The Re­turned

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Some­times they come back… with Amer­i­can ac­cents

There are times dur­ing the

first cou­ple of episodes of this US adap­ta­tion of French su­per­nat­u­ral se­ries Les Revenants when it feels less like a re­make and more like a cover ver­sion. This per­cep­tion is re­in­forced by the fact that, if you didn’t check on IMDb, you’d swear they’d cast at least two of the ac­tors from the orig­i­nal show as the same char­ac­ters: the US Camille and Simon are spook­ily sim­i­lar to the Gal­lic coun­ter­parts.

You know, how­ever, it’s not go­ing to last. The French show was con­sum­mate Euroweird. Its story of an iso­lated town in the moun­tains where the dead are re­turn­ing and caus­ing all sorts of prob­lems for the living was told in me­an­der­ing and enig­matic fash­ion, em­brac­ing such con­cepts alien to main­stream US au­di­ences as longueurs and char­ac­ters whose emo­tions you could never fully read. So by episode six the US ver­sion has be­come the ex­tended remix, adding story beats and itch­ing to over- ex­plain ev­ery­thing.

Its main ar­se­nal in this re­spect is “the flash­back”. Showrun­ner Carl­ton Cuse is no stranger to “the flash­back”, hav­ing been a prime mover on Lost. Ad­mit­tedly, Lost was hardly a show renowned for its an­swers, so pos­si­bly Cuse seemed like a good choice. But while Lost’s plot threads may have been left dan­gling, the show had an al­most patho­log­i­cal ob­ses­sion with jus­ti­fy­ing its char­ac­ters’ ac­tions in the present through flash­backs. The US Re­turned is the same. De­ci­sions have to be driven by a past trauma. So el­e­ments that in the orig­i­nal were only in­trigu­ingly sug­gested or hinted at, are now made thud­dingly clear, while some char­ac­ter dy­nam­ics have been al­tered to be more straight­for­ward.

The re­sult is a show that’s best viewed if you’ve never seen the orig­i­nal, with no pre­con­cep­tions. Be­cause within its US TV pa­ram­e­ters, it’s ac­tu­ally rather good and much bet­ter than the dreary, the­mat­i­cally sim­i­lar Res­ur­rec­tion. Great lo­ca­tions, creepy di­rec­tion, ex­cel­lent act­ing, plenty of shocks and twists.

For peo­ple who don’t like read­ing their TV, it’s not a bad al­ter­na­tive. Dave Golder

bonus fea­tures

Les Dif­férences: Showrun­ner Car­ton Cuse ex­clu­sively re­vealed in a Va­ri­ety in­ter­view, “We def­i­nitely smoke a lot less cig­a­rettes in the Amer­i­can ver­sion.”

Tread­ing Its Own Path: If the show re­ceives a sec­ond sea­son or­der, it will have no story con­nec­tion to the sec­ond sea­son of Les Revenants.

Aban­doned: At one point Clock­ing Off and Shame­less cre­ator Paul Ab­bott was de­vel­op­ing an English ver­sion of The Re­turned but the project was aban­doned.

Star Turn: Michelle Forbes ( Star Trek: The Next Gen­er­a­tion, True Blood) is spook­ily mag­nif­i­cent as the for­merly dead He­len God­dard, steal­ing ev­ery scene she’s in.

Best Lines: Julie: “How do you know if you’re dead?” He­len: “There’s only one way to find out.” od­dballs, com­put­ers and oth­ers that make up the crew. The dy­nam­ics are familiar – a team of mis­fits who must some­how work to­gether in a life- threat­en­ing sit­u­a­tion and the ways in which they rub each other up the wrong way. It doesn’t al­ways work, as Lipinski and the rest are of­ten more an­noy­ing than amus­ing with their var­i­ous per­son­al­ity quirks. But Feig and co have a good han­dle on mak­ing their foibles re­lat­able, and while the science fic­tion stuff can be lit­tle side­lined, there’s good value to be had, par­tic­u­larly from sar­cas­tic robot ART ( Trace Beaulieu) and laid­back en­gi­neer Zalian ( Joel Hodg­son), vet­er­ans of blend­ing gen­res from Mys­tery Science Theater. And, at eight half- hour- long episodes, this is more of a light binge than a long slog. James White

bonus fea­tures

In­spi­ra­tional: Feig has cited the likes of UK shows such as Red Dwarf and Hyper­drive as in­flu­ences on the se­ries, along with his long- es­tab­lished love for Mys­tery Science Theater 3000.

Spe­cial Ef­fects: While the sets might be cheap, the stylish VFX come from Zoic Stu­dios, the peo­ple be­hind Fire­fly, Bat­tlestar Galac­tica and many more se­ries.

Deja Vu: Though Feig says Other Space isn’t a par­ody of science fic­tion tropes, it opens with a homage to Star Trek’s Kobayashi Maru sim­u­la­tor scenes.

Best Line: ART: “Ro­bots are only good for three things. Cheap labour, re­mote bomb­ing and... off the beaten path sex stuff.”

tv re­views and opin­ion Will a hand sud­denly pop out of the wall? We say 50/ 50.

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