In his latest twist, writer/director M. Night Shyamalan – a man once touted as “the new Spielberg” – is working on a television mini-series titled Wayward Pines. Although critics and audiences panned his newest films (After Earth, The Last Airbender), the small screen offers Shyamalan a chance to retrieve some artistic credibility. For those already weary of the show’s quality, the Sixth Sense director is only helming the pilot episode of the 10-episode FOX mini-series (his main job is as the executive producer), and he did not write the episode’s screenplay, so you can rest easy.
Entertainment Weekly got an early look at the thriller starring Matt Dillon, Melissa Leo, Terrence Howard and Juliette Lewis, and in an interview with the magazine, Shyamalan revealed a passion to try something new and move to television.
”Everyone’s been telling me that I’d like the way the medium is going, how it’s character-based and darker in tone. There’s been this shift towards the things I love: atmosphere and not black-and-white characters. Unresolved, open-ended stuff. It’s the same reason why I like smaller movies. It’s proving that leaning on characters and tone makes things resonant.”
The mini-series, adapted from a trilogy of novels from Blake Crouch, follows Secret Service agent Ethan Burke (Dillon) investigating the disappearance of two government agents in the small Idaho town that gives the series its title. Of course, things in the quiet town are not quite what they seem.
Wayward Pines attracted Shyamalan due to its similarities with Twin Peaks, the highly-influential TV milestone from the early 1990s that also centered on a small town and had a notable director (David Lynch) working behind the scenes.
“David Lynch’s achievement with that show — especially in the pilot — was some super audacious filming. It’s the kind of thing where you have these quirky over-the-top performances that are still resonant,” Shyamalan told EW. “So when I read Wayward Pines, I found that same mix of humor I’ve been dying to do.”
For fans of the director’s early work, let us hope that Shyamalan’s latest excursion is closer to anything from Lynch’s oeuvre than The Happening. (Let us also hope there are no scenes of Matt Dillon talking to a ficus… or a poorly acted director’s cameo.) Perhaps a good run on the small screen could just be the impetus for a career comeback that the director so desperately needs. Who knows?
Fox has not yet announced a premiere date for Wayward Pines, but we’ll let you know when we hear of one.