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A Watchmen TV Show Done Like the Leftovers Would Rule

By Blair Marnell

A Watchmen TV Show Done Like the Leftovers Would Rule

The rumors are true: Damon Lindelof is working on a Watchmen TV series for HBO, which may come to the network nearly a decade after Zack Snyder’s feature film adaptation.

Deadline is reporting that HBO has formally ordered a pilot episode for Watchmen, as well as a few additional scripts. That confirms Lindelof’s recent Instagram post which featured a glimpse of the Watchmen writers’ room. 

Day One.
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Alan Moore and David Gibbons’ Watchmen miniseries is still considered to be one of the all-time classics in comic book fiction. And to be honest, not everyone was happy with Snyder’s take on the material even though he was relatively faithful to the source. In some ways, Snyder was a little bit too faithful, and the film dragged at a few points. Even Lindelof has his share of detractors, largely due to lingering bad feelings over the ending of Lost, as well as disappointment in Prometheus. But whether or not you agree that those criticisms were a tad unfair, we’re excited to see Lindelof take on Watchmen based on the strength of his most recent TV series, The Leftovers.

Like Watchmen, The Leftovers was adapted from a single novel by Tom Perrotta, and the first season burned through the book’s story. Similarly, the events of Watchmen could easily be told in a single ten to twelve episode season without losing too much material from the original. But we doubt that HBO would make such a major acquisition without looking for a show that could run for multiple seasons. Game of Thrones is almost over, and nobody is sure whether Westworld can hold over fans until an inevitable Game of Thrones prequel arrives. Watchmen could be the show that picks up the torch. And we think we know how Lindelof will make it work.

For The Leftovers, Lindelof had the advantage of working closely with Perrotta to expand the world and its characters. He’s not going to get any cooperation from Moore, who famously despises Hollywood. But that doesn’t mean that the lessons from The Leftovers can’t be applied here. Even if Lindelof sticks only to the material that was published in the original Watchmen for the first season, the ending would give him the rare opportunity to chart the future of that world. It seems like a ludicrous proposition, but that’s exactly what Lindelof did with The Leftovers. He stayed as true to the novel as he could, and then explored what happened next.

One of the ways that Lindelof and Perrotta made that work is that the second season changed the setting and added an entirely new set of main characters without jettisoning the original cast. The Murphy family’s story turned out to be just as compelling and messed up as the Garvy family’s tale. But keeping both families on the stage allowed their stories to intersect and affect each other. That wouldn’t be the easiest trick to replicate with Watchmen, but it can be done.

Another advantage that Lindelof has, if he chooses to use it, is the abundance of material from Before Watchmen, the miniseries by other creators that filled in many of the gaps in the Watchmen backstory. Some of those tales were better than others, but the stories told by the late great Darwyn Cooke about the Minutemen and Silk Spectre seemed to work particularly well within Moore’s world. If the Watchmen TV series needs to run for at least three seasons, then this is how the narrative could be expanded without changing the core of the story.

One of the biggest complaints about Lost is that Lindelof and company didn’t stick the landing; a lot of viewers really hated the ending. Regardless of how you feel about that show, The Leftovers demonstrated that Lindelof can bring a series to a satisfying conclusion...because he did it three times! The Leftovers was never a major blockbuster for HBO, and it could have ended after either seasons one or two. If it had, then The Leftovers would have still had a great ending, as Lindelof and Perrotta managed to successfully wrap up their narrative threads in an oddly uplifting way. The series finale for The Leftovers had a more ambiguous conclusion, but it hit its emotional targets in a big way. It may even be one of the best series finales that we’ve ever seen.

Finally, we’ve got two words for you: Giant Squid. One of the few major liberties that Snyder took with Watchmen was the removal of the fake alien invasion angle from the miniseries. There was no Giant Squid! One of the reasons that Snyder opted not to go that route is that there wasn’t enough time in the movie to set up that ending. Within a TV series, there’s plenty of time for Lindelof and his writers to seed Watchmen’s supposedly unfilmable conclusion. Now, that’s something that we really want to see!

Images: DC Comics