Diane Haithman contributes to Deadline’s TCA coverage.

Producer David Zabel appeared on two TCA panels today for two new ABC series: Betrayal and Lucky 7 (based on Kay Mellor’s British series The Syndicate), about a group of working class friends who win the lottery. (The show is set in multi-ethnic Queens, NY for the American version.) Without revealing any spoilers, critics at the panels noted that in both series the pilot opens with flash-forwards to some nasty consequences for some characters. Why?

Zabel described the technique as an effective way to hook viewers for episodes to come. “These are not procedurals, they are character dramas. The device teases audiences with how crazy, dramatic or elevated that things are going to become,” said Zabel, an EP on both dramas.

Seeking audience investment in characters has led to other changes from the British version: that program did only 5 episodes for its first two seasons (it’s been renewed for a third season of 6). Each of the 5 episodes has focused on just one of 5 lottery winners. Lucky 7 has a 22-episode order for Season 1 and has expanded its group to 7 people.

“We are creating really rich characters we can live with for multiple episodes,” said EP Jason Richman, who appeared on the panel with Zabel, executive producers Darryl Frank and Justin Falvey and cast members.

In the British series, each season focuses on a different “syndicate” of lottery winners. In subsequent seasons, Lucky 7 plans to follow the same characters into the next chapters of their lives. “We are interested in writing what these characters are going to do going forward,” said Richman.

Joked Zabel about the cast returning: “The bottom line is, it depends on who your agents are.”