‘The Returned’: Proof you should always watch the original series first
Original or remake? That seems to be the question when consuming any sort of media nowadays. Especially when a remake of the original seems to come sooner than the original has ended, you know? Which is worth the watch? It’s a good question, all things considered. Though none quite captures the “original is always best”, than The Returned.
The Returned is a French-language television series which ran for two seasons with a total of 16 episodes. The premise of the series is that the dead suddenly start appearing in a small French mountain town, alive and whole. With these returned walking the streets, there are other troubles as well: mysterious power outages, water levels lowering in the reservoir which reveals a church steeple, and odd markings appearing on people’s bodies.
The Returned was acclaimed both in France and internationally, even winning an International Emmy. Many considered the first season to be some of the best TV of 2013. It was compared to the likes of the original run of Twin Peaks. Honestly? All those shows about the resurrected appearing over the world in the years after? It was probably due to The Returned on some level.
With its popularity, of course, this means Hollywood tried to make an English-language remake of The Returned. All things considered, it did have the “right” talent behind it. Carlton Cuse, creator of The X-Files, adapted the series with talent such as Kevin Alejandro, Jeremy Sisto, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead starring. It got solid, though not spectacular, reviews.
The U.S. version of The Returned only lasted one season before being cancelled and its actors going off to better projects. Of course, with the cancellation, even years later, we still have to wonder: original or remake? What makes a remake successful in comparison to the original? How do you watch the original series in the context of a remake? Why even remake something already so good?
The Returned, the original version, was so great because it was new. It was a story that no one had quite seen before. The Returned seemed to be an answer to The Walking Dead in a sense. Rather than focusing on the bleakness of the zombie apocalypse, it explores the wonder and grief which comes with a sudden resurrection.
The thing about some remakes, like what happened with The Returned, is that it comes down to distance and time. The US rushed into making its own version of a popular show, but it was right after the show aired. People liked the original version of The Returned. The American remake had nothing new to offer it.
A remake – a good remake – should be able to expand upon the source material while also paying tribute to it. It should do something interesting, something unexpected. That’s where both versions of The Returned diverge. In comparison with the French-language The Returned, the English version wasn’t doing anything interesting. It was just kind of dull.
Enough time hadn’t passed between the series yet as well. Ultimately, The Returned couldn’t live up to The Returned. People just wanted to see the French series, but done in English. It doesn’t always work like that. Rather, it makes the remake boring in comparison to the original.