Friday, 18 October 2013

NBC reviving failed zombie pilot BABYLON FIELDS

Friday, 18 October 2013
Old TV pilots don't often come back from the dead, but that's ironically what's happening with CBS's zombie drama Babylon Fields. The original pilot was made for the 2007/08 season by Michael Cuesta (Dexter), Gerald Cuesta and Michael Atkinson, and concerned the dead coming back to life and trying to resume their lives in the small-town of Babylon. The show wasn't given a season order, but after being released online it's bubbled away as a curio amongst horror and zombie aficionados.

Clearly in awe of the success The Walking Dead's been having over on AMC (season 4's premiere pulled in a staggering 16m viewers), NBC have decided to bring CBS's Babylon Fields back as a full series. The Cuesta brothers and Atkinson are back to direct/write, but it's likely many of the roles will be recast because a new first episode will be filmed. But I hope they manage to get Ray Stevenson and Amber Tamblyn involved again.

However, while the television climate has clearly reached a point where "a zombie television drama" isn't such a tough sell now, it's worth remembering that Babylon won't feel as fresh in 2014. Besides the obvious Walking Dead standing tall over the genre on the small-screen, there's French drama Les Revenants (based on a 2004 movie that perhaps also inspired Babylon), and a US remake of that French drama called Resurrection for ABC next year. The UK also have a remake of Les Revenants in development with Shameless creator Paul Abbot, called The Returned, and I haven't even mentioned the BBC's In the Flesh, which also evokes Les Revenants in how it's ultimately about the deceased reconnecting with the living.

It's suddenly a crowded marketplace for the rotting dead, and conceptually most of the drama are working with the same idea. The Walking Dead will still be the only show doing a straight, traditional 'zombie survival' storyline, as the others have deeper philosophical concerns about human identity, evolution, prejudice and society.

Dana Walden, 20th Century Fox TV chairman:
"Having an opportunity to remake Babylon Fields, which will be part of our new overall with Michael [Cuesta], is kind of a dream come true. Jennifer Salke [NBC Entertainment President] deserves a tremendous amount of credit here. She worked with us on the original and led the charge to bring Babylon Fields back to life on NBC."
Indeed, Salke was EVP of Creative Affairs at 20th TV when Babylon was being made in 2007 and has apparently always been a big supporter of the project. Clearly it could have been a pioneer of the zombie genre on TV had it been allowed to flourish the first time around, but The Walking Dead managed to get their first.

What do you make of this news? Have you seen Babylon Fields? I have, and I reviewed it here back in 2007? (Oh, it seems I didn't like it very much! Huh.) There's a chance I would revise that opinion five years later, of course, now it's easier to see where a show like that could go. You can watch it for yourself on YouTube here.