When Fox announced its upcoming fall shows, the big news was that one of its new suspense dramas was from the makers of ”The Blair Witch Project.” But in recent weeks, that series, then called ”Fearsum” and later renamed ”Freakylinks,” has lost more than just its arcane title. The show’s cocreators, Gregg Hale (a producer of ”Blair Witch”) and David S. Goyer (writer/ producer of ”Blade”), have quit the day to day running of the show and will now serve only as executive consultants. The change, says a source close to the show, is a protest over Fox’s dismissal of Goyer as the show’s head writer.
”Freakylinks,” which debuts Oct. 6, might be described as a cross between ”The X-Files” and ”The Blair Witch Project.” The pilot introduces a maverick Web journalist (Ethan Embry) who delves into occult mysteries after the unexplained death of his twin brother. Already up and running is the show’s website, which offers additional intrigue. The Internet generated buzz is no accident: Hale is part of Haxan Films, the Florida based collective behind ”Blair Witch” and its groundbreaking companion website.
According to a source close to the series, the entire Haxan crew (Hale, Mike Monello, Robin Cowie, and ”Blair Witch” directors Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez) have decided to take a backseat role on ”Freakylinks,” staying on as consultants but directing most of their energy to the show’s website. Goyer, too, has all but bolted, even though both he and Hale will still be listed as creators and executive consultants. (Ironically, it was Fox execs who’d first suggested pairing Goyer, an experienced TV scribe, with the Haxans, who are newcomers to the small screen.) And that wasn’t the end of the upheaval: Goyer’s successor, Tommy Thompson (NBC’s ”The Pretender”), was subsequently replaced by David Simkins (the WB’s ”Charmed”).
The result of all these changes may be a very different ”Freakylinks.” Though the pilot episode won’t be changed from the version shown to critics in May, a network insider told EW.com that as the series progresses it will become less edgy and ”much more popcorn-y.” Goyer, for his part, isn’t surprised. ”It’s classic. How many times have you heard about that happening in Hollywood? I’ve had four pilots made, and two of those have gone on to [become] series,” he tells EW.com. ”In every situation, I was brought on board to give the show an ‘edgier’ feel, and it was always too edgy. They always say they want edgy, but they really just want the same thing over and over again.”
Goyer’s now at work developing a sequel to ”Blade” (read EW.com’s recent story on ”Blade 2”), and the Haxan team has already set its sights on another television project for Fox: a retooling of ”In Search Of,” the eerie 1970s Leonard Nimoy hosted series about unexplained phenomena. For the new ”In Search Of,” Fox will share broadcast rights with USA network; the series could be airing on both networks as early as next year.
(With additional reporting by Liane Bonin)