‘Big Sky’ Creator David E Kelley on His Return to Broadcast and Commercial Breaks: ‘I Still Hate Them’

“But when we set forth with ABC, they were really frisky to break their own mold”

ABC’s “Big Sky” marks a return to broadcast for prolific TV creator David E. Kelley after a series of projects for cable and streaming, but the showrunner said he was in no rush to return to the format and all of its challenges.

“It is a little bit different,” said Kelley during a press conference on Wednesday, referencing his return to ABC after a series of cable and streaming projects, including HBO’s “Big Little Lies,” “Goliath” at Amazon and Hulu’s upcoming “Nine Perfect Strangers.”

“I was not anxious to get back to the broadcast world for a lot of the challenges that you just threw out — mainly commercial breaks,” he said. “But when we set forth with ABC, they were really frisky to break their own mold and to present storytelling to the audience that would be more in line with cable or streaming.”

“Big Sky,” one of the few new drama series debuting on network television this fall, is a 10-episode thriller starring Kylie Bunbury, Katheryn Winnick and Ryan Phillippe. The trio stars as a group of investigators who team up on a search for two sisters who have been kidnapped by a truck driver on a remote highway in Montana.

Kelley described the series as a true thriller, with cliffhangers carrying the audience through act breaks and episode breaks. The show will be a departure from some of his other projects with “socially or politically topical” questions at their core, the showrunner said.

“The fundamental question that’s going to be asked in this series and we want are audience asking is, What’s going to happen next,” Kelley said.

“I think this show lends itself to be a great binging show, it would work very well on cable or streaming,” Kelley said. “But at the end of the day ABC came to us, declared their passion for telling the story the way we wanted to tell it, and here we are.”

“The biggest thing for me is commercials, I still hate them,” he continued. “I know the audience fast forwards through them, so that’s better but it still calls upon the to pickup the remote and break a wall if you will.”

Of course, another major factor separating broadcast from cable and streaming is the looming specter of an early cancellation. But Kelley said he isn’t sweating the possibility

“If you start with that kind of fear, you’re probably in trouble,” he said. “We believe in our show, we believe that there’s a constituency out there that will support it, and we walk the plank and take the bet on our success.”