Never someone to have just one project in the works, it's now being reported that J.J. Abrams is developing a new half-hour television series with HBO based on the YA novel They Both Die at the End. This will mark the fifth TV-related project Abrams currently has on the books and sees the famed director and producer returning to familiar TV territory after shows like Castle Rock, Westworld, and Lost.
They Both Die at the End is just one of many projects Abrams is tied to at the moment. In addition to developing this new TV series with HBO, he's also working on a handful of other diverse TV projects. In the mix is what sounds like a Cloverfield-esque TV series called Demimonde; there's also an adaptation of the British comedy series The Wrong Mans which originally starred James Corden; there's a TV series starring Jennifer Garner (a friend of Abrams' from back in the Alias days) called My Glory Was I Had Such Friends; and there's Lovecraft Country, which Abrams is developing with Jordan Peele. That's not to mention the film projects he's producing or directing and writing, like the upcoming Star Wars: Episode IX.
Deadline reports that HBO has decided to return to the Abrams well after picking up his series Demimonde in 2018 and are now working with him on developing They Both Die at the End, written by Adam Silvera. According to Deadline, the YA novel's plot focuses on how a cast of characters chooses to spend their last day on Earth after getting an official phone call the morning of that final day confirming the world will end. The novel is told through the perspectives of two teenage boys and the characters connected to the boys in various ways. It's also reported that Saturday Night Live alum Chris Kelly is working to develop the half-hour TV series as well. No casting information has been released, nor is there any information on what kind of tone the TV series will have outside of preserving the sci-fi and dramatic elements of the book.
This latest TV project sits comfortably within Abrams' wheelhouse, with thematic ties to Lost, which also dealt with existential issues regularly. Kelly, on the other hand, is known more for his comedy-with-a-heart outings, like 2016's Other People, which starred Jesse Plemons and Molly Shannon, and the Comedy Central series The Other Two, which follows the adult siblings of a teen pop star as they deal with their sibling's fame while also trying to make it in showbiz on their own terms.
Abrams and Kelly feel like an unlikely pairing from first glance, with Abrams' sensibilities leaning more toward drama and sci-fi, while Kelly leans closer to comedy. That said, there's potential for a happy marriage between these two creative minds (who, it should be noted, both have great track records so far and bring plenty of credibility to the table), especially when there's a chance to create a half-hour show that mixes comedy, drama, and little dash of apocalypse. It also makes sense that HBO would want to cash in on a promising adaptation like this and get some of the magic back that it had with the similarly apocalyptic series The Leftovers.
All things considered, They Both Die at the End feels like a project worth keeping an eye on. With Abrams at the helm, there's no doubt there will be more to this series than meets the eye and that makes it all the more worthwhile when it comes to deciding whether to tune in. Whether it'll be nearly as successful as a show like Lost, however, is another story.