Journal Now Interview With “Surface” Co-Creator

The NBC series Surface has resurfaced on DVD from Universal Home Video

Patebros.jpgThe science-fiction adventure series was created by Jonas and Josh Pate, Winston-Salem natives, and was filmed and partially set in Wilmington. The Pate brothers split the duties on the show, with Jonas moving back to North Carolina to oversee filming and Josh staying in California to work with the writers and special-effects team.

Despite some favorable buzz, the show never caught on and was canceled after one season. Jonas Pate recently took some time off from moving his family back to California for an e-mail interview about the show.

Here is that exclusive interview with Journal Now:

Q. Are you trying to shop Surface around to any other networks or look at another way of continuing the story?

A. We had some discussion with (the Sci Fi Channel), but alas, the budget of the show was beyond Sci Fi’s comfort zone.

Q. Are you satisfied with the promotion the network gave the show?

A. Actually, no. NBC never seemed to understand that Surface was a family action-adventure show. They kept trying to sell it as a B-movie horror show … “the creature from the DEEP!” A good example of the disconnect is the fact that Nim, our little digital sea monster, was never featured in any promo. If it’d been up to us, he would have been front and center.

Q. What do you think of the fan response, their campaigns to save the show, and so on? The show seemed to be embraced by a wide variety of people.

A. When we pitched the show to NBC, we told them our demo was 8 to 80. They laughed, but we actually meant it. So it was very gratifying to get feedback from fans that actually were from all over the age range, not just the coveted 18-49. And the petition was very, very appreciated.

Q. How much did you feel the show was embraced in the Wilmington area?

A. The show was truly embraced by the film community; the crews in N.C. are the best I’ve ever worked with. With the public, I felt the show never quite got out of the shadow of Dawson’s (Creek, which was also filmed in Wilmington). Which is understandable.

Q. Can you reveal anything about the planned story arc and what you had in mind for season two and beyond?

A. We always had a multiyear arc planned in our heads, one that we’d have to occasionally revise according to the needs of NBC. For example, we had a 22-episode opening season planned, but then they cut us back to 15, so we had to upload some of our late-season ideas earlier. I’m hoping someday Surface will rise again. We had more to tell, and I don’t want to blow it here.

Q. How did it feel being back home?

A. Like a homecoming of the best sort. I grew up in Raeford, and I now have two small children, so they got to see their grandparents every few weeks. Also, we lived right on the Intracoastal (Waterway), so when I wasn’t working, I could fish, surf, whatever. Wilmington’s a fantastic place to live.

surface_site_3.jpgSurface was one of a slate of science-fiction shows that didn’t survive the 2005-06 TV season. Two others were released on DVD this week. ABC’s Invasion (Warner Home Video) told the story of a small Florida town that was invaded by aliens that could assume human form. CBS’ Threshold (Paramount) involved a group of scientists trying to uncover an alien conspiracy.


  1. Kyle Nin says

    The budget of the show was beyond Sci-Fi’s “comfort zone”? Surface couldn’t have been any more expensive than the Stargate shows or Battlestar Galactica. And those are on the Sci-Fi Channel. Well, SG-1 will be going, but at the moment it’s still there.

    I’m glad that he feels hopeful about the show coming back, and I’d rather not know all of what he had planned, just in case it does come back.

  2. Einstein P. says

    It’s a pity the story didn’t continue on TV. Even German people are sad and angry because there are so many open questions, which haven’t been answered in the last episode. Everyone wishes / hopes that the story continues very soon…

  3. Faraday Adelaide says

    Its such a shame that TV shows of such writing quality tend to be downgraded because they have the Sci-Fi tag attached to them, as where shows like CSI tend to thrive when their plots are usually more ludicrous than I dare mention. Granted the Sci-Fi market tends to hit a strange demographic, but shows such as Surface, Invasion and Battlestar Galactica are starting to tap into an area of writing hereto unknown in the usual drivel that passes as Science Fiction. Shows such as these would clearly rate if Networks chose to put them on at a time when normal working people could watch them, but in Australia where such shows are often taken off due to Sports events or Reality TV over-runs, one has to wonder if the Television network exectutives are really in touch with what people call ACTUAL entertainment. Its a sad day when imagination and excitement is replaced with corperate “Product placement” and cheaply made Reality programs – Shame on you Network Executives, no wonder people chose to download TV now more than ever, because they are cutting their own throats.

  4. S.P. Migneault says

    I have to say that this show immediately hit my list of weekly shows not to miss. To see that NBC flubbed up yet again, and dropped Surface is akin to when they dropped Star Trek way back in 1969. I always looked forward to Monday nights, because I was able to enjoy both Surface and Prison Break.

    The main reason I think so many Sci-Fi shows falter and fail on NBC is that they never get a chance. The ones that they do carry usually wind up with the most insane story arcs after a successful season or two. Take Seaquest DSV. The show was great until they decided to bring in aliens, and then launch the cast off into a near future. They never evolved the storyline, and it became a massive pile of bleh. Surface, on the other hand, has been quite enthralling. While the creator felt the adverts hurt the show, I think it did quite the opposite. The adds drew your attention, and aroused your curiosity. Once the show started, NBC should have used Nim as a part of the advertising, but instead I really don’t think I saw much advertising during the season.

    I only had one real beef with the show, and that was when Laura Daughtery would mispronounce Genomics. Having worked for a Genomics and Biodiversity department it truly annoyed me to constantly hear Genomics pronounced Jeh-naw-mics rather than Gee-no-mics. It would have taken very little effort to find the definition.

    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
    Genomics is the study of an organism’s genome and the use of the genes. It deals with the systematic use of genome information, associated with other data, to provide answers in biology, medicine, and industry.

    Not too hard to do a little research in order to keep a character credible.

    Anyhow, ranting aside on a very minor detail, watching Surface go by the wayside is a travesty for the sci-fi community. Hopefully the Sci-Fi network will see that Surface has a rather large following, and will pick it up. Imagine where BSG would be if no one said anything.

  5. says


  6. joe alati says

    Absolutely loved the show. The past couple years have been weak for television with the acception of “24” & “The West Wing” and “Prison Break” as far as I was concerned. I did not understand the canceling of West Wing either as I really liked the direction it was going with Jimmy Smits character as president. Anyway “Surface” was a refreshing sci fi series that was one of the only three or four shows I could be bothered to watch. I would love to see “Surface” picked up by Sci-fi channel or Fox or any network for that matter. I hope it makes a comeback and NBC eats crow.

  7. says

    I was so nice to be able to come home Monday night and have something that was interesting on tv to watch. Surface was one of the things that made monday nights tolerable for me. I looked forward to seeing what was happening next and was always finished and ready to evote that hour. I currently have nothing els I watch on NBC and not a lot of interesting shows are on Mondays to begin with. It still makes me quite angry that te network decided to get rid of Surface.
    I like many many oters signed petitions and blog sites and you name it to keep Surface going. If I may be so bold the network didn’t seem to care who or how many people it made mad or lost from that move. I have been looking at anything I can to see if Surface is comming back. I have yet to see anything. I do think NBC would be surprised at how many people they would make happy and how much the rateings would go up if they brougt back surface now that they can clearly see how many people want it back. I too think Sci Fi should attempt to pick the show up. People would tune in to see Surface just as they tune in to watc other programs. Surface already has a nice amount of viewers so it ould only add to the popularity of the scifi channel.

  8. Kathy says

    I along with everyone else thought SURFACE WAS A GREAT SHOW! I couldn’t wait for the next week to begin.
    It is not fair that it was cancelled. IT WAS A GOOD FAMILY SHOW, TO WHERE THE WHOLE FAMILY COULD WATCH.
    There is so much smut out there – could be a reason why familes have changed so.
    Somebody out there needs to pick it up. There is alot of Sci – fi people out here.

  9. Debbie says

    Wow… I’m thrilled to read that we might get to still get to enjoy Surface at some point in the future! I also agree with the Nim statement… using Nim, front and center would have done well. My granddaughter to my father… we all loved Nim, the story and all the possibilities. It was wonderful to sit with my teenage boys and watch something we all agreed upon.

    GO Surface… and I would love the Sci-Fi channel to take another look.

    Look at Eureka’s success…

  10. Alyson says

    I an still determined to see surface come back. My family and I have yet to find another show we all looked forward to watching together. I recently read that fand from overseas are starting to sign petitions hope it helps. Nim story line was fascinating.

  11. yasencko peric says

    i watch vey little televion, righr now the only good dramas on televion are rome and battlestar galactica history sells because its true and good science fiction sells because todays good science fiction is tommorows science fact.surface was a perfect combination of science fiction and mystery and nim gave it a human quality that made it more was foolish to market the show as horror.when you look at the garbage that is on tv that survive season after season and an exellent show like surface gets cancelled after one season it makes you not want to turn on the tv at all i hope that the sci-fi channel which introduced me to surface does not turn up an opportunnity to add it to its line up. I am convinced that it will thrive there.

  12. yasencko peric says

    i watch vey little televion, righr now the only good dramas on televion are rome and battlestar galactica history sells because its true and good science fiction sells because todays good science fiction is tommorows science fact.surface was a perfect combination of science fiction and mystery and nim gave it a human quality that made it more was foolish to market the show as horror.when you look at the garbage that is on tv that survive season after season and an exellent show like surface gets cancelled after one season it makes you not want to turn on the tv at all i hope that the sci-fi channel which introduced me to surface does not turn up an opportunnity to add it to its line up. I am convinced that it will thrive there. Plese sci-fi bring nim back.

  13. Vince Pepe says

    I was an avid fan of Surface and I got a lot of people and families to watch it. Many people signed the petitions that Mr. Pate was glad to get. Unfortunately the Pates don’t seem to recognize us and have left us with many unanswered questions such as:

    1. Are they still ‘shopping’ the series as of now, April 2007, if not;

    .Who is is Kessler? A holdover from project Paperclip?
    .What is the story behind the Orchid?
    .What is Kessler’s plan for the earth? Perhaps to
    bring in the third Reich?
    .How do you get from the SE of the USA to the
    Marianas Trench?

    .What was the reason for creating the Kesslourus-Humungous, my name for the big fishes. Did Kessler decide to use them to rid the Earth of “imperfect” humans. He did say the Griffen (symbolic of the Orchid) was “an improvement”.

    .Did they approach the idea of a mini-series with the SciFi channel. After all SciFi has done a log of good, embitious, and expensive ones such as Taken, The Triangle, etc.

    And finally, my toungue-in-cheek name for the series – “Charlies Revenge”.

  14. rhee says

    I wish there was a surface 2. But now it would be kind of weird because of the big gap in years. All the characters… :/ Still I would watch it.

  15. Tanya says

    I just watched Surface on Netflix and LOVED it. I don’t know anyone that wouldn’t love this show. It is appropriate for both children and adults. I don’t remember the show getting the right kind of advertisement when it first aired. I really hope to one day see a season 2,3,etc.

    Great show….just wish I could see more.

  16. A C says

    Can we say SURFACE 2! SURFACE 2! SURFACE 2! I am not a fan of TV and particularly because of all the reality TV trash that is out. NBC and like have taken the worst in human behavior in “what if” situations and call it entertainment – I see that in every day life and have no desire to partake in the form of entertainment. Stretch my imagination and give me some characters I can sit back and enjoy with deep character development and multiple plots that don’t include so much back stabbing – as in reality TV. Surface was well made and greatly appreciated since my six boys, husband, and I could all enjoy it together. It’s been a while but I would adapt to new characters and fall right in if the original writers would pick up from Season 1.

  17. GlendaT says

    Just saw the 15 episodes of Surface on Netflix and am searching to find answers to what happened to this show. How can you leave everyone hanging like that? I see some have been waiting years – me…my frustration is fresh! At least a two hour “wrap-up” movie or something. It’s great! and you are right it’s a great family Si-Fi story. The potential of the intriguing storyline is limitless. Please give us something!
    Great job on this show!!!

  18. D. B. says

    I had to stay up to finish watching this. There isn’t much that I have to guess at in television or in books anymore… but this one I couldn’t “write the script” in my head before each scene finished… It kept me guessing! I couldn’t predict what was going to happen next. My kids and I could watch this together! How much is out there now that kids can watch with their parents? Netflix is awesome. Somebody please bring this show back, and I am with A C that posted previous to this, I wouldn’t mind a new cast of actors; I would still watch.

  19. Joel says

    It was sad to see the show go back in 2006. I recently watched it again on Hulu, and it is still one of the best sci-fi shows ever made.

    Not all of the ideas in the show worked, but it had some really big attractive themes around which to develop both the main plotline and subplots. New invasive species challenging human supremacy, global ecological disaster, mad scientists, shadowy organizations, and even a “boy-and-his-pet-lizard” storyline. There were some nice plot twists, and a lot of the characters could be counted on to provoke a reaction in the viewer, whether it was sympathy, annoyance, or wishing them an evil end.

    Eight years have passed and it’s still better than 95% of the what’s currently on television. I fervently wish for the day when the future of shows in the hands of viewers instead of clueless TV network executives with no vision and no commitment to anything. There is an audience out there that is willing to pay what’s needed to get quality television content, and you can be sure it’s not reality TV or mindless sitcoms that they want.

  20. drick says

    It has now been nearly ten years, and I just finished binge watching the entire season on Netflix. And then a good 45 minutes to an hour Googling to see if I could find any answers :( After watching it twice, a lot of things are clearer to me. Hopefully at some point there could be a revisit, even though the actors are ten years older. How about just picking up the story ten years later when they are dealing with the aftermath and use flashbacks? Or, at the very least, the creator could reveal to us the whole story. I get that at the time; they thought it could be picked up again, but it has been ten years now.

    • Ana says

      I agree! Do not leave your fans hanging because of a network. It is no longer 2005 and there are different shows on now. I think Surface would have a fighting chance now, then 10 years ago. I just finished watching the complete season and had no idea that it was out 2005. My husband and I just became a fan and went googling just to find season 2, only to be disappointed that we may never know what the real story is.

      I really like your idea in continuing it 10 years later and fill in the blanks for us.

  21. Deb Bowers says

    I just finished the Season One on Netflix. Same disappointment as all the fans! I did not see it on network television in 2006. I wonder if any of the original producers read these comments 9 years later…probably have moved on in their lives…this was a fun, creative storyline…I think I might want to check out the lifespan of these series before I invest nearly 15 hours watching them….but then again…it was still a fun ride….so many questions…

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