Kyle Killen began yesterday in Covington, about 90 minutes southwest of Dallas. He was on the set ofLone Star
, of course, his FOX series about the con man in love with two women -- a wife in Houston, and another in Midland. They were in the midst of shooting the seventh episode when Killen got the call:FOX was yanking the show from the Monday-night lineup and replacing it with Lie to Me
. He told the cast and crew:It's over.
They had feared as much ever since last week's dismal ratings -- 4.1 million viewers for the pilot's premiere, good for last place. But, still, it wasn't easy.
"Irony of all ironies, Covington was one of the locations we used in the pilot -- for a scene that takes place in a remote gas station," Killen tells Unfair Park this afternoon. "We were right where it started when it ended."
Which is why Kyle Killen began today at his home in Austin, with his wife and three daughters. Slightly dazed. Terribly confused. And kind of hungover -- though that, he says, "was surprisingly short-lived." On, then, to the business of figuring out: What next?
Lone Star, which shot all over town and was HQ'd out of The Studios at Las Colinas, was among the most celebrated new series of the fall television season. It was also the first one canceled. Why? Many reasons, perhaps -- like, maybe it was in the wrong time slot, or maybe it belonged on a cable outpost rather than a network, or maybe it was just too soapy for some. Or perhaps there's no good reason at all. Recent TV history is littered with carcasses of the good who done died young: Freaks and Geeks, Action, Wonderfalls, Firefly, The Job, Andy Richter Controls the Universe. To name but a few.
Long story short: TV's an awful business. Which is why Outsourced is on the air and Lone Star is not and Charlie Sheen has a job and Kyle Killen does not.
"Everyone wants to extrapolate a moral or lesson, and sometimes there isn't one," Killen says. "The question is: Can you do a cable type premise on network TV? Is it the premise or the platform? If it's the platform, then Breaking Bad and Mad Men would find an audience on networks. A part of me feels like maybe this is an indicator cable shows are on cable for a reason, but part of me wants to hope the people at the networks don't stop looking under every rock for things that are a little different and still take risks.
"We're proud of what we did. It was an opportunity like nothing else. There's no other way to speak to so many people on a regular basis than television. But it's also hard to do it successfully, and when you miss you feel like you're this close. And when you don't connect, it's confusing. And a little bit heartbreaking."
Killen doesn't blame FOX: "They did everything they could," he says -- meaning, a significant marketing push and the Monday-night time slot, following House. "I don't know what else FOX could have tried."
Which is why, last week, Killen took to his website and pleaded with people to help spread the word -- a rare, grand gesture by a television creator. I ask him: Did he think it would work?
"I don't know if I thought it would work, but I thought it was worth trying," he says. "If you're gonna do down, you want to know you took every opportunity and did everything you could -- and you want the people you work with to know you did everything you could. I wasn't able to deliver a show that delivered the ratings we needed to stay alive, and I needed to remedy that situation."
I tell him: He sounds as though he feels guilty for the cancellation, as though it's somehow his fault. Killen, who also penned the as-yet-unreleased The Beaver with Jodie Foster and Mel Gibson, does not disagree.
"The difference is, as a writer who has worked in features, I've always worked completely independently, and the fantastic and painful thing about TV is how integral you are involved in everything every day," he says. "And when it's over you feel this responsibility for the people who worked around you. You don't get that with a feature. This is like creating a company. It's a little universe, and you feel a tremendous amount of ownership and pride and responsibility, which is new to me. I wouldn't change anything we did in terms of the storytelling, which is why we're proud to have been involved with it. I don't know ... I wish we got a few more people in the door. I wish there was a magic bullet."
FOX, incidentally, has not officially canceled the show. The publicist for the series tells Unfair Park today: "It's been pulled from the schedule. Other than that, no other word's come down. I can't say if it's going to move or not." But Killen knows. He feels it: It's over. When told of FOX's open-ended response, he shrugs: "I don't share that impression. I don't personally share that hope."
So, then, what next? Another network, perhaps? Or just a DVD release -- the two aired episodes plus the unseen four hours, yet another what-could-have-been stuck on a shelf?
"I don't," he says. "I can't offer anything. We're open to and exploring other options and potentially other homes for the show, whether it means the episodes we've completed or breathing new life into what we believe was a solid concept with great places we were excited about going. But at this early stage, I don't actually have any specific details. We'll have to see."