'The Returned' Stays Close To Its Source Material

by Kayla Hawkins

Even though there are a ton of remakes and adaptations on TV, they range from incredibly faithful to barely inspired, so there's no way to immediately tell how similar The Returned is to Les Revenants, the French series it was based on. But while only the first season of The Returned has been produced, so far it seems like it falls on the incredibly faithful side of things. If you haven't watched the French show, it sounds like The Returned will serve as a direct adaptation of the original series.

According to most of the reviews, most of which were written by critics who were fans of the French series, this is an almost exact remake, down to some of the same haunting camerawork from the original. It's good news for anyone who either doesn't have Netflix or a cable package that includes Sundance TV, or hates reading those annoying yellow subtitles (of all the subtitle colors, I can't deny that yellow is an annoying one). The closest comparison is to the relationship between Broadchurch and Gracepoint, the remake from earlier this year, which also didn't do much besides change the setting and cast a bunch of talented American actors who looked just like the British characters they were playing.

There are times where literal remakes work very well, like the two cinematic Romeo & Juliets. But most of the reviews ofThe Returned paint that high level of similarity as a bad thing, and it's probably not the best way for the series to give itself a unique voice. However, it is possible to overcome a weak remake and eventually develop into a great series — just look at The Office , which had a disastrous pilot but quickly picked up by distinguishing itself from the British version. It seems like The Returned needs to take off the training wheels and figure out its own voice.

Gracepoint's best episodes were the ones that departed from the original, even though it took over five episodes to get to that point. Hopefully The Returned is also planning to change things up and put its own spin on the material. So far, it doesn't seem like that's in the cards, and Season 2 of Les Revenants hasn't even been released yet, so we can't even know what to expect in episodes beyond the first season. But we do know the work of producer Carlton Cuse from his previous series, Lost and Bates Motel, so he's obviously used to both adapting difficult properties and defying audience expectations. Hopefully that's enough to distinguish The Returned from its namesake.

Images: Joseph Lederer/A&E (2)