We’ve all got ‘em. Those dream projects that you wait years for, then when it finally happens, it doesn’t live up to the potential you’d held in your mind’s eye all that time. If you’re lucky, you get a good movie, even if it doesn’t quite equal your imagined ideal version. If you’re unlucky, you get a mess. If you’re very, very unlucky, you get the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen movie.
But now, a decade after that trainwreck punched comic creator Alan Moore in the nuts and drove Sean Connery into retirement, League of Extraordinary fans might be getting a second chance to see the series done justice, this time on the small screen. It’s the sort of good news that would put a huge smile on my face were the League series in development somewhere like HBO, AMC, Starz, or even FX. But…and it pains me to type this…instead the pilot is in the works for Fox. The Universe giveth, and the Universe taketh away.
The Hollywood Reporter delivers the good news/bad news double feature, reporting that a bloke named Michael Green is writing the new pilot based on the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen comic series created by Alan Moore and artist Kevin O’Neill. He’ll be exec producing the pilot along with Erwin Stoff, but THR says neither would stay on to produce if the pilot goes to series. That is another small glimmer of hope: if League is going to have any chance to survive, much less succeed, on the notoriously cancel-happy Fox, it’s going to need a top-notch showrunner with a passion for the material and a vision for how to translate it from page to screen. Fingers crossed.
Still, there’s plenty of reason to be wary. As I alluded to above, Fox has been responsible for tons of promising genre shows over the past couple of decades, but most of them were killed in their infancy before they had any chance to truly shine. Even Firefly’s painfully short run of 14 episodes is more than many intriguing Fox shows have received. And given that League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is a bit of a hard sell when it comes to mainstream American viewers, my biggest fear is that we’ll get something genuinely well done and worthy of further exploration, only to have it underperform and get the early axe. That’s as opposed to having it air on one of the cable networks, where shows are allowed to grow and thrive without necessarily hitting the broadcast networks’ target ratings numbers. Not to mention the fact that Moore’s League books are very much intended for grown-ups, and a Fox version is inherently going to have to downplay that to some degree. This is, after all, a series where Mr. Hyde essentially rapes a guy to death (a really unpleasant guy, but still).
For those who haven’t read Moore’s excellent series — and you totally should — League plays like a superhero team-up for the Victorian set, focusing on a team made up of assorted fictional characters such as Captain Nemo, Mina Harker, Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde, and the Invisible Man. Together they face down menaces such as the invading Martians of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds. The series is amazing and entertaining in every way the movie was not (nor is Tom freakin’ Sawyer hamfistedly crowbarred into the narrative). Here’s a handy link to purchase the first volume.