It was a long six months ago that Six Degrees debuted on ABC. Spinning the separate-yet-sometimes-intertwined stories of a half dozen New Yorkers — played by Jay Hernandez, Bridget Moynahan, Erika Christensen, Dorian Missick, Campbell Scott and Hope Davis — the J.J. Abrams-produced drama opened strong in its cushy post-Grey's Anatomy time slot... yet didn’t maintain the audience retention ABC believed it should. Now, with the serial back and airing Fridays at 9, TVGuide.com asked executive producers Stuart Zicherman and Raven Metzner if Six Degrees will be, in fact, hotter than ever.
TVGuide.com: Man, it seems like it's been forever since Six Degrees has been on the air, huh?
Stuart Zicherman: [Laughs]
Raven Metzner: We're very excited for this Friday.
TVGuide.com: Would you say the show has undergone a bit of a "retooling" during this break? Will we start to see any changes starting with the March 23 episode?
Zicherman: We've pretty much been shooting straight through — we only took about a two-week break — but we've been retooling a bit as we've gone along in the sense that where the show has always been going is toward bringing the characters closer together, so it would become more of a conventional soap. What happens over time, and it builds more and more toward the end of the season, is the characters' lives draw closer and closer together, so the show is less about six separate lives and more about the relationships you make in a big city like New York.
TVGuide.com: I know there was at least a rumor a while back that you would start to chip away at the ensemble, but instead you're going to be holding onto and tightening up this group?
Metzner: We tighten them up, and in an episode to come, No. 11, we bring in another character [played by Sports Night's Josh Charles] that will sort of turn things upside down a bit.
TVGuide.com: I only ask because as I was watching the new episode, I was thinking, "Oh, boy, they're sending the limo driver off to prison," and I got worried for poor Erika Christensen, because her Mae is barely seen....
Zicherman: Dorian [Missick, Damian] and Erika both play very big parts in the end of the season, and have a big story line to come.
TVGuide.com: So you find out during the break that Bridget Moynahan is pregnant. Take it from there.
Metzner: Well, first you've got to say, "Congratulations...."
Zicherman: [Laughs] It really didn't affect us so much. We had been shooting for such a long time, and were on [Episode] 13 [when the news broke]. Only in the very, very last episode was she starting to show, and we were able to cover it fine.
TVGuide.com: "Cover it" meaning hide her behind potted plants and oversized handbags, or by writing in the pregnancy? Because I see that Whitney is not lacking for male companionship over the coming weeks.
Zicherman: No, we're not writing it in.
Metzner: Not at all.
TVGuide.com: Is Campbell Scott your "McDreamy" here? Or is Josh Charles going to fill that sort of role? Is it now a mandate that every ABC drama have a "McDreamy"?
Metzner: I don't know if he's our McDreamy, but what we do sort of grow toward is a fun romantic triangle with a couple of our characters, and Josh plays into that and Campbell does as well. That sort of fun and juicy triangle is a staple of ABC. It's a good staple of any nighttime drama.
TVGuide.com: Is it a triangle or a quadrangle, with Hope Davis in there?
Zicherman: It kind of builds toward a quadrangle. What you say is true, that all ABC shows do seem to have to find who their McDreamy is. This show never set out to do that, because we always felt it was less like Grey's and a bit more dramatic. You talk about retooling a bit, and we have tried to make the show more ABC-friendly, and in doing that we have built triangles without sacrificing the integrity of the original idea. Campbell is a really unique McDreamy, if we're going to use that term, because he's much more adult, and he's such an amazing, complex actor.
TVGuide.com: And Caseman is more flawed and challenged than his counterparts on other shows.
Zicherman: Yeah, and we love that. The Josh Charles character that we bring in comes in in a very "McDreamy" sort of way, but again, he's flawed and you're not sure what he's up to. By the time you get to Episode 14, we've accomplished the ABC mandate in a way that's not so broad and obvious, which we're very excited about.
TVGuide.com: Best case, how many episodes will we get this entire first season?
Zicherman: You're going to see seven episodes in a row [for a total of 13].
TVGuide.com: As I said, it's been a while, so remind me of Damian's and Carlos' connections to characters other than each other?
Zicherman: Carlos (Jay Hernandez) is a lawyer connected to Mae, and he's connected to Damian....
Metzner: And he will become connected in an interesting way to Whitney, in the episodes coming up.
Zicherman: And to Caseman.
TVGuide.com: And Damian, he has this agenda to find Mae?
Zicherman: We've retooled that character a bit, and the last couple of episodes are really great Damian episodes. Originally we had a very interesting, J.J. Abrams-world sort of dark, criminal story line for him that led to a great redemption, but after we premiered, ABC felt very strongly that we should stay away from criminal story lines in our time slot, so we didn't know what to do with him for a while. He's a great actor, so it's in Episode 10 or 11 that we found a great story for him that connects him to all the other characters and really changes his life. He emerges as the most redeemed character by the end of the season.
TVGuide.com: Speaking of J.J. Abrams, when I spoke to Erika at the start of the season, I joked that Mae's mystery box contained Hurley's numbers.
Metzner: That was a possibility!
TVGuide.com: Is Mae still being sought after by some ominous entity?
Zicherman: Although that remains in our back pocket, we've started to move away from that part of her story line, and put Mae's journey in the direction of family. You'll see how that plays out in the second half.
TVGuide.com: Of course, ABC this week renewed a bunch of its hourlong shows for the fall, and is obviously very hot for the Grey's spin-off. Do you have tempered hopes for Six Degrees if things go well?
Zicherman: We're realistic about the fact that we've been off the air for four months, and we've always been proud of the show and knew going in that it was a very unique show that may or may not work on this network. I think these [next seven] episodes are significantly better than the ones we aired earlier in the season. We were consoled by What About Brian last season, which aired five episodes and everyone thought it was dead, but ended up coming back. You just hope people watch. I really believe people are going to like this last run of episodes.
TVGuide.com: What is your ratings mission for Friday at 9? To beat up a bit on Jennifer Finnigan?
Zicherman: Friday night, especially for ABC, has been such a dead spot. We had almost 10 million people watching our show when we went off the air [last November], which on any other night would have been a wonderful thing. If we could keep any semblance of that audience, we'd feel really good about it.
Check out this video preview of ABC's Six Degrees.
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