With Emmy nominations right around the corner, Revenge executive producer Mike Kelley indulges our nosiest TV questions, including where he’d really like to see Emily Thorne and Victoria Grayson duke it out. Read the latest in Vulture's Showrunner Survey series to hear his thoughts on the cardinal sin most teen dramas commit, and which dead soap-opera character he misses most.
What's the first TV show you remember being obsessed with?
That’s a tough one. The Six Million Dollar Man? Charlie’s Angels? Fantasy Island? Eight Is Enough? Think it’s too close to call in the nighttime drama category, so I'll go with the seventies Saturday morning classic, Sid and Marty Krofft’s H.R. Pufnstuf. Years ago, I actually had a chance to meet Puff co-creator Sid Krofft. He’s as delightfully oddball, spacey, and brilliant as the kooky masterpiece he and his brother dreamed up. (Revenge fun fact: My second in command, Mr. Mark Perry, spent a memorable summer playing “The Amazing Radnik,” a disembodied floating-head fortuneteller at The World of Sid and Marty Krofft in Atlanta in 1976. It was the first indoor amusement park ever built. It closed down in six months.)
True or False: When I was growing up, the day the TV Guide "Fall Preview" issue came out was almost as good as the last day of school.
False. Not that the "Fall Preview" wasn’t a big deal at my house, but the last day of school generally fell on my birthday growing up. Now that same day in June coincides with the start of the network television writing season. The universe, having a laugh.
Which show would you like to do a crossover event with and why?
Trading Spaces. “Victoria, Emily, you have 24 hours to redo a room in your neighbor’s home. Go!”
If you could bring back any killed-off TV character for just one more episode, who would it be?
Melrose Place already granted that wish when they brought back Dr. Kimberly Shaw. Beyond that, Jenny on All My Children. Damn jet ski.
Which writers room in all of TV history would you most like to have gotten to sit in on?
Twin Peaks. Fly-on-the-wall style.
Finish this sentence: The hardest thing to pull off on a TV show is …
The post-cliffhanger. Coming up with a good season ender is no walk in the park, but paying it off so that the viewer is satisfied enough to follow you down the next year of rabbit holes is a true high-wire act.
Do time slots still matter? Explain.
Yes. Lead-ins matter, audience flow matters, competition always matters. 10 p.m. is an increasingly difficult spot for a network drama to build an audience, especially in the DVR age. We felt very lucky that fans of Revenge kept coming back to watch us on Wednesday nights, and hope they’ll follow us over to Sunday at 9 pm, where we’ll face off with The Good Wife, another terrific twisty drama with a loyal fan base, and (gulp) Sunday Night Football …
Pick one character from your show; which reality show would (s)he be most suited for, and why?
Emily Thorne. From Survivor to The Bachelorette, I can’t think of a single competition she couldn’t win.
If you had an unlimited music budget, which artist or group would you hire to compose the soundtrack for your show?
I wouldn’t make a change at all. iZLER is the perfect composer for Revenge. He’s brilliant and tireless and a hell of a guy. His signature score has become as important to our storytelling as visual effects. Without it, the world would feel incomplete and soulless. I bow down to the man.
Which character do you wish you had created?
Abby Ewing. Donna Mills, you rocked my world.
What was the biggest creative misstep you ever saw made by a show you love?
Big fan of the teen drama, but every time a group of high-schoolers takes more than four seasons to graduate, it’s the beginning of the end.
If you could let your kids watch a single episode of your work, which one would it be and why?
The pilot of Swingtown, where Susan and Bruce stumble onto a “swingers” party and spontaneously sleep with their new neighbors. I’d find a way to mess the kids up eventually, might as well just chuck ‘em into the deep end.