MIPTV: Harlan Coben, Sky Eying Sequel to 'The Five'

RED Production Company
'The Five'

The best-selling author and production partner Nicola Shindler are also working an adaptation of Coben's novel 'Six Years.'

New York Times Bestselling author Harlan Coben is in talks for a sequel series to The Five, his first original TV drama, which bows on British pay-TV network Sky One and on France's Canal Plus later this month. 

Coben and production partner Nicola Shindler, who launched joint shingle Final Twist Productions this year, have begun development with Sky on the as-yet-unnamed series. The story will take off from where The Five leaves off, though both Coben and Shindler, speaking to The Hollywood Reporter at the MIPTV television market in Cannes, were loath to reveal details before the series' Sky 1 debut April 15. A green light for the sequel season will depend on the original series' performance. 

The Five stars Tom Cullen, Hannah Arterton, Lee Ingleby and Sarah Solemani as four friends haunted by their involvement in the disappearance of one of their playmates 20 years earlier. When the boy’s DNA turns up at a murder scene, they are forced to revisit the past and find out if he is still alive.

Coben's last nine books —including his latest, Fool Me Once, which came out March 22—debuted at number one on the New York Times Bestselling list and his books have sold more than 60 million copies worldwide.

But the laid-back New Jerseyite has been hesitant to take his brand of twisty-plotted thrillers to TV, at least in English. Coben's only previous adaptations have been in French. His 2001 hit Tell No One was adapted by Guillaume Canet as the feature film in 2006 and last year French network TF1 turned Coben's No Second Chance (2003) into a mini-series, which became the highest-rated French series in a decade.

With The Five, Coben has written his first-ever thriller directly for television. The idea and plot, which Coben originally planned to do as a novel, were fleshed out into shooting scripts together with BAFTA-winning writer Danny Brocklehurst (Shameless), who served as lead writer on The Five series.

“Danny wrote five of the 10 episodes of The Five,” says Shindler. “He'd read a Harlan Coben book before every episode to get that voice, that tone.”

“We tried to make the show as close to a novel as we could,” says Coben. “The 10 episodes are 10 chapters and there is a beginning, a middle and an end. You start with the hook of a boy disappearing and you get a real ending with this  it is almost like one of my books came to life.”

Coben said it was difficult adapting to the collaborative process of television —“As a novel writer I get a report card that says 'does not play well with others.' I'm a dictator, I'm obsessive and I'm a control freak”—and admitted to pouring over daily rushes “studying them like a rabbinical student with the Talmud.”

But, as hard as he tries, the author said he's unable to complain about the result. “I hate being so Pollyanna about this, I hate it when people say how everyone got along. It sounds so corny, and I hate hearing me say this in my own voice, but we all had the same vision, we all knew where we were going. So we all got there. There were times when what I saw on the screen was better than what I had in my head. That was the coolest part for me.”

Growing up in Livingston, New Jersey, Coben said he was raised on TV, not literature. “Oscar and Felix (The Odd Couple) were bigger to me than Milton or Keats. I always had a fascination (with TV).” But he says it wasn't until the start of TV's golden age when he thought he could find his own place in it.

“Shows like Lost, Breaking Bad, Sopranos, Six Feet Under were the start of it, where people were telling these majestic stories. I had nothing against the earlier shows, the crime-and-out stories, I grew up with them. But they didn't hold as much interest for me.”

Now that he's had a taste, however, Coben is not looking back. In addition to the planned second season of The Five, Final Twist is in development on a series adaptation of Coben's 2013 novel Six Years. It is planned as the banner's first project together with French group Studiocanal, who have a minority stake in the company

The book tells the story of Jake, a college professor who, six years ago, lost the love of his life to another man. When that man is murdered, Jake goes to the funeral, only to find that the grieving widow is not his ex-girlfriend. Setting out to find the truth, he uncovers secrets that put his life at risk.

“But we don't want to do a straight adaptation, we see the novel as the seed for the series,” says Coben. “For No Second Chance, we changed the lead character from male to female, I think I need to come at things from a different angle to make it interesting.”