‘The Phantom of the Opera’ to Come to TV…Twice?

By November 4, 2014

Gaston Leroux’s 1909 novel The Phantom of the Opera is a unique commodity in entertainment because of two very successful but very different adaptations. The Universal silent film starring Lon Chaney as the eponymous character has given rise to one of the most classic images in the history of the horror film genre, and Chaney’s garish makeup and the film’s overall moody production design still tend to make for an unsettling viewing experience, even nearly 90 years after its initial creation.

The story has, of course, also been adapted as an opera by renowned impresario and composer Andrew Lloyd Webber, who in 1986 helped transform the story into an epic for the stage that has captured the love of millions of adoring “Phans” in a show that continues to persist nearly thirty years after its initial premiere in London’s West End. Now, it seems, two very different and competing visions of Leroux’s novel are going to be hitting the small screen in the future.

A couple of weeks ago, Deadline reported that ABC had picked up a drama based on Phantom that would be taking some overall drastic liberties with the source material, from “Desperate Housewives” creator Marc Cherry. While the original novel takes place in Paris in the late 19th century, ABC’s version of the story would be,

…set in the sexy and cutthroat world of the modern-day music business. Unlike Webber’s creation, to which the TV show has no ties, the drama is not envisioned as a musical but will feature musical elements in the vein of ABC’s country music industry drama Nashville.

Coming down in the news today from Variety, though, is word of yet another adaptation of Phantom, this time from Endemol Studios and the team of Amelie director Jean-Pierre Jeunet and producer Tony Krantz. While this version is also taking some specific liberties with Leroux’s novel, the difference in period is less pronounced. The premise for this version of the series is,

Like [the ABC] project, Endemol’s “Phantom” is not tied to the musical that has been a global sensation for composer Andrew Lloyd Webber. Krantz, a seasoned TV and film producer, is making his first foray into writing with a rendition of the story set in 1919, with the central figure being a British WWI fighter pilot suffering from burns over most of his body. Jeunet is on board to direct.

As someone who is a fan of Leroux’s novel, the silent film, and Webber’s musical, I find it pretty hard to get excited about either of these, especially the gimmick-ridden “contemporary” take. As most Phantom fans would likely agree, part of what makes the story work is the air of mystery granted by the period and the titular character’s command of misdirection and sleight of hand in making himself seem like more than just a man. While the Endemol project sounds a bit more interesting, we’ll just have to see what actually comes of these stories, and whether or not they can pass the test of connecting with their respective audiences, which from the outset would seem to be targeting very different types of people.

No word yet on when we can expect to see anything from either iteration, but keep a tab open to GeekNation for any developments on either of these projects!

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Chris Clow
As a former comics retailer at a store in the Pacific Northwest, Chris Clow is an enormous sci-fi, comics, and film geek. He is a freelance contributor, reviewer, podcaster, and overall geek to GeekNation, Batman-On-Film.com, The Huffington Post, and Movies.com. He also hosts the monthly Comics on Consoles broadcast and podcast. Check out his blog, and follow him on Twitter @ChrisClow.