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Will Making a TV Show Be a Good Thing for M. Night Shyamalan?

Will Making a TV Show Be a Good Thing for M. Night Shyamalan?

As the Hollywood Reporter noted yesterday, M. Night Shyamalan has a television project in the works at the Syfy network. The channel’s committed to make and air a pilot for “Proof,” his first scripted TV venture and one that will find him working with Marti Noxon, best known for her work writing and producing “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

Shyamalan will direct the “Proof” pilot, which he’s co-write with Noxon — the potential series “centers on the son of a billionaire tech genius who, following an accident that claims his parents’ lives, offers a large reward for anyone who can find proof of life after death.”

This foray into TV seems like it can only be a good thing for the “Sixth Sense” director, whose films have been on steady decline in quality since that 1999 breakout, his last theatrical release being the critically reviled blockbuster “The Last Airbender.”

His next feature, slated for 2013, is the Will and Jaden Smith sci-fi vehicle “After Earth,” the first of his films to not be based on his own screenplay. Having written and directed everyhting from 1992’s “Praying with Anger” to the much-mocked “The Happening” in 2008, Shyamalan seems like a filmmaker sorely in need of more collaboration in his career, and Noxon’s a TV pro with both a background working in supernatural-tinged series and an actual sense of humor. Working with her could both lighten him up and balance out his more stiltedly grandiose impulses.

Shyamalan’s inextricably linked to plot twists, even though his last few films haven’t rested on major third act revelations. And in a serialized TV show, plot twists are standard — rug-pulling doesn’t seem like such a stunt because the series has to keep on going afterward, and surprise developments at the end of episodes are not only not uncommon but also have to be dealt with in following installments rather than just being included for a jolt. It remains to be seen if TV can turn around Shyamalan’s storytelling and handling of characters, but it seems like a positive development.

“Proof” isn’t Shyamalan’s first go-round with Syfy — in 2004, the network aired the “documentary” special “The Buried Secret of M. Night Shyamalan,” a fake nonfiction project that was actually marketing for (and shot on the set of) “The Village,” and that claimed that the director has a childhood drowning accident that left him legally dead for almost half an hour, and that led him to experiences communication with spirits. Check out a clip of the hoax special below:

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The Last Airbender notwithstanding, Shyamalan's only problem has been his need to attract a mainstream audience. His mainstream success was always a fluke — art house movies that could be sold on their genre. Unbreakable is simply a great film, and it goes without saying that the popular opinion on it has evolved drastically since its release. The Village is a masterpiece with deep ethical questions at its center. It was sold as a summer horror flick. Lady in the Water is him working with the same themes but with an unbridled earnestness. I found that movie to have some really life-affirming stuff. The Happening suffers from removing some character scenes, not entirely competent lead actors, and not firmly planting itself in its '50s paranoia movie pastiche. But it's far from the piece of trash most suggest it is.

Shyamalan should go entirely indie and make movies for the 30% of us who actually care about his ideas and work.

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