Exclusive Interview: “Lone Star” Creator Kyle Killen

It was extremely disappointing that Fox pulled the plug on Lone Star after just two episodes. The show received critical acclaim and had potential the size of Texas, but unfortunately failed to find an audience and became the first casualty of the fall season. Lone Star creator Kyle Killen was kind enough to answer some questions about the reaction to the bad news, the American Dream, what may have gone wrong and the future of the show.

When/how did you find out about the cancellation? How did you react? How did the cast and crew react?

We were in production on the seventh episode when we were actually told the show was being pulled. Ironically it was at an extremely remote location that we’d used only once before, on one of our last days shooting the pilot. So in some ways the show began and ended in the same place, a long way from anywhere.

I can’t say that anyone was shocked. The numbers were fairly black and white. I think the surprise was how devastating it was, even knowing it was coming, to stand in front that crew in the middle of nowhere and tell them that despite all their hard work and effort, I wasn’t able to hold up my end, and as a result it was all ending, right then and right there. Being a writer is normally such a solitary pursuit it’s incredibly odd to feel a responsibility for the livelihood and well-being of more than a hundred other people, and your own feelings of failure are exponentially compounded when you see the people who ultimately bear the brunt of it.

It seems like each character was chasing their own version of the American Dream, whether it be the Dream of family or riches. Yet at the same time, the American Dream serves as the ultimate con. What was the show trying to say about the American Dream?

I think the show looked at the American Dream as something that has two sides which are actually often in conflict. One the one hand it’s a simple house, a yard, and apple pie. On the other, it’s the ability to pursue wealth and power, the idea that anyone can become someone. And in large part it seems and when people get either side of that dream they yearn for the other. And that’s where Bob came from. He was a character who didn’t spend his life feeling like the grass was always greener, he spent it jumping the fence.

It’s been debated and debated but in your opinion, what thing or things do you most think led to the audience not being there for the show? Lack of promotion? Was it going up against the juggernaut of Dancing With the Stars? Some critics said viewers did not want to watch a lead with two wives – could that be true? And if so, what does this say about us if we can root for serial killers and master criminals, but not a “cheater” blinded by the idea of romantic love? Something else?

Every explanation I hear for the show’s failure seems as reasonable as the next, so I can’t really champion one over any other. To me, the job in television is to entertain your audience. Their time is precious at the end of a long day and they’re going to go with the things they have confidence in until you demonstrate that you deserve their attention. I think people who watched our show started to feel that confidence, but we simply didn’t bring enough of them to the table to make it a sustainable situation.

As for our ability to root for serial killers but not cheaters, I don’t know that I completely buy the distinction. I think the antihero in general is always going to be a tougher sell, so I don’t know that Dexter would have drawn a legion of adoring fans right off the bat had it been rolled out on Monday night in premiere week. It’s an incredible show and it very well may have, but my sense is that you get a certain number of people who take that leap right off the bat and it’s really the force of them telling their friends “look, I know he’s a serial killer, but if you watch you’re actually going to find him incredibly sympathetic and fascinating” that makes that show a hit. I feel like antiheroes need room to grow on people, and at the moment room to grow is a commodity more frequently doled out on cable than network.

This trend of shows getting the plug pulled on them after one, two, three episodes seems to be growing, and as viewers, most of us feel it’s very unfair – is there more to it than meets the eye? Maybe there are things going on with the business side that we as tv viewers don’t know?

I think it’s certainly difficult for viewers to invest in things when they have a great deal of skepticism that the show will be around long enough to reward that investment. It’s like committing to reading a novel with no guarantee that the publisher will ever send you the last chapters.

That said, it’s hard to say exactly what might be done about it. I think the first season of our show would have felt like a book, with a beginning, a middle, and ultimately a satisfying end. But I can’t sit here and argue that FOX should have let us continue to tell that story on Monday nights. The numbers weren’t just low, they were so low that it was less a question of patience and more a question of financial sanity. The double edged sword of being a heavily promoted and critically well received show is that you face enormous expectations, and if you fail to meet them you’re more likely to meet a quick death than be allowed to limp along in search of your audience.

The more the television landscape fractures, the more the audience becomes comfortable with particular channels as a source of particular types of programming, the more the Networks are forced to become home to only shows that hit huge cross sections of America right away. It’s like having a chain of movie theaters that can only survive by showing blockbusters. In that environment you really have to try to program Transformers instead of My Big Fat Greek Wedding. They’re both hits, but on [a] network you need something that’s a hit its first week, not its last.

If you can shed any light on any ideas/talks about how the series may be continued/resolved, we’d love to hear it.

We’re actively looking for a cable home for the series. We think we were off to a good start, but like most shows, we think that as we went forward we were really going to start hitting our stride. The show’s been a come from behind horse its entire life. I can’t help thinking that we can just find a longer track, who knows, it might actually win something.

Here’s hoping the show is able to find that longer track somewhere.

Many thanks to Mr. Killen for taking the time for this interview. If you liked the show and want to follow along with him, you can follow him on Twitter and read his blog here.

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