It's the time of year when the Network Execs sit in and watch their pile of pilots, in order to decide which they'll show the green light, and which will get the finger. We've been following some of these shows keenly, as they've progressed from rumour to commission to production and beyond, and we've been actively rooting for some of them to make it to air.
The one pilot we've been most keen on at Bleeding Cool has been Locke & Key, adapted by writer Josh Friedman and director Mark Romanek from the comics by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez. We love the original comics, we love Romanek's filmmaking, and we've been lit up with anticipation of how the two might come together.
The show has now been seen by the folk at Fox, and while they've yet to give a final decision, we've been hearing word of how the show was received, and what odds it has. We've been chatting with somebody who has seen the pilot, and was happy to tell us a little about it. I'll share some of their comments, leaving out any spoiler material.
So, in short, this Little Bleeder who has been lucky enough to see the show says that it's really rather good indeed. Because I knew you'd want me to, I made a point of asking how faithful it is to the comics:
Very faithful, really. It's been a long time since I first read the early issues, but I think this pilot pretty much stuck to what we saw in the first couple, perhaps the first three. There's a lot of set-up but it's intriguing and the story always feels like it's moving forwards. So it didn't get stuck. They seem to have changed some little things and they might be setting up a different way to do the Head Key, but the important things are the same and the feeling is the same.
And that will be the purists happy. But, for people like me, people that want to see the TV show succeed on it's own terms, and not ape the comic when it isn't necessary, how does the pilot fare?
It's beautiful. Everybody agrees on how well made it is and how atmospheric and how it will definitely win acclaim for the way it has been filmed and edited. There's magic in the story as you know and it actually feels magical on screen. The pace really picks up in the second half and the amazing images and ideas start coming thick and fast.
Our snoop did also note that the performances were great.
The characters are really well set up. Even Dodge, the thing in the well. Miranda Otto gives the stand out performance, bringing in just the right amount of tenacity to Nina Locke. Bode was probably tricky to cast and I normally have limited mileage with kids in creepy things like this (blame all of the bad ones over the years) but I got on well with the whole cast. There's an introduction to Sam Lesser and Rendell Locke too, and while we won't be seeing quite so much of them, they'll be welcome back whenever they do show up.
And their final word:
Why shouldn't TV be as compelling and atmospheric as movies? I really hope this goes to series and I really hope they can keep the quality up. You're right, this could be the new comics to TV smash like The Walking Dead. They're both really strong dramas with tight ensembles, characters with lots of skeletons in their closet and lots of great horror fun too.
So, in short, it's really good. Must be a shoo-in, then? Must be guaranteed a slot in next year's schedules?
I did see Deadline were reporting the show had something like a 50/50 chance, which are not the odds I was hoping for. Thankfully, we've been told that the situation is better than that. Maybe not much better, but still, any better is better.
According to other sources familiar with the situation, the odds are maybe more like 55/45 or 60/40. That's in favour of a pick-up, but the show is definitely not yet in the clear. Amongst Fox's worries, we're told, is the very real concern that Locke & Key isn't quite the sort of thing that's hitting big these days.
That's probably right: it certainly isn't Glee. But it doesn't mean it isn't the sort of thing that will hit big next year.
Indeed, no really big show has ever seemed to be no more than what was a hit before it came along. Pretty much all successful show have been a new diversion, in some way or another.
Apparently, Fox believe that Locke and Key could demand Lost-style dedication and commitment from the viewers, requiring a real effort to keep up with the overall arc and mythology. At the same time, there's also concern that the story, as told in the comics, could be exhausted too quickly.
There are already very strong paradigms that reveal how an "arc show" can also work on a week-to-week basis (Buffy, anybody?) and it's obvious to me how to overcome the shortage of published comics: make up new stories. But I'm not the one flipping the bird/green light switch [delete as appropriate].
Fox apparently want simple and clear, while Locke and Key is complex and interesting. Of course, they broadcast the very elaborate Fringe, but that pretended to be simple for a very long time and Locke and Key comes out as sophisticated from the get go.
We've been told that Fox could very well give the show a commission, and even if they don't, there are other places the program could go. Locke and Key isn't down yet, let alone out.
But if the Locke family could use a little support right now, we're there in their corner. C'mon Fox. We want Locke & Key – and you don't see anybody else out there tubthumping for any other pilots, do you? Call that an "edge".
A decision is due in the next few days. You'll hear about it as soon as we do.