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'The Returned' review: Missing that zombie spirit this time

A new version of the French series, "The

A new version of the French series, "The Returned," debuts on A&E. Premieres Monday. Mar. 9. (Credit: A&E)

THE SERIES "The Returned"

WHEN|WHERE Premieres Monday at 10 p.m. on A&E

WHAT IT'S ABOUT One by one, the dead are returning to a town in the Canadian Rockies (where this was filmed). First to return is Camille (India Ennenga), who was killed in a bus accident. Her parents, Claire (Tandi Wright) and Jack Winship (Mark Pellegrino), are at first stunned, then happy, then puzzled. Her big sister, Lena (Sophie Lowe), is a bit horrified. Then, there's Rowan (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), who suddenly sees her former lover, Simon (Mat Vairo), who was killed six years earlier. That visitation poses a complication because she's about to get married to the local sheriff, Tommy Solano (Kevin Alejandro). And what is Dr. Han (Sandrine Holt) to make of the very mysterious boy, Victor (Dylan Kingwell), whom she takes in?

This series was adapted by Carlton Cuse ("Lost") from the French hit of the same name, which aired on Sundance in 2013.

MY SAY Same majestic mountains. Same quaint town nestled within them. Same characters, same names, same plot, same "revenants" -- or returned -- same mystery, same everything. Yup, A&E's "Returned" is a fair facsimile of Sundance's "Returned." Perhaps all that's needed are subtitles in French to complete the whole imitation-is-the-sincerest-form-of-flattery sensation.

Nothing wrong with faithfully adapting a hit series, and nothing glaringly wrong with Cuse's version, either, except that -- like the revenants themselves -- something is missing, or ever so slightly off. Sundance's was exotic and alluring, A&E's somewhat less so. Sundance's played up the blunt force emotional trauma of suddenly seeing a dead person making tea in the kitchen. A&E's is nearly blasé about the "returned."

Are comparisons fair? Probably not, but A&E's tracks so closely that it almost seems to be inviting them. So, here goes: This version simply doesn't capture the strange and unsettling spirit of the original, which was really more about human connection and loss than zombies. This is still a handsome production, with lots of good actors turning in some spirited performances. It's fine, just not magical.

BOTTOM LINE Good adaptation, but something's been lost in translation.


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