The prime-time landscape is littered with popular film properties this fall, and it’s never easy turning a film concept into a television series. One of the biggest challenges this year? Fox’s The Exorcist adaptation, which premiered last week. So how did the creative team pull it off?
Showrunner Jeremy Slater chatted with Collider about the development process behind The Exorcist, which debuted to solid reviews but fairly awful ratings (sigh), and said he never wanted to try and remake the iconic original film and stretch it out into a season-long story. Instead, they set out to take the bones from what made that story interesting and find a way to make it work in a long-form setting.
The first few episodes do a solid job of reaching that goal, and by the end of the pilot it becomes obvious this is definitely more than just the classic ol’ Exorcist tale. Here’s an excerpt from his comments:
“I don’t want to remake The Exorcist, and no one else should either. That’s a fool’s task. From the very beginning, the rights holders were going down the path of, ‘How do we turn William Peter Blatty’s novel into a 10-hour mini-series, or an ongoing series?’ The goal was very much to remake that story, and I thought that was just a fool’s errand. You’re never going to tell that particular story better than William Friedkin or William Blatty did. You’re just going to tell a longer inferior version of what really is a perfect film. So, I came back to them and said, ‘Guys, this is a mistake, but I think there’s something here. I think there’s a show. If you can get passed this idea of doing a remake or a reboot, we can do a brand new story with a brand new cast of characters that just happens to take place in the same cinematic universe of the original.’
I wanted to do something closer in tone to the TV show Fargo, even though Fargo didn’t exist then ‘cause this was about four years ago. So, there’s a moment in the pilot where you actually see the main character doing research on his computer, and it pulls up a news story about the Georgetown exorcisms. That was just my little tip of the hat to let the fans know, ‘The story you love still exists. Nothing is being written out of existence. We’re not taking that story away from you. We’re just telling a story that happens to take place 40 years later and answers the question of, what does demonic possession and the practice of exorcism look like in 2016?’ So, once everybody was on board with that idea and everyone started getting really excited, we really saw the potential of taking such an iconic brand and creating something rich and powerful and scary that hopefully does some small justice to the legacy of The Exorcist, as opposed to trying to just cash in with a cheap knock-off.”
The show is off to a relatively promising creative start in the Friday lineup, and after seeing Slater talk about the approach, it’ll be interesting to see how the narrative develops over the next few weeks. You know, at least until Fox pulls the plug (seriously, those ratings were rough).
Did you actually catch the pilot? What’d you think of the series?