, unintimidating philosophy and a biting critique of reality television and the contemporary media landscape. It’s also a show in limbo, a very open-ended project that FOX hasn’t committed to keeping it open.
That’s why, after talking with several cast members at greater length, I cut straight to the chase with series co-creator Michael Taylor, a veteran of “Battlestar Galactica” and “The Dead Zone.”
Here’s what Taylor had to say about the present and future of “Virtuality” and what fans can do if they want to see more:
HitFix: My reaction to what’s airing on Friday is that as a pilot, it’s fantastic, but as a movie…
Michael Taylor: It ain’t a movie. There’s the short answer. It is not a f***ing movie. OK? It was not designed to be a movie. It’s a pilot for a series. I think it’s still a marvelously entertaining pilot and if it were somebody else’s pilot, I’d watch it, because I dig science fiction. And I’d say, “Hey, it’s that’s what it takes to get a show on the air is to watch the show, that’s not a lot of work.” It’s work I’m glad to do. So I’d say invest in it. It’s a fun ride. It’s a fun two-hour pilot. No. It does not answer your questions, all your questions. It raises questions. That’s what a pilot does. And yet, in a way, that’s what science fiction series does in general. If it’s always answering your questions, then what kind of show is that? How would you understand that as speculative fiction, which is what science fiction is. So this pilot, which is a pilot, speculates a lot. And questions are raised and they will be answered, but you’re gotta show up first. You’ve gotta show up for the beginning and then maybe there’ll be an end.
HitFix: So how do you feel about it being put out there as a movie special?
MT: That’s programming. That’s network programming. They’re gonna put it out there and dangle the hook and put a little bait on it and then let it dangle there in the middle of the summer, beginning of the summer, on a Friday night. If people bite? If people come? Anything can happen.
HitFix: In your discussions with the network, has there ever been discussion of a threshold for success?
MT: There’s never been discussion of a threshold. I don’t know if they know what the threshold is. The threshold for renewing Joss’ show [“Dollhouse”] was ultimately pretty low and I think was out of respect for what he showed he can do and respect for sci-fi fans, let’s face it. If we could do that well? If we could do better? If we could do as well as ‘Battlestar’ did, with a huge following behind it by its fourth season? That would be lovely. There are, however, no guarantees.
HitFix: Do you think the issue is going to be simple viewership? Will it be buzz?
MT: I think all of the online attention is important. Letter-writing campaigns, all that stuff, is wonderful. But really, it’s eyeballs on televisions on Friday night. That’s what it comes down to. People have to turn out and watch this show. It’s gotta show that there’s an audience. Yes, there’s not been a ton of promo. There’s been promotion online. But what I did? I sent out a letter to 100 of my closest friends and asked them to send out the same letter to 100 of their closest friends. You can find it on TheGoodShipPhaeton – 10 Top Reasons to watch “Virtuality.” Copy it if you want. Send it around. Ask your friends to ask your friends to send it around. Get the word out, which is exactly what you guys have been doing on the Internet, what the media’s been doing. This upswelling of media support has really been remarkable, the great reviews and everything else. It really makes us think, you know, there’s a big audience out there and if FOX sees a hint of that big audience, or more than a hint, it could be a series. And then, your questions will be answered. Eventually.
“Virtuality” airs on Friday, June 26 at 8 p.m. on FOX.