The ongoing so-called “Golden Age of Television” has seen numerous hit shows brought to life over the past few years. This of course is due in large part to the advent of streaming, on-demand services like Netflix and Amazon Video, but even cable television networks have managed to roll the dice on a variety of programming, with some efforts working and others failing to find an audience.
What’s interesting about this new era of television is the willingness for networks to take chances on so many different types of pilots. Source material thus far has included successful films and comic books as well as novels. With every revelation of a new pilot or series on its way, the public reaction often hovers between the extremes of great interest and outright disbelief.
For NBC, the reaction to their latest pilot-script deal might have many people leaning toward the latter reaction. Variety has reported that NBC has announced a deal to adapt Charles Dickens’ classic 19th century novel Oliver Twist as Twist – a contemporary re-imagining with a twenty-something female lead who, in a statement by NBC, “finally finds a true sense of family in a strange group of talented outcasts who use their unique skills to take down wealthy criminals.”
The pilot and its potential series will look to create a “sexy” new take on the Charles Dickens novel, which focused on an bedraggled orphan boy called Oliver Twist, who temporarily finds companionship amongst a gang of pickpockets and thieves, while being manipulated by the sinister and greedy Fagin. The original story took place in 19th century London and was itself a commentary on the hypocritical nature of society at the time – as well as a witty skewering of the poor at the hands of respected authority figures. NBC’s pilot is being written by Chad Damiani and J.P. Lavin, who are most recently known as the writers responsible for the upcoming film adaptation of the popular video game app, Fruit Ninja.
In the face of something like this, it’s admittedly difficult for many to keep an open mind. The idea of a “sexy” twenty-something female lead joining forces with “a strange group of talented outcasts” in what will almost certainly be New York City isn’t really that bad per se, but the fact that this is the best NBC can do with arguably one of the greatest novels ever written in the English language is liable to be responsible for more than a few eye rolls. In a time where broadcast television is fighting to keep its head above water thanks to competition from on demand, streaming options, Twist surely isn’t the way forward.
It is nice to see television referencing something as classic and iconic as Oliver Twist, however and maybe, just maybe, if the show does succeed it will help re-popularize a novel and a writer that should be enjoyed by every generation. What’s more, the social commentary in Twist might also be interesting, though in this case it definitely feels like NBC is going to have its work cut out for itself.
We’ll bring you more information about Twist as it becomes available.