While some network choose to run the same tired, old formula TV into the ground, others, like ABC, take chances, risks, and “big swings” with inventive concepts and highly stylized imagery. There is no new series that speaks to his more than The River. Coming from Dreamworks and Oren Peli, The River follows a fictional documentary crew as they travel into the Amazon to hunt for a missing adventurer, husband, and father. But what they find is much more along the lines of Paranormal Activity than anything you would see on the Discovery Channel.
Peli shared with television critics at ABC’s TCA panel in Los Angeles today that the idea for The River was initially a simple film about a missing documentary crew in the rain forest and the crew that heads down to find them. It was always intended to be a “found footage” style, utilizing certain characters as cameraman to see their reactions and provide a “in the thick of the action” vibe for the audience. But it wasn’t until an off-the-cuff discussion with his director on Paranormal Activity 2 that it became a television series. With a standing offer from Steven Spielberg to “do a show together,” Peli pitched it to Dreamworks, ABC picked it up last May, and here we are.
There are only eight episodes in the first season of The River, which the producers of the show want to ensure fans follow an overall mythology arc for the characters but can also hold up as individual horror movies every week. In that way, Michael Green felt the show was more similar to the tone of a show like The X-Files than LOST.
“What makes the difference between a great horror movie and a great horror television show is actually caring about the people,” Green offered, adding that although characters will come into peril often and some may not make it out alive, their mentality is not that any are “expendable.”
“My philosophy in television is ‘Treat every script like your last because you never know when it might be.’ We don’t leave a lot of cards on the table,” Green admitted, regarding deaths in the series.
But Peli wanted to point out that The River is not a slasher show, nor is it about blood, guts, and gore. He wants to shock and surprise, and surely scare!, the audience, but more with the inner workings of their own mind and the danger of what lurks, not necessarily a shocking image popping up on screens every few minutes.
“We want the audience to fill in the blanks and create their own worst case scenario,” he said.
Zack Estrin added that The River will be pulling from real legends and lore from the actual Amazon to intensify those fear, as well. Everything from ghosts and supernatural elements to the scariness of the individuals on the rescue team and how they may respond when fear sets in.
“They are all themselves as mysterious as the jungle,” Estrin teased. “They all have some secret gifts that will come out.”
Want to put out any theories already? Sound off in the comments below!
The River premieres on February 7th at 9pm.
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