Can Dead People Resurrect A&E’s Ratings?

Carlton Cuse tells the TCA that The Returned can bring on a comeback

Things unraveled quickly for A&E in 2014: Its top-rated show, Duck Dynasty, plummeted to a 1.0 18-49 rating in November, and it canceled its second-most popular show, Longmire, which skewed too old for its advertisers. (Netflix picked it up for Season 4.)

As A&E tries to right the ship in 2015, the network is focusing on its loyal audience for Bates Motel (which averaged 4.1 million viewers each week during Season 2) with its new drama, The Returned. At the Television Critics Association's winter press tour on Friday, A&E revealed that The Returned will premiere on March 9, after Bates Motel's Season 3 premiere. (Both shows are executive produced by Lost's Carlton Cuse.)

The Returned is based on the Emmy-winning French series (it aired on SundanceTV in 2013 and is now on Netflix) about dead people who suddenly reappear in a small town. While the pilot is almost a shot-for-shot recreation of the French series, producers insist that the shows' storylines will diverge after the first few episodes.

"While we start in a similar place, the show is fairly distinctively different by the end of the season," said Cuse. "We felt like there was a way to take the show and over time, make it something that was very distinctly our own." Cuse added that while "there's a small, fervent audience that watched the French show," an even larger American audience did not.

Of course, that's the same thing that producers said last year about Gracepoint, Fox's fall adaptation of the beloved British crime drama Broadchurch, which also began as an almost identical remake of the original. And that untapped American audience never embraced Fox's adaptation, which averaged just 0.84 in 18-49 and has already been canceled.

But Cuse is hoping that his take on The Returned will turn out more like NBC's The Office, which, in his words, "became its own distinct creation"—and a hit show—after early episodes. Especially given that there is only one season of the original The Returned (a second season is in production but hasn't yet aired), "the show going forward will be wholly original. There won't be any roadmap beyond this season."