Review: ABC’s ‘Resurrection’ suffers badly compared to ‘The Returned’

Look, I hate to be That Guy who sees an American version of a foreign film or show and just tells you to watch the original. It's such a cliché, and it ignores the fact that American remakes can be wonderful in their own right. (Case in point: “The Office.”)

Having said that, the only thing of value I can tell you about ABC's new drama series “Resurrection” is that you are much better off simply going to Netflix to stream the first season of Sundance's French import “The Returned.”

In this case, the American show is not a direct remake of the French one, even though “Resurrection” is based on a book called “The Returned” (which it also uses as the title of its first episode), and even though both deal with isolated communities where long-dead people – in both cases starting out with a child who drowned – come back from the dead, looking exactly the way they did so many years before.

“The Returned” (which I reviewed when it debuted on Sundance) was creepy and strange and overflowing with emotion. It wasn't so much with the plot (which some of you complained about when the season concluded), but the character work and the atmosphere were so vivid and memorable that it didn't matter much.

Through two episodes, “Resurrection” also doesn't seem terribly interested in its plot – or perhaps I wasn't interested in its attempt to treat this amazing phenomenon like the subject of a police procedural – but it doesn't compensate enough in other areas. Kurtwood Smith and Frances Fisher are both excellent as the aging parents of the revived little boy, and Matt Craven has some moments as the bitter town sheriff, but the other characters – including Omar Epps as a customs agent who puts his career on hold to investigate the case, and Devin Kelley as the revived boy's cousin and apparently the town's only doctor – are blanks. The pace is slow, but not in an insinuating way where the strangeness of the event slowly dawns on everyone around, but in a sluggish way that tries to milk the basic premise as long as possible.

“The Returned” was one of the best, most distinctive shows of 2013. I imagine I will have forgotten everything about “Resurrection” within a day or two of writing this review. It is non-terrible, but when there is a vastly better take on the exact same idea, the only excuses for watching this one are a lack of a Netflix subscription (and you can also buy the episodes on Amazon and iTunes) or a violent medical allergy to reading subtitles.