The career of writer-director M. Night Shyamalan has, over the past couple of decades, been a roller coaster ride of ups and downs, followed by more ups. He startled audiences, impressed critics, and filled box office coffers with his third feature, the psychological horror thriller “The Sixth Sense,” in 1999. But even though his subsequent films were risky and innovative and creepy and entertaining (“Unbreakable” and “The Happening” come to mind), and his fans never abandoned him, the lion’s share of critics lost interest, and took pleasure in deriding him and his penchant for surprise twists. Even those fans turned away for “The Last Airbender” and “After Earth.” But a career revival started taking shape with his low-budget shocker “The Visit,” and has since stayed on track, with his two most recent successes “Split” and “Glass,” both of which were tied in to the earlier “Unbreakable.” Shyamalan had a brief fling with television when he produced (and directed one episode of) the limited series “Wayward Pines” a few years ago. He’s now back in the same two roles (but directing two episodes) of the new Apple TV+ horror series “Servant,” which premieres on Nov. 28, telling the story of a Philadelphia couple - Dorothy and Sean (Lauren Ambrose and Toby Kebbell) - who, after going through the traumatic ordeal of the death of their baby, are now caught up in a decidedly strange therapy that involves substituting the baby with an unnervingly realistic doll. Though he didn’t write the (so far) 10-episode series - that was done by Tony Basgallop - Shyamalan is a very hands-on producer, and this offbeat show fits comfortably into his oeuvre of making viewers uncomfortable. He spoke about the show last week in New York. Q: What brought you back to the world of series television? A: (Producer) Jason Blumenthal had lunch with me while he was shooting a movie in Philadelphia. He said, “I think I have something for you.” But you hear this all the time. “Hi, I have a script for you.” “Yeah, OK, great. Just enjoy your burger.” But he came back to my office and gave me the pilot for “Servant.” I read it, and the premise of this woman, even in that early draft, was the main thing that got me, that she was pretending this doll was real to deal with her grief. It was so poignant and so weird, and it just felt disturbing, and she was so manic and having such a good time with this doll, that I wanted to see how the story finished. Q: That script was written by Tony Basgallop. Did you two click right away? A: Tony and I talked for a long time before I committed to it. We talked about tone, and about how we would deal with the supernatural, and how would we deal with groundedness. And we were so in alignment with certain things, like the play-like quality of the piece, and that it would all be contained (in one location). We both had those same instincts. Q: Did you feel that this show was influenced by any other films or shows? A: I’ve found some international cinema that’s dark and daring and weird in ways that maybe we’re not as comfortable with here. So there were individual movies that really interested me while we were developing and making this. There was the Fassbinder movie “Ali: Fear Eats the Soul” that I found to be so weird and poignant and beautiful, especially in the way they used colors and patterns. For instance, with Dorothy, just the colorful way she dressed. She’s so big and bright and garish, and everything’s fine, and life is just really great ... but it’s not. Something’s wrong, and you feel that kind of tension. There’s also “Rosemary’s Baby,” which had movements of contained quiet, where the door is half open, and you’re leaning in to see what’s happening. All of that. Q: The show has only four main characters (there’s also Rupert Grint as Dorothy’s shady brother and Nell Tiger Free as a nanny who is hired to care for the doll), and most of it takes place in one house. Was that a big challenge for you as a storyteller? A: I never thought of it as a challenge. We made this for very little money. Our whole show was the cost of two episodes of other people’s shows. It’s that kind of minimalism. It’s 30 minutes, it was shot in one location, it was a four-member cast - those are all opportunities to go deeper and deeper for me, so I never thought of it as a challenge. I can deal with more of the palette of performances and lighting and camera movement, which is where my interest is. If I had to direct a scene that had a thousand extras and there were seven cameras and it was “catch whatever you’re gonna catch!” … I don’t even know how to think like that. Q: What are your thoughts about what people believe make you tick, that your stuff is so disturbing? A: I have a base of crazy optimism underneath everything, I am definitely the glass is three-quarters full. So, because of that, I’m also very comfortable getting super-dark. So you feel that the person who’s telling you the story, that’s holding your hand, is saying, “Look, what we’re dealing with here is going to be hard. But at the end of the day, I believe in things, and I’m feeling pretty good about this place, this existence.” “Servant” premieres on Apple TV+ on Nov. 28. Ed Symkus writes about movies for More Content Now. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.