M. Night Shyamalan has become such a laughingstock in many moviegoers’ eyes that his name gets left out of previews for his own movies now (see: the After Earth Trailer). However, as illustrated by the 2010 suspense/horror film Devil – which Shyamalan produced and wrote the screen story for – he remains a capable storyteller, especially while collaborating with others to craft entertainment with a deeper artistic significance.
That’s exactly what Shyamalan is doing with After Earth, in addition to developing sci-fi television projects for networks like SyFy (Proof) and NBC (Lost Horizon). We can add one more entry to the roster of developing small screen ventures from the filmmaker, with the announcement that Fox has inked a deal for his Wayward Pines adaptation.
Shyamalan and Ashwin Rajan (Devil, After Earth) are both executive producers on Wayward Pines, which is based on a spec script written by Chad Hodge (creator of the short-lived 1960s crime-drama series The Playboy Club) and adapted from the Blake Crouch book. Fox is planning some 10-12 episodes for the “long-form” event series, which begs obvious comparison to David Lynch and Mark Frost’s cult TV series Twin Peaks (as can be discerned from the description below):
Secret Service agent Ethan Burke arrives in the bucolic town of Wayward Pines, ID, on a mission to find two missing federal agents. But instead of answers, Ethan’s investigation only turns up more questions. What’s wrong with Wayward Pines? Each step closer to the truth takes Ethan further from the life he knew, from the husband and father he was, until he must face the terrifying reality that he may never get out of Wayward Pines alive.
Wayward Pines isn’t the first show attempting to navigate the same treacherous road of plot twists and turns – set against the backdrop of a Noir-ish setting with supernatural overtones – as Twin Peaks did in the 1990s. Josh Appelbaum, André Nemec and Scott Rosenberg (the American Life on Mars) drew inspiration from that show with their short-lived Happy Town series back in 2010. Similarly, AMC’s The Killing offers more of a grounded and realistic take on similar tropes.
You can tell what attracted Hodge and Shyamalan to Wayward Pines, seeing how the duo have a fondness for pulling the rug out from under viewers’ feet. Television seems like a better medium than film to do that sort of thing in; it allows for more subtle planting of clues and details that lay the foundation for shocking revelations. That’s something the showrunners behind series ranging from Doctor Who to Homeland have figured out, in recent years.
Of course, sometimes these shows suffer from getting caught up in cleverness at the expense of storytelling, and Wayward Pines is likewise at risk; though, the latter has the advantage of (presumably) a specific final destination planned out in advance. So, all things considered, there’s reason to be cautiously optimistic about both the final outcome and this project helping to resuscitate Shaymalan’s critical standing (while giving Hodge a second shot at TV success).
Fox is ordering the Wayward Pines pilot later this year, with plans to debut the series sometime in 2014. We’ll strive to keep you up-to-date on its progress as more information is released.