ABC's highly anticipated Mind Games is here, featuring Christian Slater and Steve Zahn as brothers who lead a crack team of, for lack of a better phrase, professional manipulators. It's a unique concept, so it's not surprising that the show is the brainchild of Kyle Killen, the genius who previously brought us NBC's Awake and FOX's Lone Star. Kyle joined BFTV last week to explain Mind Games - and tell us if we'll ever see those four unaired episodes of Lone Star.
"I've always been sort of fascinated with the way we work," he told us. "I became interested in people who could not just understand how we work, but use that advantage to change things."
So he created the characters of Clark Edwards (Zahn), a bipolar college professor, and his con artist brother Ross (Slater), who bring together with a quirky group of players (Megalyn Echikunwoke, Gregory Marcel, Cedric Sanders, and Jaime Ray Newman from ABC's Red Widow) to solve people's problems through influencing others. It's a little bit Leverage, a little bit Lie To Me, with a dash of Perception.
"They may do some things that potentially sound complicated, but it's actually really simple to understand," Kyle explained. "Their goal is if someone is saying no to you, they use science to get them to say yes, and the people that they're manipulating never know that it happened. They professionally employ Jedi mind tricks. What's cool about the show, all the stuff that they use and apply is real. It comes from real psychological research and studies."
Writing any TV show or movie is a long process, during which countless changes can be made. How much resemblance does the finished product bear to his original idea? "In some ways it's dead on. It's very similar. The scope and feel of the world, and the sort of cases we were able to use, and the sort of way we were able to bring science to life to affect things," he told us.
"What is really cool about doing series TV is the way it's all influenced and shaped by the people you get into business with. The actors own those characters. The same thing working with a staff of writers. In the end, the show isn't my show. It stopped being my show very early on. It's this collective effort."
What are Kyle's points of pride with his new series? "Steve and Christian have a chemistry together that you can't buy. You're taking people who don't know each other and asking them to be and feel like brothers," he said, "[and] for whatever reason, they really feel like long-lost family. That's one of the cool aspects of the show.
"There are episodes and stories and performances kind of sprinkled all throughout that really got us in unexpected ways," he continued, adding that we can look forward to "an ongoing serialized story between brothers that you can see from the beginning has the potential to be disastrous, and where that takes us in the end of the season, and how everything sort of loops together and ignites as a result of that. That all came together nicely and it really gives the end of the season this feeling of completeness."
Hopefully Mind Games will be the project that gives Kyle some more recognition. He's one of TV's best unsung writers, having developed a rich and brain-bending bifurcated world for a masterful Jason Isaacs in Awake. But he's also the guy who gave us one of TV's best dramas, perhaps the most unjustly cancelled show in the history of the medium, and the series that exposed us to the brilliance of James Wolk: Lone Star. FOX aired just two episodes, but six were filmed, and so four remain in unaired limbo. Is there any hope that we'll ever see what happened to Robert/Bob Allen?
"We've been able to show those at some film festivals as special screenings. I highly doubt they will ever become widely available," Kyle told us. "There's no question that those numbers didn't support the show going on. That was a classic hyperserialized almost cable-style drama and where that was going, we were incredibly excited to get. That one hurts, just because it's like you're telling a friend a really good story and you get cut off in the middle."
So which series is best for audiences to discover the greatness that is Kyle Killen? "They're all different and unique and special to me in their own way. Awake, I believe, is the only other thing that is easily widely available," he said. "What I would really love for them to check out is episode two of Mind Games. If you dig the first one, then hopefully you'll get on the ride."
Mind Games premieres tonight at 10 PM ET/PT on ABC. For more on Kyle, you can also follow him on Twitter (@killen8).