What is "The Event"?

No. I'm serious. What is "The Event"? Or, rather, what is "the event" that characters keep referring to in the pilot for NBC's much-hyped but potentially troublesome new thriller? And how much faith should I put in the producers of a show who ask me to trust them implicitly?

Some thoughts on the panel, and the pilot, coming up after the jump...

The broad strokes of "The Event," which NBC will air Mondays at 9 this fall, are that Blair Underwood is the president (with Zeljko Ivanek in the Zeljko Ivanek role as an untrustworthy advisor), Jason Ritter is a young guy whose girlfriend goes missing during a cruise, Laura Innes is... well, it's not entirely clear who she is, but she does know something about "the event," and she says a lot of cryptic things alluding to it, and is there when the pilot takes a turn towards science fiction.

Many eventful things happen in the pilot, but are any of them THE event? Well, that's unclear - as is the question of how much tolerance audiences will have for a show like this after so many "Lost" imitators with complicated mythologies failed to deliver the goods (and especially when the finale of "Lost" itself frustrated many of that show's viewers). "The Event" pilot got a huge response when screened at Comic-Con, but then, so did the part of the "FlashForward" pilot that was screened there a year ago, and we saw how quickly viewers lost interest in a show that was all about the mysteries with no substance behind them.

So not surprisingly, the majority of questions in "The Event" session at press tour were about audience expectations for this kind of series after so many others like it came and went quickly.

How, I asked to open things up, were they planning to manage viewer patience given how little the pilot revealed amidst a lot of action?

"We're very cognizant of the audience’s patience, of rewarding the audience," said "24" vet Evan Katz, who was brought in after the pilot was shot. "The show’s really designed to answer questions, to satisfy people, to keep them hooked, frankly, but yet keep posing questions so that once the mystery’s solved, the mystery’s solved. So we’re keeping (some) mysteries open, but we’re solving (others)."

Katz promised that "in the second episode we are very clearly answering the two largest open questions in the pilot."

Creator Nick Wauters, who was a big fan of "24" and "Lost" and "Battlestar Galactica," insisted "one of my main goals was to write a show that could keep the audience hungry but not frustrate people.

"But," he insisted, "you still have to kind of go on faith that we know what we're doing."

(At this point there was some eye-rolling in the room from critics who have heard that phrase a time or 12 in the last seven years, only for the faith to not get rewarded.)

Wauters has been working on the idea for five years, and came into NBC with a detailed series Bible that producer Steve Stark promised included "tent-pole benchmarks we’re going to hit as the
series progresses into even season 3."

Wauters said with that Bible in mind, we should consider the pilot "kind of an invitation to the series, really. It's an appetizer. I think as a viewer myself and a fan of 'Lost,' I'd ask for people's trust - that even though I was a huge fan, that's what I'd want them to do."