When a popular movie is turned into a new TV series, sometimes the outcome isn’t the best. Consider such short-lived TV shows as RoboCop: The Series and Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventures. Of course, there are a few exceptions that have transcended their movie origins to become TV worth watching, such as Stargate: SG-1, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, and Nikita. According to THR, SyFy has greenlit a 90-minute pilot based on Terry Gilliam’s 1995 film 12 Monkeys. Assuming all goes well and it doesn’t disappoint in the ratings, it will serve as a backdoor pilot for a full TV series.
In 1995, Terry Gilliam released a strange and thought-provoking film about a future convicted criminal named James Cole (Bruce Willis), who is recruited to travel back in time and collect information on the virus that wiped out much of humanity and drove the rest underground. All he knows is that the virus is connected to something called the Army of the Twelve Monkeys. The movie was based on the 1962 short film La jetée, and also starred Brad Pitt and Madeleine Stowe.
The backdoor pilot concept is the same model SyFy used back in 2004 when they launched the reboot of Battlestar Galactica. Terry Matalas (Terra Nova, Star Trek: Enterprise) and Travis Fickett (Terra Nova) will write the 12 Monkeys adaptation script, while 24‘s Jon Cassar will direct the pilot. The feature film’s producers, Chuck Roven and Richard Suckle, will also be on board for the TV adaptation. Syfy president of original programming and co-head of original content at UCP Mark Stern told THR, “We have a great pilot. We’re now flushing out what the rest of the series might be.”
Stern also revealed how the 12 Monkeys series fits into the network’s new approach to their original content:
We’re looking at short orders, maybe eight to 10 [episodes] as opposed to 13. Some may be [split runs of] 10 and 10. Our goal is to do five or six original scripted series a year and a big tentpole event miniseries that could also possibly serve as a backdoor pilot to a series as well, the way that Battlestar Galactica did. It’s an exciting time for us.
Since Battlestar Galactica went off the air in 2009, Syfy has struggled to find new original programming. With the success of Defiance and the addition of Ronald D. Moore’s Helix due in 2014, there’s a really good chance a TV adaptation of 12 Monkeys will do well with the Syfy audience.
12 Monkeys was both a commercial and critical success back in 1995. The film grossed $168.8 million worldwide (about $251.1 million with inflation), and Brad Pitt was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor and actually won a Golden Globe for his performance..
Syfy did not disclose when the 12 Monkeys pilot might hit the airwaves, but summer of 2014 is probably a good guess.