When NBC showed off clips of its upcoming drama Awake last May at its upfront presentation, the immediate reaction from the media to the Kyle Killen–created drama about a man existing in two very different realities was positive. A typical response, from HitFix’s Alan Sepinwall: “By far the clip reel that impressed me and everyone I talked to the most was NBC’s mid-season drama Awake.” The other common response, however, after seeing the full pilot was: “Can this show sustain itself as a weekly series?” Apparently producers are struggling with similar questions: Vulture has learned that Awake is going to temporarily shut down production this week after filming six episodes (including its pilot). The hiatus is scheduled to last about four weeks; after that, filming is scheduled to resume, with the series still being targeted for an early 2012 debut. So is this a good thing or bad thing for Awake? We got in touch with Awake showrunner (and 24 vet) Howard Gordon for answers.
Gordon told us that he and Killen asked producer 20th Century Fox TV and NBC for the time off because they felt they needed the time to hash out where future episodes were headed. “We’ve got [six] scripts and episodes we’re very proud of, but we felt the show would benefit from having more time to plot out where we’re going,” Gordon told Vulture. “It’s a very complex show, and since we weren’t under any gun in terms of delivering episodes by a deadline, we asked for [the hiatus].” Is part of the problem figuring out how to turn the concept of the show — a man exists in two realities, one in which his wife is dead, one in which is son is — into an ongoing series? “I think that’s exactly right,” he said. “There’s a narrow margin for error here.” Gordon is used to mapping out byzantine story lines, of course, from his days on 24 . Indeed, during one season of that show, he halted production in order to whip future scripts into shape. These sorts of hiatuses for new shows are rare, and when they happen, they’re almost immediately followed by talk that the show could be in trouble. Indeed, there have been shows that have gone on hiatuses to “fix” scripts, only to never resume production. But Gordon says he’s heard of no such talk from NBC or 20th, and in fact, sees their decision to spend the extra money that’s involved with hiatus (key staffers will be paid for what will essentially be a vacation) as a sign that they’re still very much behind the show. “I think it’s a measure of faith in us,” Gordon said. As for an exact premiere date, “We don’t know yet, but we’re still expecting to be on sometime in January.”