BURBANK, CA—Executives at ABC announced Monday that the network will premier a new Lost spin-off series this fall based around that show's popular smoke monster character.
The new series, a half-hour family-oriented comedy called Where There's Smoke, is touted by ABC as the new anchor of its Thursday-night lineup.
"Somewhere between the smoke monster's first appearance on Lost— when it was depicted as a strange unseen force uprooting trees—and that episode in season three where it grabbed Mr. Eko and smashed him against the ground until he was dead, this character became the breakout star of the show," said Stephen McPherson, president of ABC Entertainment. "And that's exactly why we're so excited about Where There's Smoke. We get to see the monster's light comedic side in a show about life, love, and good friends having good times."
"Because after all, Where There's Smoke, there's laughter," McPherson added.
ABC sources reported that the series will transplant the evil black cloud from the island of Lost to the suburbs of Chicago, where it works as a sports radio host, surrounded by "a whole new group of crazy characters." Actress Lea Thompson has signed on to play the monster's long-suffering wife, who must put up with her husband's screwball antics while raising the couple's two rambunctious children, Tanner and Smoky, Jr.
Veteran TV producer Chuck Lorre, of Dharma & Greg and The Big Bang Theory fame, will helm the show, which he said will focus mainly on the deadly creature's adjustments to suburbia and fatherhood, and its comically contentious relationship with its boss, a fussy radio station manager played by Richard Kind.
"The whole concept began with us asking, 'So what happens to the monster after it kills somebody and disappears down that ancient temple vent? What kind of life might it have?'" Lorre said. "And what we realized is that audiences really relate to this character and would like to see it in everyday situations, shooting the breeze with buddies at a local watering hole or murdering its son's soccer coach and depositing his lifeless body in a tree."
"And of course, you'll be hearing lots of its classic catchphrase, 'Brrrrr, chk-chk-chk-chk, muuuuuuuuuuuuaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrhhh,'" Lorre added.
Lost producer Jack Bender has confirmed that the smoke monster will no longer be part of his show's regular cast. However, ABC has promised that Where There's Smoke will feature a number of guest appearances from Lost regulars. Sources said the pilot episode will feature an appearance by actor Michael Emerson as a slobby houseguest named Benjamin Linus who overstays his welcome, much to the chagrin of the smoke monster's wife.
Though the project has been in development for almost a year, negotiations reached a standstill last winter when representatives for the mysterious, billowing actor expressed concern that their client would risk being typecast as "just a smoke monster" if the role were carried into a new series.
"We're always sensitive to these kinds of things, but we actually think this new vehicle will make people realize [the monster] is a sophisticated actor with a great deal of range," said McPherson, who agreed to pay the show's star $2 million per episode after scenes between the smoke monster and a nosy, ethnic next-door neighbor tested well with audiences. "People love the smoke monster, and people love to laugh. This series is a can't-miss."
Added McPherson, "And I'm not just blowing smoke here."