For the past 14 years, award-winning producers/creators Dan Angel and Billy Brown have brought scares and thrills to television audiences of all ages. Their latest foray into the world of genre entertainment, an anthology series set to debut on Fox July 12, 2001, has been highly-anticipated by both fans and professionals alike ever since its initial introduction at the TCA Press tour last July (the show's 26 completed episodes were held in anticipation of a writer's strike). Tapping into mankind's darkest fears, NIGHT VISIONS journeys deep into the human soul, uncovering worlds that lie between illusion and reality. In classic TWILIGHT ZONE style, the new anthology series moves from horror to psychological drama to supernatural adventure, never letting up until its final, bizarre plot twist.
As a sampling of what the series has to offer, the first episode provides two tales that fall into the "things aren't always what they seem" category. In "The Passenger List," Aidan Quinn plays a stressed transportation official who, during the investigation of a plane crash, begins to question his own sanity as he discovers unnerving details about the accident. Was he, himself, a passenger on the doomed flight? In "The Occupant," Bridget Fonda portrays a "day sleeper" she works at night and sleeps during the day. However, when she begins to suspect that someone is living in her house during the nighttime hours, she devises a trap to ensnare her intruder. Unfortunately, when she decides to stay home one night to see if anyone breaks in, an even greater nightmare unfolds.
No strangers to genre entertainment, Angel and Brown have a rather accomplished list of credits, including executive producer titles on the number one rated GOOSEBUMPS, ANIMORPHS and BRATS OF THE LOST NEBULA, as well as story editor credits on the 1997-1998 season of THE X-FILES. (Most recently, the duo has executive produced the non-genre series THE FEARING MIND, which debuts on the Fox Family Channel this fall.) In terms of the "hit and miss" anthology genus, the team executive produced and wrote the horror anthology JOHN CARPENTER PRESENTS: BODY BAGS, which was nominated for a CableACE Award.
It's no wonder then that a team that lists THE OMEN and ROSEMARY'S BABY on their all-time favorite films list would conceive of a series such as NIGHT VISIONS.
"We wanted to do a show that might be a little different from other anthology shows," says Brown. "We knew we didn't want to do CREEPSHOW; we didn't want to make it a campy kind of comic book show; and we didn't want to just do TWILIGHT ZONE. We wanted to kind of present a wider palette of horror and suspense, but really try to keep it character based so that there's always some sort of dilemma that, if the story does turn supernatural, it's a metaphor for what's happening to the person spiritually or psychologically. We wanted to have them all be like little films and the connecting thread is that its character based tales of horror, terror or suspense. As far as marketing and packaging it, the idea was to get really strong lead actors and I think we succeeded to a large extent. You have Bridget Fonda, Aidan Quinn, Randy Quaid, Lou Diamond Phillips, Brian Dennehy, Cary Elwes, Bill Pullman, Malcolm McDowell and Miguel Ferrer."
This A-list treatment continues behind the camera as well with a catalog of directors made up from some of the biggest names in television, film, and actors-turned-directors.
"We also had a nice mix of directors," says Angel. "We kind of created this formula where we wanted three types of directors. We wanted your kind of standard, best in the business TV director who's done a lot of episodic. We found some really good guys like Tom Wright and Jeff Levy people who've worked in genre shows and done a great job. But then we also had film directors like Joe Dante, Keith Gordon, Ernest Dickerson and Tobe Hooper. Then, we had actors who wanted to direct: Bill Pullman, JoBeth Williams and Brian Dennehy. So we had a nice mix of directors who came from features, television and actors-turned-directors."
As mentioned earlier, 26 episodes of NIGHT VISIONS are already in the can and set to debut July 12. Audiences can expect a longer format TWILIGHT ZONE-type show designed to scare, captivate and disturb.
"[A typical show is] two half-hour segments," says Brown. "The way a typical show would work is there's a credit sequence that would blend into [the host] Henry Rollins. He kind of talks a little bit about the story puts the spotlight on the main character, for example, Aidan Quinn in the pilot. Then we kind of push into a frozen frame of Aidan from the show and go into the segment through the main character. There will be a long first act unbroken by commercials, and then at the act breaks there would be commercials. We come back for the second act; it concludes. Henry does a little coda then they're off to commercial. We'll come back and we'll do it again."
With the genre of anthology television a veritable hit and miss when it comes to audiences, a reliable gage to measure the success of a series has yet to be created. However, Brown believes that NIGHT VISIONS will follow the same route to popularity traveled by other familiar underdogs.
"Honestly, I think for the show to succeed it will succeed sort of from the top down," says Brown. "It's not going to be something like SURVIVOR an instant phenomenon. I think it's more of a word of mouth type of thing, sort of like how THE SOPRANOS became successful. The smart people discover and talk about it. It was the same thing with SEINFELD. That didn't have a mass instant appeal."
Amid the failure of Steven Spielberg's much-toted AMAZING STORIES back in 1985 and, more recently, the waning interest in OUTER LIMITS, the question remains as to whether a market exists in today's television environment for an anthology series.
"I personally think there is [a market for the series] because, for example, when we were working on the show, they ran a really nice article in Canada whose headline basically said that we are going to revive the anthology," says Angel. "Just by doing this, people love it. Most of the people you talk to say, 'I can't wait to see this show.' It was on the 'Best Pics to Watch' list when it was announced. The critics everyone seem to be ready for it. It's all about timing. I think the timing is right. It's been about 12 to 15 years, so here we go."