CBS All Access, CBS’s subscription streaming service, announced on Thursday plans for The Man Who Fell To Earth, a new original series based on Walter Tevis’s 1963 science fiction novel of the same name and the 1976 film starring David Bowie.
Per the announcement, which was first made at a Television Critics Association presentation, the series will “follow an alien who arrives on Earth at a turning point in human evolution and must confront his own past to determine our future.”
Alex Kurtzman and Jenny Lumet will write, executive produce, and serve as co-showrunners alongside executive producer John Hlavin, with Kurtzman also directing.
“Walter Tevis’ visionary novel gave us a tech god Willy Wonka from another planet, brought to life by David Bowie’s legendary performance, that foretold Steve Jobs’ and Elon Musk’s impacts on our world,” said executive producers Alex Kurtzman and Jenny Lumet. “The series will imagine the next step in our evolution, seen through the eyes of an alien who must learn what it means to become human, even as he fights for the survival of his species.”
President of CBS Television Studios David Stapf, per a press release from CBS All Access, acknowledged Bowie’s major contribution to The Man Who Fell To Earth legacy:
“I’ve been a fan of this extraordinary film starring David Bowie for years,” said David Stapf, President, CBS Television Studios. “While no one can ever hope to surpass Bowie, bringing the film to series will allow for an ongoing detailed and nuanced exploration of the concepts established in the novel.”
What all this means, according to Deadline, is that the new show will not feature Bowie’s character, which originated from Tevis’s book, but instead “a new central alien character inspired by some of the biggest tech innovators of the past couple of decades including Jobs, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos.”
CBS Television Studio will co-produced the new series with TANDEM Productions, a STUDIOCANAL Company, which owns the rights for both Walter Tevis’s book and Nicolas Roeg’s big-screen adaptation starring David Bowie.
“Owning an iconic property like this is a privilege. Alex and Jenny’s voices take Tevis’ provocative vision of humanity and finds today’s pulse and relevance,” said Rola Bauer, Executive Producer and MD of STUDIOCANAL TV.
Nicolas Roeg’s 1976 trippy scifi film starred David Bowie as Thomas Jerome Newton, a humanoid alien who comes to Earth looking for water to bring back to his drought-stricken home planet. At the time of filming in 1975, Bowie had just released his ninth studio album, Young Americans, which spawned the No. 1 hit “Fame,” marking his departure from his glam phase on The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972), Aladdin Sane (1973), and Diamond Dogs (1974). He reportedly developed his own look for the character, which then influenced the development of his next musical persona, The Thin White Duke. The musician ended up using a still from the film on the cover of his next studio album, 1976’s Station to Station. Upon release, Roeg’s film was met with mixed reviews, but it’s since gone on to become a cult classic with Bowie forever remembered for his role as the extraterrestrial who fell to Earth.
The book was adapted for the screen again in 1987, but as a made-for-television movie for ABC. In this more upbeat, quirky, and modernized version, which starred Beverly D’Angelo, Wil Wheaton, Robert Picardo, and Annie Potts, the alien is renamed “John Dory” (Lewis Smith). Once on Earth, he’s tries to earn money to make repairs to his spaceship so he can return home, but finds himself becoming too in touch with human feelings. (So, so silly; back in the 1980s, most made-for-TV movies were pretty cheesy.)
Regarding the new show’s creative team, Kurtzman is best known for his work on J.J. Abrams’s rebooted Star Trek films and is the co-creator of Star Trek: Discovery, CBS All Access’s first scripted series, which recently wrapped production on its third season. He also directed and co-wrote along with Lumet Universal’s 2017 The Mummy reboot starring Tom Cruise. Lumet, who is the daughter of director Sidney Lumet (12 Angry Men) and granddaughter of actress/singer Lena Horne, also wrote the 2008 film Rachel Getting Married starring Anne Hathaway. John Hlavin developed the Ryan Phillippe-starring television drama series Shooter, which he also wrote for and directed, for USA Network, where it ran for three seasons beginning in 2016. He also co-wrote the screenplay for 2012’s Underworld Awakening, the fourth feature film in the Underworld franchise, which saw the return of Kate Beckinsale in the lead role.
No word yet on when The Man Who Fell To Earth will launch on CBS All Access or how many episodes it will be.
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