<EM>Reunion</EM> Reunion

Those teen ne'er-do-wells on The O.C. have a new neighbor this season, and one that is different in so many ways. Fox's Reunion, premiering tonight at 9 pm/ET, spins a murder mystery involving six friends and told in flashbacks encompassing one year per episode, inching forward each week as it gradually revealing not just whodunit, but who was done in.

The concept, while bold, begs big questions. Like, how do you do a murder mystery while keeping the victim's identity under wraps? (The deceased is referred to in present day as, well, "the deceased.") And what happens in Season 2, if there is one? Luckily, creator/executive producer Jon Harmon Feldman is armed with answers. Addressing the latter, most-asked question, he says, "If we're lucky and get to Season 2, the goal would be to use one of our [original six] characters to transition to a new group of friends and tell their story over 20 years.

"I have a lot of ideas on [how to do that] that are as compelling as Season 1," he insists. "We're ready to hit the ground running if we have that opportunity."

While you might think that an actor would be hesitant to sign on for the obviously limited run that Reunion offers most of its original cast members, the opposite is true. "[It's an] actor's dream," says Sean Faris (Life as We Know It), who plays rich kid Craig Brewster. "It's awesome to be able to play a role in which the character changes every episode and yet at the same time you don't feel like you're locked away for five years doing the same thing over and over." Alexa Davalos (Angel, The Chronicles of Riddick), who plays Faris' on-screen sweetheart, concurs: "It gives the show a bit of the energy of a film, because we knew the beginning and we know that there is an end, and that leaves you a lot of freedom."

One of the most familiar faces on Reunion is that of Will Estes, who was actually cast on the Fox drama before NBC's American Dreams (on which he played J.J.) was truly and sincerely 100 percent dead. Being tapped to go retro yet again, he says, is funny. "I think every actor has, like, a best era for him. I don't know if Burt Reynolds is going to be any better than he was in the '70s, know what I mean? But me, I love the '80s, so I feel more at home here."

Mathew St. Patrick, fresh from getting gunned down in Six Feet Under's series finale epilogue, is the one temporal constant on Reunion, playing the present-day detective out to solve whoever's murder. "To move onto this show is a wonderful experience," he says. "24 started with this kind of concept in terms of expanding what the [TV] hour [can] embrace. For this show to take it the next step is ambitious."

But again, how do you plumb a season-long murder mystery without naming the dead? "There are two mysteries — who's dead and who killed them. The first one we're going to [reveal] not too far into the season," Feldman promises. "After that, the gloves are off as we track all the clues and motives and suspects."

If Reunion doesn't get picked up for the full season, then what? Says Feldman, "If I get a call that says, 'You're only doing 13,' will I wrap it up? Absolutely."

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