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‘Big Sky’ producers debated how soon to kill off Ryan Phillippe

‘Big Sky’ producers debated how soon to kill off Ryan Phillippe

Even with the word “big” in the title, we weren’t prepared for the mammoth shock in the final moments of the Big Sky pilot when it premiered last fall.

After months of an advertising push featuring star Ryan Phillippe, the ABC series kicked things off with a bang when Phillippe‘s Cody was shot in the head and killed at the end of episode 1. It was a pull-the-rug-out twist that we so rarely get on network TV anymore with the advent of social media, but it hooked audiences from the start and quickly made the David E. Kelley drama a ratings hit.

But while Cody was always marked for death (thanks to the source material, C.J. Box’s The Highway), there was some debate about just when he should meet his grisly end. And if the pilot was too soon.

“I’ve been with this project since the inception and we kept playing with ‘When does Cody die?'” executive producer Ross Fineman revealed during the show’s PaleyFest LA panel. “For awhile there, it was actually in the second script, and there was a great cliffhanger, which I can’t remember at the moment, at the end of the first script.”

Ultimately, Fineman said the entire team was too enthused with the potential payoff of killing the person everyone assumed was the lead of the series in the final frames of the pilot. As John Carroll Lynch, who starred as Officer Rick Legarski, noted, it was far from the last shocking moment in the twisty series.

“The end of the pilot was so shocking but what has been extraordinary is that every episode is shocking,” he said. “Every episode has moments where when you’re reading the script you go, ‘You’re kidding me! Where are they going to go from here? How is that possible?’ And it just keeps going and going.”

Still, that pilot twist ran the risk of alienating viewers. Particularly Phillippe‘s fans who came to the show specifically to see him. So, ABC network president Karey Burke suggested the show build in scenes with flashbacks featuring Cody to soften that blow.

“The key to those was just keeping Cody alive emotionally for the other characters and for the audience,” executive producer Matthew Gross said. “That was the reason for doing it. But it did come at the suggestion of the network, and it was a correct one.”

Katheryn Winnick, who stars on the series as Jenny Hoyt, Cody’s estranged wife, also felt the flashbacks helped establish the bond between her and Cody’s partner, Cassie Dewell (Kylie Bunbury) via their love for Cody. “It was so important to have him because it helped me and Kylie’s characters really bond,” she reflected. “Two women, both in love with the same guy, they’re completely opposite, but they have a kinship and a mutual goal. They have to get through all that to be able to follow through with finding these girls and establish a partnership.”


‘Big Sky’: Season One Ratings

‘Big Sky’: Season One Ratings

It was a busy Tuesday night at CBS, which saw a trio of coronavirus-delayed season premieres kicking off with the Season 18 debut of NCIS, which delivered 0.9 in the adults 18-49 demographic and 10.06 million viewers. The popular procedural topped the night in viewership but was down from its Season 17 average, marking a series low in the demo per Nielsen’s Live+Same Day early numbers.

The third season debut of FBI (0.8, 8.05M) and the Season 2 kickoff of FBI Most Wanted (0.6, 5.30M) followed, but both series took a hit from last season’s averages and hit audience lows. Still, CBS won the night overall in total viewers.

The Bachelorette (1.3, 4.94M) on ABC dipped two tenths from last week but was still enough to be the night’s top-rated show. That led into David E. Kelley’s Twin Peaks-adjacent Pacific Northwest noir thriller Big Sky (Rating: 0.6, Audience: 4.03M) made its big debut (with an even bigger twist). The duo helped ABC take the night’s No. 1 spot overall in the demo.

On NBC, The Voice (1.1, 7.35M) was up from Monday night’s episode and on par with last week. The latest tear-jerking episode of This Is Us (1.1, 7.35M) was down a tenth in the demo, as was the medical drama Transplant (0.4, 3.45M).

All was steady on the Fox front with Cosmos (0.3, 1.40M) and NeXt (0.2, 1.00M), while the CW had little movement in its numbers with Swamp Thing (0.1, 673,000) and Tell Me a Story (0.1, 406K).


· 1×01 – Rating: 0,6  Audience: 4.03 millions

‘Big Sky’ Pilot Episode – Screen Captures

‘Big Sky’ Pilot Episode – Screen Captures

You can now enjoy the captures of the shocking pilot episode of ‘Big Sky’.

Danielle and her sister Grace are kidnapped by a truck driver on a remote part of the highway; private detectives Cody Hoyt and Cassie Dewell search for the sisters.

TV Series > 2020 > Big Sky – 1×01 – Screen Captures