J.J. Abrams was at the CBS party for the Television Critics Association. He produced Person of Interest, which premieres on CBS in the fall. He also produced Alcatraz for Fox midseason. Each show is designed to have a story of the week, but also series long mythology. Person is about an organization that uses surveillance technology to prevent violent crimes. Alcatraz is about inmates from the infamous prison resurfacing in present day, who need to be caught.
“I don’t know how you do an hour long show and don’t have some ongoing stuff,” Abrams said. “The fact is both of these shows, Alcatraz more than Person of Interest, definitely has overarching questions you can’t answer in one episode. I love that stuff. It’s one of the reasons I love Walking Dead, I can name 12 massive questions that I must have answered. I love that. I know that not everyone does and I think Person of Interest is definitely a more unserialized weekly crime show that does have threads that if you watch will reveal bigger, larger answers. There’s the mystery of the week thing but there’s also who are these guys who are working so well together? They’re not quite trusting each other. It’s really fun.”
Alcatraz requires flashbacks to show who the prisoners were back on “The Rock.” After producing the ultimate flashback show of all time, Lost, Abrams had no hesitation about using the same structure on a new show.
“There’s a flashback in Person of Interest also. I love flashbacks. There will often be flashbacks. For me it was a necessity of the show as opposed to feeling it’s borrowing an existing gimmick that Lost happened to use well. One of the awesome aspects of Alcatraz is the mystique of Alcatraz as the rock itself, what it was like 50 years ago down Broadway in the middle of these cells. What was it like to have these criminals behind these bars be out in that yard, to have the warden in that office? It would be crazy not to embrace that.”
The only Star Trek 2 update is that he’s still trying to make “a movie that’s worth people’s time.” On Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Abrams confirmed there are four full IMAX sequences, like the Burj Khalifa sequence in the trailer.
In more surprising news, Abrams answered questions about last year’s failed show Undercovers. Abrams produced the married spy series and directed the pilot, and he blames only himself for the show’s failure.
“I do feel the problem with the show was I made bad choices. I wasn’t as respectful of the audience or the characters. I didn’t give people substance. The thing that’s fun about fluff is it needs to be contextualized. It needs to be fun and fluffy within something of meaning and it was kind of fluff on top of fluff as opposed to something more substantial. I wrote it into mediocrity and I feel guilty because I love the actors, I love the idea of the show, I love the idea of a couple who loves each other.”
Person of Interest premieres this fall on CBS.