It’s been a slow build for ABC’s new midseason horror series, The River, but the people behind it are already working up plans for future seasons. If creator Oren Peli (Paranormal Activity) is to be believed, the show could feature a different location and storyline each year – a structure popularized recently by FX’s hit American Horror Story.
But, Peli told The Hollywood Reporter that has been an option ever since the show’s genesis several years ago, stemming from a conversation with Paranormal Activity writer Michael Perry, who also has a hand in The River.
“We were hanging out on a Sunday afternoon as we were developing Paranormal Activity with Michael Perry, the writer of the movie, who happens to have a background in TV and won an Emmy for NYPD Blue,” he said. “We were talking about other ideas for movies, and someone mentioned the original idea [for The River] that we had and he just goes bonkers for it. He’s like, ‘This is a great idea, but why waste it on a movie when you can do a TV show where every season they go to a different place.’ So, two days later, he has a whole pitch ready with the river and the boat.”
The series follows a team heading deep into the jungle on a rescue mission, though things quickly take a creepy, supernatural turn for the worse. Considering the concept, Peli said he knows it may be tough to keep things running for an extended period of time. But, they’re trying to figure out a way to keep the chills intact, without wearing the concept too thin.
“We do have a road map. There are two questions,” he said. “One, are we going to be able to find enough scares? We’re lucky because there’s so much folklore and real mythology that we’re drawing from, so I don’t think there’s a concern that we’ll ever run out of material. And as far as the run for the characters, we have a shorter-term vision for the next couple of seasons and a goal for when where we want it to end.”
The self-contained, 8-episode order fits the idea well, and Peli said he was relieved to hear the show was bumped to midseason, to give them a little more time to work on it.
“I was secretly happy that we ended up being a midseason pickup because it gave us a little bit more time to plan,” he said. “The one thing that’s very crazy for me coming from the feature world is the pace of television. The schedule is insane.”
The River has been in the works for years, originally starting as a low-budget horror flick until Peli made a name for himself with Paranormal Activity. Once he had a bit of cachet, he was hanging out with Steven Spielberg, who mentioned he’d love to see a TV project that could bring the same creep factor as Paranormal Activity on a weekly basis. That’s when The River’s spec sheet came off the shelf, and the series was born.
“At several points, I stopped to remind myself, ‘Holy sh–, I’m talking to Steven Spielberg,'” Peli told The Hollywood Reporter. At one point, he says, ‘You know, we should really do a TV show together. There’s nothing like this, something very raw and visceral, on TV. Let’s figure out how to bring the horror nature of Paranormal Activity to TV.’ I barely understand the world of movies and I knew nothing about TV, but if Mr. Spielberg says, ‘Let’s do a show together,’ you say, ‘Ok. I’ll start thinking of ideas.'”
The pilot has generated some buzz, but what do you think? Can this type of concept work over the long-term?