I hope you’re happy, Bates Motel. Look what you’ve done!
Or at least that was my initial reaction to reading the following news:
“Emmett/Furla/Oasis Films and Crystal Lake Entertainment will produce a new hourlong series based upon the characters and settings of Friday the 13th. Original 1980 director Sean S. Cunningham will executive produce. Bill Basso (Terminator) and Jordu Schell (Avatar) are developing a story line which re-imagines Jason in multiple time periods. Expect the show to take viewers in some exciting new directions that we’re confident will not only excite existing fans of Friday the 13th but also attract new audiences to the situations and characters that inhabit the small town of Crystal Lake.”
The “multiple time periods” probably means they intend to at the very least jump back and forth between Jason in the present and his childhood with his single mother in the past. The film series never discussed Jason’s dad, although Part 6 was originally supposed to, and didn’t get into the rest of Jason’s family until the truly atrocious Jason Goes to Hell. Speaking of which, Jason Goes to Hell originally meant to introduce the concept of Jason having a brother. So, there is legitimately new ground to cover for a potential TV show.
However, Jason Voorhees is not a character who really warrants further inspection. He was added in to the ending of the first film mostly because they saw Carrie and wanted to rip it off. Sean Cunningham was actually so against the idea of centering Part 2 around Jason as the killer that he walked away, letting the first film’s financiers take over the quickly developing franchise. Jason would go on to kill anyone who either had sex, did drugs, or just generally got in his way for 9 sequels, 1 team-up (Freddy Vs. Jason), and 1 re-make. Along the way we learned that you could neutralize him by anchoring him to the bottom of Camp Crystal Lake, lightning could revive his corpse to a zombie-like state (Part 6), he could only truly be killed if you destroyed his black, demon heart (Jason Goes to Hell), and even though it made no sense considering how much rain and water he’d previously been through he was apparently always afraid of water (Freddy Vs. Jason).
Right now, A&E and NBC are doing relatively okay with their Psycho and Silence of the Lambs prequels, Bates Motel and Hannibal respectively, both of which ares soon to conclude their second seasons. The latter at least has a series of novels from which to draw material while the former has made Norman Bates interesting by focusing on his family, given-to-fits-of-histrionics-mother Norma and wayward half-brother Dylan. Plus, they’ve greatly developed the town surrounding the Bates Motel, revealing Norma and Norman unwittingly dropped into the middle a town straight out of a David Lynch story.
One imagines that this will be a model for a Friday the 13th series, focusing on Jason and his heretofore unexplored family in the past while branching out to the town near Camp Crystal Lake. However, unlike Norman Bates we’ve never really seen any indication that Jason can even talk, other than that weird “Mommy!” he says in a little kid voice prior to his death in Jason Takes Manhattan. Plus, his whole story is about him being an invalid, which will make for some awkward viewing, I’d guess.
Maybe, instead, they mean to create entirely new characters with Jason constantly lurking on the outside, much as he does before striking with brutal accuracy in the films. That would put it far more squarely in the slasher vein of story telling, but MTV has been trying to develop Scream into a TV show for around 2 years now and so far failed. How do you make a TV show out of a genre, slasher, which is predicated upon an almost ritualistic formula of punishing those sin and allowing the virtuous to survive?
At this point, there is no network connected to this – at least Scream has MTV. It’s just a bunch of people representing various different companies saying they intend to make this show happen just as Paramount is gearing up for a potential found footage Friday the 13th movie for 2015. They’ve never really made Jason an interesting character before now, but at least they are learning from their mistakes in one area: they are making a Friday the 13th TV series that will actually feature Jason Voorhees for a change.