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David E. Kelley brings ‘Big Sky’ to ABC

By Francine Brokaw community Columnist - | Nov 17, 2020
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"Big Sky" premieres Tuesday on ABC.

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David E. Kelley is the executive producer of new ABC drama "Big Sky."

David E. Kelley has a long list of credits to his name.

He has created and written some of the most memorable shows in recent TV history, including “Big Little Lies,” “Goliath,” “Boston Legal,” “The Practice,” “Ally McBeal,” and many others.

Now he brings “Big Sky” to the small screen. This is his first time being a showrunner for one of his series and he met virtually with members of the media recently to discuss the show.

“It centers on a private detective agency in Montana and, by extension, law enforcement agency,” Kelley explained. “First and foremost, it’s a thriller, and we should start with the book, because that’s where I started. I read the book called ‘The Highway’ by C.J. Box. It’s cliche to say that I couldn’t put it down, but, really, I couldn’t put it down. It was a page-turner.”

Kelley added, “When we set about adapting it, the biggest challenge for me was to be able to deliver what the book did, and that is the tension, the thrill, the drama, the relational equations of the characters, which were rich and profound at times, and then the sense of escapism. It was a great ride, a great journey. And I’m hoping the audience and, particularly, given the times when they throw on the television at the end of the day, we will be able to deliver that sense of fun, drama and escapism to them.”

The characters are what Kelley said the viewers will be invested in, however, the twists and turns of the plot will keep them coming back. Having had his shows on cable for awhile, he is returning to broadcast TV with “Big Sky” and was asked what brought him back to broadcast (ABC).

“But when we set forth with ABC, they were really frisky to break their own mold,” he said. “And to present storytelling to the audience that would be more in line with cable or streaming. I think this show lends itself to be a great binging show. It would work very well on streaming. But at the end of the day, ABC came to us, declared their passion for telling the story the way we wanted to tell it, and here we are.”

For Kelley, the commercial breaks were his biggest challenge in this format.

Because this is not on a streaming service where viewers can watch several episodes at once, Kelley explained that at the end of each episode of “Big Sky” there will be something that has the viewers eager for the next week’s show.

“The structure of this show is we will do four- or five-episode arcs,” he said. “So, the first season, for example, is 10 episodes. That will probably be two five-episode arcs. They bleed into each other and overlap, but they’re primarily two different arcs.”

That way, if someone only watches the first half of the season, they will get a full story. The fact that this show is airing on broadcast and not streaming was brought up several times during the press conference. Yes, there is a big difference in how a show is written depending on where it is aired, and getting back to the broadcast formula was a challenge for Kelley. But he hopes it will satisfy viewers and they will embrace the series.

“Big Sky” stars Ryan Phillippe, Kathery Winnick and Kylie Bunbury. It premieres Tuesday on ABC.

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