Lifetime isn't done mining popular book series from yesteryear for original projects. Except in the case of Jean Auel's Clan of the Cave Bear series, the story is being developed for a TV pilot rather than a TV movie. The project is set up as a co-production for Lionsgate and Fox 21, in association with Imagine Television. Ron Howard, Brian Grazer and Allison Shearmur are set to executive produce, with Linda Woolverton to write the pilot. Lifetime has its eye on a 2015 launch for this potential series.
Those who've read The Clan of the Cave Bear and the books that follow might be torn between excitement and curiosity over the fact that this project is in the works, wondering how it could be made into a TV series. For those who haven't read the books, the story is set 25,000 years ago, during the era of Neanderthals and the very first early modern humans co-existed together. The story introduces us to Ayla, a little girl who gets separated from her people during an earthquake and is adopted by a cave-dwelling tribe that calls themselves the Clan. To the Clan, Ayla is one of the "Others," the more modern people who have begun to populate the planet. The first book focuses on Ayla's early years as she's raised by this tribe of people and is constantly trying to adapt to their ways, though she's very different from them, both in her appearance and mental abilities.
If Clan of the Cave Bear has anything in common with Flowers in the Attic, besides getting the Lifetime treatment, it's that it was also made into a movie back in the 80s, and the film paled by comparison to its source material (to put it gently). Daryl Hannah starred as Ayla in the original Clan adaptation.
In fairness to Clan of the Cave Bear, it's a tricky story to bring to the screen, likely due to the fact that Clan people speak with grunts and hand gestures. While that works fine for a book, it'd be a challenge to make work on screen. So either the Lifetime adaptation will have to skip that part of Auel's story, or we're in for a lot of subtitles if this pilot goes to series.
But that brings us to another question: Are they aiming to stick to the book and tell the story as Auel did with her books, starting with Ayla's childhood and working their way toward her adulthood? Or will the series jump past (or move quickly through) Ayla's early years and bring her straight to young adulthood? Lifetime doesn't offer any specifics there, but they do describe The Clan of the Cave Bear (the book) as follows:
The first book of Auel’s Earth’s Children® series, The Clan of the Cave Bear takes place at a time in prehistory more than 25,000 years ago when Neanderthals shared the Earth with the first early modern humans and a band of cave dwellers adopt blond and blue-eyed Ayla, a child of the “Others.” As Ayla matures into a young woman of spirit and courage, she must fight for survival against the jealous bigotry of Broud, who will one day be clan leader.
That leaves me to wonder if maybe the focus of this project would be on Ayla as a young adult. With everything that takes place in the first book, it's not difficult to imagine a full season focused on Ayla's life with the Clan. But stepping back and looking at the series as a whole, Ayla's time with the Clan is crucial to who she becomes as a person, but the bigger story is what transpires after. So I'm really curious to know what the longterm plan would be and how closely the adaptation will aim to stick to the timeline.
We can only speculate for now, though we may know more once casting for the pilot ensues. In the meantime, we'll remain tentatively optimistic and hopeful that things work out for the pilot and Lifetime orders it to series.
While we wait for more news on the Clan of the Cave Bear pilot, Lifetime also has two more Flowers in the Attic TV movies on the way.