Oh What Could Have Been...
With the fall television season here in America just around the corner, and word of what shows have made it onto what schedules and what has been held back for winter or spring or summer, that means that very soon, normally around middle July to middle August or so, the internet starts to get flooded with pilot episodes for the upcoming year, those of you who were with me last summer remember I reviewed afew shows that had their pilots hit the net, ironically I got wires crossed and gave ratings flop Sons of Tuscan a great review, and surprising delight The Cleveland Show horrible reviews, though to be fair the pilot for The Cleveland Show was pretty horrible, even if they show itself became a true delight to watch. But with fall pilot season always comes one of my favorite things in all of the entertainment industry, looking at the pilots that didn't make it, that were not picked up and are sense left to the wayside to be only spoken of by entertainment nerds who seek out such things. Personally, I find this sort of thing fascinating, because for as many unaired and rejected pilots as there are that aren't very good at all, there are some that are just mindblowingly good, and you find yourself wishing it had been picked up. Its also a good way to see how a show that is picked up can be changed, I doubt many people are aware that television classic "All In The Family" went through two pilots that were passed on before it was actually greenlit for a series, both basically the same show, just once called "Justice For All" and another "Those Were The Days", both with the only thing recognizable being Carol O'Conner and Jean Stapleton, the rest completely different, in recent years the american version of "Life On Mars" would go through a similar situation, where the pilot, which was set in L.A and was painfully bad and cheaply made, was ordered completely recast and reshot, and only then was it greenlit and aired.
I would like to talk to you about one of the greatest concepts in the past 10 years, and how you will never see it, but wish that you had. I am talking ofcourse about the 2007 rejected pilot for a series called "Babylon Fields", an edgy show taking place in Babylon, Long Island, New York, and how one day, all of its dead, got out of the ground and went back to living their lives. They aren't out for brains, they aren't out for killin, none of that, they just go back to their everyday lives as if nothing had happened, they don't remember their moment of death, nor do they remember what the afterlife is like, but they were aware they've been dead, but not really for how long they were gone. This ofcourse leads for an upheaval when they attempt to return to their lives, many are shocked to discover their families have left town or moved on, many are met with violence at those who think they've come back to kill them all. Its kind of similar to the french film "They Come Back" more so then the likes of the classics by George A. Romero or other masters of the zombie genre. It takes the non "I want to eat your brains" route and instead takes more the feel of a life interrupted and the impact on those around you who have grieved and moved on.
There is the only old widow who is alone with out her husband who she'd not been with out sense they were young, there is the woman who lost her husband to cancer years earlier and only wishes to have him back, dreaming and hoping and wishing for it, the cop who's wife was dead and he just couldn't move on, and there is also the mother who murdered her abusive husband after he beat their youngest daughter to death. Its a story of how life is really as fragile and delicate as they say, and how even though they're given a second chance, most people will choose to live their live as they have, instead of changing once they have a second chance at it. Oddly, the people around them don't seem to be all that unsettled after the first few days or so, the zombies, look like you would expect a zombie to look, decaying flesh, open wounds, exposed bone, ext, but that isn't the focal point or even really a sub aspect of the plot, its just there.
Had the pilot been picked up and turned into a series, it would have gone along the lines of your average mysterious sci fi style series, focusing on the sheriff who's recently dead wife has come back to change the life he'd started to rebuild, and dealing with the murdered abusive cop who isn't aware his wife had murdered him with an ax and buried him in a school yard. It also would have followed along the lines of all non-violent zombie stories where no matter how nonthreatening and peaceful they look, deep down most zombies will go into murderous rages at the sight of blood and start to crave it and brains, implying like many that the whole trait set inherent in Zombies is not only a hardwired primal instinct, but infact one that can be repressed or possibly must be awakened, sort of like a zombie puberty or something of the like, there are many ideas out there that could fit into the series and its universe, it was open enough to go any which way really, and with time it could have maybe explored them all, but we will never know.
So the big question so many of you have right now, must be, "Why did CBS pass on what could have been a great stand out program?", well the answer is very simple really. See, its CBS you're talking about. Babylon Fields was created during CBS's experimental phase where they tried to bring in a younger, under 40 to 50 year demographical viewer base, this was the experiment that not only gave birth to Babylon Fields, but also short lived but critically acclaimed still to this day shows "Jericho" and "Moonlight", and its creations would later be altered into the mini-series Harper's Island and aired over the summer of 2009, with its second season which would take place almost 15 yeas later with a return to Harper's Island scrapped completely, believing it best to be a stand alone. And the final attempt, the incredible, but all but forgotten "Swingtown" used for filling space during 2008. There was never any real reason for why CBS felt the need to not bring Babylon Fields to the starting gate, that summer it was the hottest talked about series of all the new crop and had the most buzz up to the very day it was officially called dead by CBS at the start of the spring/summer season.
In the end, though critically acclaimed for its fresh take at possibly reinventing the line up for CBS the network known for having the viewership of most of the people between the age of 50 to 90, decided instead of reinventing themselves or showing they could do more cutting edge programing, CBS opted to stick with its old people friendly world of 6 different CSI programs and four NCIS programs as well as stale and predictable ratings getters like Survivor, instead of taking a risk and going for the younger demographics that are dominated by FOX, The CW and the cable networks, and sure we all miss Jericho and some of us argue that Moonlight and reworked and delayed for years Harper's Island were both great and I personally miss Swingtown alot, but, atleast they got to the screen, but with Babylon Fields, one of the greatest ideas i've seen in awhile, I can't help but wonder what could have been had they take the chance. I guess we'll never get to know.
But I do know this, though I can not bring the show to life for you all, I can do this, I can do this, the video below is the entire pilot episode to the series, enjoy..