SPOILER ALERT: This article contains details of tonight’s La Brea Season 1 finale.
“One of the things that I think makes our show unique is that we like to answer the questions quick, faster than other shows might, and then pose new ones,” says La Brea creator David Appelbaum of NBC’s breakout sci-fi drama that wrapped up its time traveling first season tonight.
“So, all these mysteries that we’re talking about are things that we have some interesting answers for, and yeah, I don’t think we’re going to leave the audience frustrated like some other shows in this genre have before,” the co-showrunner added with a tease of what’s to come next.
Less than a month after the Natalie Zea, Eoin Macken, Jack Martin, Zyra Gorecki, Jon Seda, Chiké Okonkwo, Karina Logue, Veronica St. Clair, Rohan Mirchandaney, Nicholas Gonzalez, Lily Santiago, Chloe De Los Santos and Josh McKenzie starring series from showrunners Appelbaum, Steven Lilien and Bryan Wynbrandt was renewed for a second season, tonight’s “Topanga” Season 1 finale tossed out all the rules, family ties, time and otherwise.
And that says a lot for show that focuses on a mother (Zea) and son (Martin) separated by over 11,000 years from the estranged father (Macken) and daughter (Gorecki) after a massive sinkhole opens up at Los Angeles’ famed tar pits.
In that vein, Appelbaum chatted with me about the Adam Davidson directed finale he penned. The EP touched on escape, big swings, Australia, new characters, as well as where things could go next year, or not.
DEADLINE: You really went old school network large with Topanga, packing a lot into one hour with the paint on your renewal almost still fresh, didn’t you?
APPELBAUM: Well, one of the things we really wanted to do with the finale was set up a lot of cliffhangers and possibilities for Season 2. You know, with Josh and Riley going through the light, revealing the building, the death of Marybeth, and Gavin, and Izzy coming down the sinkhole, we’re really trying to set up these new potentials for Season 2, and putting people on new journeys, to reveal some new mysteries.
DEADLINE: One season in, one more at least to go, do you have a landing for La Brea when the time comes?
APPELBAUM: We do have in mind an endpoint and have a lot of important signposts along the way to get there. But, we haven’t really tried to pin ourselves down to a specific number of seasons to get there. Personally, I think it’s the kind of show where we can keep expanding what the world is. I definitely think it has the potential for a long run.
DEADLINE: So, we briefly see with Scott and Dr. Aldridge that tower at the end. And at the same time, we now have Gavin and Izzy back in 10,000 BC in what is Washington State, trying to make their way down to California. How will all this be brought together? Because the family has basically reunited, with the exception of Josh who’s now gone to 1988, or we don’t know, actually, where he’s gone.
APPELBAUM: (LAUGHS) We don’t know where he’s gone. One thing I will say is that he’s going to be in a new time period, one that the show hasn’t seen before, so it’s going to be opening up another world of possibilities.
DEADLINE: But the Harris family is still the core, across time and possibly space?
APPELBAUM: One of the important driving stories of the show is how and if this family can be reunited. So, we want to keep them separated as much as possible in this finale. Now they’re separated in terms of time, but even at some point when they do get back together, they’ll be separated in terms of their emotion and the relationship factures that have existed before the story begins. And also the relationships that have formed as a result of the story. So, you’re right, this is really at the heart, this journey about this family trying to reconnect with each other.
DEADLINE: And the tower that Dr. Aldridge takes Scott to near the end and tells him that she built?
APPELBAUM: I don’t want to give away too much of it, but I will say that the audience will get answers very early in the season. We’re going to enter this building, and we’re going to understand why it’s here and what it’s being used for.
DEADLINE: Why the quick reveal?
APPELBAUM: Well, I expect that audiences are going to come away tonight wanting to know that right away. So, we’re going to give that to them in the first episode back in Season 2. We’re going to explore it and not keep them frustrated by it, I don’t want to say exactly what it is.
DEADLINE: So, where are you guys right now in terms of Season 2?
APPELBAUM: We just started the writers’ room yesterday, actually, but you know, we’ve certainly been talking and planning it, my co-showrunners, Bryan Wynbrandt and Steven Lilien and I. We’re always talking and coming up with ideas about where the show can be, so we do have a lot of these ideas now.
DEADLINE: You’d have to, I mean, you have a sprawling cast. Are we going to see some new characters introduced in Season 2, some significant new characters?
Josh and Riley are going to be traveling to a new time period, we’re going to meet new characters within that time period. There are going to be other people that we discover in the world of 10,000 BC, people related to that building that we see at the end of Season 1. So, definitely, we’re going to see new characters because one of the important things about the show is that we want to be expanding the possibilities of what it is, and that includes finding new people.
DEADLINE: Certainly you had some Easter eggs peppered throughout Season 1 …
APPELBAUM: True, we’ve hinted at a lot of different things as far as what these sinkholes are. We’ve seen Civil War gold here, now we’ve seen a building here, we’ve seen a cow with a barcode on it. There’s a lot of mysteries that we’ve set up that we’re planning to get into in Season 2, but, the first season is only ten episodes, so there’s only so many mysteries we can answer.
One of the things that I think makes our show unique is that we like to answer the questions quick, faster than other shows might, and then pose new ones. So, all these mysteries that we’re talking about are things that we have some interesting answers for, and yeah, I don’t think we’re going to leave the audience frustrated like some other shows in this genre have before.
DEADLINE: Unlike a lot of shows in any genre, you had a vast distance between you and the writers’ room in LA and production in Australia, not to mention a pandemic thrown in there and the protocols that were subsequently required. How did that affect the show for you on a daily basis?
APPELBAUM: It’s hard to know exactly how it affected the show day to day, but you know, one of the things I think that appeals to people about the show, is that it’s an escape …
DEADLINE: How do you mean?
APPELBAUM: An escape from reality, and now being bogged down and holed up in our houses every day makes us want more of that. So, perhaps it’s made us more imaginative and curious about ways of escape that transcend our offices or our basements, where we’re working out of every day. It’s hard to know if it’s had that effect, but you know, I think that’s definitely a possibility.
From just a production level, I’ve been very surprised how we’re able to make everything work remotely — editing remotely, writing remotely, dealing with production remotely. I did go to set for a couple months to get the production started, but still, it is quite amazing that you’re able to produce a show just by barely leaving your house. It’s something I never would have expected 18 months ago.
DEADLINE: Do you foresee organizational changes from Season 1 now going into a second season?
APPELBAUM: That’s a great question. In terms of Australia, there are certainly logistical challenges in terms of, mostly because of the time zone differences. They’re 17 hours ahead of us which is a brain-twisting idea in and of itself. But, on the other hand, shooting there offers so many great possibilities.
As far as how we’ll run the show differently – well, the production is going to be starting up soon and we’re getting into those logistical challenges that we faced in Season 1, taking a new look. But you know, it’s a big show. We’ve got some really talented crew in Australia, great producing director and other talented directors that we’ve hired, , so, regardless of how it changes or not, we’ll figured it out eventually. It’s just going to be few late nights.
DEADLINE: In a time when a breakout network series seems a far flung dream, La Brea has scored nicely on linear TV and proved the biggest in-house hit so far for Peacock …
APPELBAUM: Yeah, it’s really exciting just to see the way that audiences have responded to the show. The live viewership has been good, but now seeing the online viewership has really been amazing, just the way that people are tuning in.
DEADLINE: So, what’s your take on why you were able to break through on both platforms, so to speak?
APPELBAUM: So, I think, NBC and UniversalTV see that the show is working and they’ve been very supportive partners in the show, and honestly have really been on board with the vision of the show from the beginning. They just want more, and to bring it to new levels. Luckily, they really trust in our storytelling, and have always given us a lot of freedom in terms of what these stories can be, and putting so much support behind it, and I think they’re going to continue to do that.
Our show was always designed to be a big swing, something that could attract a lot of viewers from different segments of the viewing population. I think that’s what NBC and UTV really responded to about it, that we wanted to make something noisy.