After the success of AMC’s The Walking Dead, it kind of surprises me that we haven’t seen a slew of wannabes hoping to soak up some of its undead mojo. When Mad Men became a cultural phenomenon, we got a few pale period imitations in the form of The Playboy Club and Pan Am. Networks have been trying to recapture Lost’s lightning in a bottle for damn near a decade now. But the network and cable landscape these days? Surprisingly free of the shambling undead. Well, now A&E, craving more original scripted programming after the success of Longmire and Bates Motel, is aiming to give AMC’s reanimated corpses some competition…and they’re French.
Okay, not really. But A&E’s new drama project The Returned is based on a French show called Les Revenants (which was itself based on a 2004 movie called Les Revenants, but also called They Came Back, depending on where you picked up your copy). This isn’t really a straight-up zombie series in the vein of AMC’s hit series. You don’t just shoot the undead in the dome in The Returned. Because dead people are people too, man.
The French series is set in a small town which becomes the site of much consternation when people who had long been missing and presumed dead return…not having aged a day, and with no memory of the intervening time. They aren’t trying to chow down on anyone’s grey matter, but that doesn’t mean the town just welcomes them back with open arms. Soon thereafter, a string of murders and other unexplained phenomena begin to trouble the town, bearing an unsettling resemblance to the work of a serial killer from the past. Honestly, it sounds like it’ll have more in common with Twin Peaks than The Walking Dead, all walking previously presumed dead aside.
The Hollywood Reporter says former Lost executive producer Carlton Cuse — who already has an in with A&E via the aforementioned and surprisingly entertaining Bates Motel — is near a deal to pen the adaptation. It isn’t specifically mentioned whether he would serve as showrunner or EP on the show, but it seems likely. Then again, his plate may be too full: in addition to Bates and now The Returned, he’s also helping shepherd FX’s adaptation of Guillermo del Toro’s vampire novel series The Strain.
A&E general manager and executive vice president David McKillop was understandably enthusiastic about The Returned, because, after all, that’s his job. He said, “The Returned takes an incredibly unique approach, filled with suspense and twists and turns, to the subject of the living dead.”
The show would be a co-production between A&E Studios and FremantleMedia North America. Fremantle CEO Thom Beers also added his two cents about The Returned:
The Returned is a fascinating series with a truly unique premise. Having seen Fabrice Gobert’s original version and the success the series has had in France, we’re thrilled to be partnering with the team at A&E to bring this enigmatic thriller to U.S. audiences.
Stay tuned for more on The Returned when we know it.