It’s only been a few days since the CW announced they were in talks to bring Japanese cult thriller Battle Royale to network television and already the decision has been heavily criticized. Many fans and critics alike have been questioning how a TV series based on a group of junior high school students killing each other would make it on American TV – but the CW has quickly set out to (somewhat) address the issue.
With the CW’s target audience being within the 18 to 34-year-old demographic, the network is looking to cash in on the Hunger Games phenomenon that their same demographic made such a huge international success. Last year, the network ordered a pilot of The Selection, a Swedish series that was itself inspired by Hunger Games, starring Aimee Teegarden (Friday Night Lights) and William Moseley (The Chronicles of Narnia); ultimately the CW decided to pass on the idea as a series, but still left it open for a TV movie.
Without fully specifying how they might alter the Battle Royale premise for US television, CW president Mark Pedowitz not surprisingly downplayed what it will take for the seemingly impossible American adaption to see the light.
“We’re not planning to do anything that we cannot get on the air. So the answer to that question [do you know what it’s about?] is, no, we’re not going to go in that direction. We’re going to wait to see what happens and how things develop.”
“We’d love to do it! Hopefully, we’ll be able to make a deal with the producers, and we’ll see where it goes.”
Pedowitz then slightly maneuvers the interview away from the controversial Battle Royale to the less provocative topic of The Selection, which has been described as “The Bachelor-meets-Hunger Games”:
“The producers and writers have gone back and are re‑scripting [The Selection] as we speak. We’ll hopefully see something soon or make a determination whether to go forward. I really wanted a show that had a Game of Thrones/Hunger Games tone, and we hope it’s The Selection. If it’s not, then we will look at another arena to go to in terms of that. Battle Royale comes with a nice cult following, as we all know.”
For those unfamiliar with either the original 1999 Battle Royale novel or the 2000 film of the same name – get familiar with them! The idea of a graphic depiction of middle schoolers forced to fight to the death on an island may seem like senseless barbarism, but that is not the case. The series also fuses a sense of poetic beauty amidst the brutality, as well as strong yet subtle social commentary.
Like many similar works depicting heavy violence, Battle Royale has been deeply criticized even going so far as to either be banned outright or deliberately excluded from distribution in several countries. The controversial content has also been accused of inspiring real life tragedies, most notably among them the notorious 2004 Sasebo slashing, in which a 12-year-old Japanese schoolgirl was murdered with a utility knife by an 11-year-old female classmate.
Despite people's personal opinions regarding the content of Battle Royale, it seems beyond unlikely that a fully-realized American adaption will ever take place, much less on network TV. At the very least, what we’ll get is a supremely watered-down version, which begs the question - what’s the point? Eventually time will tell, but I suspect we’d sooner see the face of Dr. Claw before a neutered Battle Royale TV show.
Check back with us for what will surely be interesting new info on the CW's potential Battle Royale TV series.