Taking a look around the pop culture landscape, I think it’s safe to say we are presently in the Age of the Progressive Genius Biopic. With films already out there dedicated to Steve Jobs, Alan Turing, and Stephen Hawking, it seems like the perfect time for a TV show about naturalist Charles Darwin facing weird creatures and doing other slightly heroic things. I mean, assuming there’s ever a perfect time for a show like this.
The CW, a network known for adding “young and attractive” to every concept that comes its way, has granted a script commitment for Unnatural Selection, a drama written by Adam Karp. He’s a relative newcomer, having only written the Parenthood/Friday Night Lights crossover webisode, as well as the 2011 TV movie Time Machine: Rise of the Morlocks. (No points against you if you don’t remember that one right offhand.)
Now what was that about weird creatures? According to the description, Unnatural Selection is based on Darwin and Captain Robert FitzRoy’s five-year journey through the Amazon aboard the HMS Beagle, with some slight tweaks. Here, the 21-year-old Darwin and FitzRoy are both trying to get the woman they love to her native home, which involves traveling through “a land ripe with political conflict, mysterious creatures, mythical cities, and dangerous foes beyond their wildest imagination.” I wonder if they have to climb through the Beagle’s Wardrobe in order to get to these places.
As if Charles Darwin’s legacy doesn’t already get thrown under a bus every time an “Evolution vs. Creationism” debate happens, now The CW is going to add even more falsities to his life story that some people will inevitably believe are parts of history. Not that I expect anything else from this network, which isn’t as mean as it sounds. The CW is perfectly fine making almost every one of its series about twentysomethings taking on larger than life problems that usually boil down to monsters. (I’m not saying Jane the Virgin is going to introduce a giant squid vampire at some point, but I’m not saying it won’t.)
Karp also has another interesting project lined up over at CBS called Modern Gothic, which sounds like it’s barking up the literary tree of Showtime’s Penny Dreadful. The drama centers on Dracula character Abraham “Bram” Van Helsing, a doctor investigating supernatural mysteries that science just can’t explain. It’s a contemporary series that draws some of its characters from the pages of classic horror stories, so we can probably expect to see Frankenstein’s monster show at some point, among other ghoulies.
It’s unclear at this point how fast either of these projects will be moving. Which would you rather sit down at watch next year?