Is 'The Returned' Based On A True Story? It Took A Long Route To American Television

When I think about the friends and family I've lost, I often think I'd do anything to get them back and spend some time with them — without thinking of the consequences. Because often we think people coming back into our lives is a celebratory occasion, right? Well A&E's The Returned, premiering Monday night, tells both sides of that story. The series follows the people of a small town who find that their recently deceased have, well, returned and strange things start happening. But is The Returned based on a true story, in any way? Though it does not come from any real events, the new show has plenty of source material to work with. The series is an American adaptation of the French series Les Revenants, which itself is a remake of a French film called They Came Back.

Sure, the premise sounds totally and completely familiar and has been on TV a lot in the past few years as ABC's Resurrection and Les Revenants itself, which has aired in the U.S., actually developed quite a following. The French original has just one season and another on the way. The American remake's executive producer Carlton Cuse toldEntertainment Weekly that Les Revenants is just the jumping off point and the A&E version will be different.

“The starting point is similar,” he said. "Over time, our show becomes quite different. The French show became very genre and incident-heavy at the end. While we start at a similar place, the show is fairly distinctly different by the end of the first season."

The Returned has certainly had a long journey to American television. Here's how A&E's version came to be.

Les Revenants On Sundance TV

Madman Films on YouTube

While the series debuted in France in 2012, the United States finally got a taste of it in 2013 thanks to Sundance TV. Soon after its U.S. debut, Les Revenants was renewed for a second season by the channel and won a Peabody Award, a prestigious American honor for film and television.

Optioned In America

In early 2013, producer Paul Abbott of AbbottVision and Fremantle Media Enterprises announced that they had secured the rights to remake Les Revenants for American television. The working title for the U.S. version was They Came Back, just like the original film Les Revenants was based on.

“They Came Back has all the hallmarks of a successful international drama – a compelling concept, proven track record, some of the world’s most talented producers and a committed distributor," David Ellender, CEO of Fremantle, said in a statement to AbbottVision. "We await the final product of this exciting project with great anticipation."

There was some confusion about this, because there was word that A&E was developing their own series as well. But as it turned out, AbbottVision had exited the project and A&E entered to develop the series.

The Returned Ready To Debut

The American series filmed its 10-episode first season in Canada and now finally in 2015, The Returned is set to premiere on A&E. The remake stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Mark Pellegrino, Agnes Buckner, and Jeremy Sisto in similar roles as Les Revenants. Exec producer Raelle Tucker emphasized to EW these characters will be different, mostly because the actors bring such great performances to the series.

"I do think that their performances are quite different from the original French series,” Tucker said. “I feel that each one of these people brought the essence of the character. I think over episodes, you will see how those characters are quite different and shift a lot.”

Image: Joseph Lederer/A&E