<EM>Surface</EM>'s Jay R. Ferguson and Lake Bell Surface's Jay R. Ferguson and Lake Bell

On Sept. 19 at 8 pm/ET, NBC will unveil Surface, an expansive drama/adventure series that centers on the appearance of mysterious sea creatures in the ocean. Where did these strange life forms come from? And are they as innocent as they appear? Similar questions have haunted the many, many fans of Lost. Surface, though, may have learned one important lesson from the ABC hit: Don't keep 'em guessing too long about too much.

Jonas Pate, who created and executive-produces the series with his brother, Josh, tells TVGuide.com that, despite the numerous teases and cliff-hangers scattered throughout the premiere episode, Surface won't be quite as cruel as Lost and its forever-enigmatic island beast. "Believe it or not, we're not going to be as coy with revealing things as you might expect, because there are many layers to the mystery [of the sea creatures]," he says. "What you see in the pilot is only the opening salvo."

But is it all leading to a place of satisfying resolution or, well, a steel hatch? Pate knows what the first-season finale will reveal, but of course he isn't telling.  "As you can imagine, when NBC first read the pilot they thought, 'Well, this is interesting, but where the hell does it go from here?' So we had to pitch them basically the entire first 22 episodes. We have it pretty mapped out."

When we spoke with Pate the finishing flourishes were being put on the beings that trigger all this mystery. All told, he says it was a "pretty damn formidable task" designing and digitally rendering a creature that is believable and compelling in its authenticity. "Our visual-effects supervisor, Mitch Suskin, who was nominated for an Emmy for Lost" — there's that name again — "has been working really hard modeling this creature, working on how it moves and making it look photo-real," Pate says. "That has taken pretty much the last six months, and I think we've got it to a place where it's going to be pretty mind-blowing. It may just be the first all-digital character in television." (But will it make it onto lunch boxes this fall? "Hopefully it'll be on a Happy Meal!" Pate replies with a laugh.)

Is the TV audience ready to embrace another head-scratching drama/adventure series? Pate, pointing to history, says yes. "When fantastic stories have become popular, like in the '50s, is often at a time of uncertainty in the country. It has to do with the zeitgeist of where we are as a nation.

"Another part," he says, "is just network television reality: There was a show last year that succeeded and allowed the networks to turn to genres that traditionally they hadn't. So I think that's a part of it, too."

Check out video previews, photos, premiere dates and more from fall's new and returning shows right here.