NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Summer hasn't even officially begun yet, but ABC wants you to "Flash Forward" to autumn. The Walt Disney network has clearly identified its new drama -- in which everyone in the world is knocked out for about two minutes and gets a vision of what they'll be up to in six months -- as a must-launch for fall and is trying a lot of new techniques to get it noticed.
The network already ran seconds-long promos for "Flash Forward" during the regular TV season -- before the show was even officially picked up for 2009-2010. This past week, it held screenings of the first episode for media and critics, with one of the producers on hand to answer questions. (Yes, they plan to answer many questions by season's end, and believe the show can be wrapped up in two to six seasons, though they really, really hope it can last for five.)
Typically, promotional stunts for fall TV don't start until late August and early September and employ everything from beach umbrellas to coffee-cart cups. CBS has even slapped ads on eggs, supermarket-deli stickers and freezer doors. Between the clever stunts and sheer volume of new entries, many consumers hear a lot of white noise. Indeed, 75% to 80% of new programs fail. That's been true for years, even before the advent of DVRs and iPods and Facebook and Twitter. Now imagine how much more difficult it is to launch one of these shows today. Small wonder, then, that ABC is trying to get people to focus on the show now and attempt to keep them thinking about it all summer long.
It may also come as a surprise that "Flash Forward" already has an ending in place. Fans of spooky programs that examined the paranormal have often been disappointed when "X-Files" or "Twin Peaks" was pulled off the air with only a cursory effort to tie up all the loose ends. That's because many programs were never conceived with an ending. Writers had to come up with a denouement only once the network told them the show was about to be canceled. Sometimes, it just got canceled and no one ever got any kind of closure.
So we're taking ABC's hook in our mouths and flashing forward to "Flash Forward." Like you, we're busy. We don't have time to waste on ill-conceived programs with flimsy story lines and no sense of where they're going. But "Flash Forward" does have an ending, so hey, maybe it's worth at least some of our precious time. Or at least worth setting the DVR for.