Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Fur is big. Bill Clark is big. Deadwood may be small.

In case you missed it on the comments to the "John From Cincy" finale post, HBO has, not surprisingly, pulled the plug on the adventures of Butchie, Cissy, Freddy, Palaka-y and the rest. Meanwhile, HBO has signed David Milch to a development deal.

But even though Milch is both freed from "John" and signed to stay with HBO, I don't think the "Deadwood" reunion movies are any closer to reality. This story in Variety says that the first project he hopes to work on is another Bill Clark-inspired cop show, this one a period piece based on Bill's experiences coming home from Vietnam and being recruited by the NYPD to go undercover in the anti-war movement of the early '70s. It's an idea Milch has had in his head for a while (I remember him telling me about it shortly after the first season of "Deadwood" ended), and the premise is far enough removed from "NYPD Blue" that it wouldn't feel like a retread. (Plus, Milch's writing style has changed quite a bit since those days.)

As for the "Deadwood" movies, I just think there are too many logistical hurdles for them to ever happen. The cast is huge, and while "John" showed that Milch can get a lot of the supporting players if he wants them, Ian McShane has been working non-stop since "Deadwood" ended, Molly Parker's committed to a new series (CBS' "Swingtown," though who knows how long that'll last), Tim Olyphant seems focused on his suddenly-thriving movie career, etc. Finding a window when all of these people will be available, not to mention reconstructing all the sets that were dismantled and/or sold, just seems impossible to me.

I've said before and will say again that "John" shouldn't take the blame for the demise of "Deadwood," as it was really HBO's alibi for cancelling an acclaimed but prohibitively expensive show. ("You see, we would've loved to keep 'Deadwood' around forever, but David had this idea about surfers, and he was really excited, so...") But once they let all the actors out of their contracts, that effectively killed any future movie prospects. This isn't the kind of thing where Milch can grab three actors and film it in his basement, you know?

Over at Time, James Poniewozik thinks he'd rather see Milch do something new, anyway, and I can see some merit to that. Even though it wasn't intended that way, the season three finale worked surprisingly well as a series ender, I thought. I would never object to more Al Swearengen, but I don't think we're ever going to get it, and I'm okay with that.

24 comments:

Figgsrock2 said...

So Alan, do you think FOTC will get picked up by HBO? Or will they just ax everything they launched this summer?

Alan Sepinwall said...

I hope not. I'm doing a Conchords feature for tomorrow, writing up the interview I did with Bret and Jemaine at press tour, and I'm going to argue for its future.

TuckPendleton said...

Alan -- any chance of getting any interview with Milch to see where things might have gone with JFC?

Anonymous said...

A poster over at Aint it Cool is SWEARING that HBO told the John cast and crew the show was being picked up for a second season and that lots of the actors turned down other work and are now majorly pissed that HBO has changed their mind. Do you know if this is true?

Anonymous said...

HBO made a good decision in keeping Milch. The Vietnam veteran to NYC undercover cop thing has the chance to be a mainstream hit. It's a much easier story for most people to get into than JFC. And given the current war in Iraq it will share some resembalance to the anti-war movement and that should make for some good discussion and give the show a little built in buzz.

I'm kind of suprised to say it, but I'm actually glad that we got 1 season of JFC rather than the 4th season of Deadwood. There were several great performances,it was original, and the examination of faith and redempton was well executed.. The finale was incredible and it gave enough closure that I'm not upset that it was cancelled. There were three great seasons of Deadwood and if your curious about the fate of the real-life characters you can look it up online.

Alan did the HBO execs ever say anything about what changed from the creation of JFC till it went on air? It just kind of seemed that Milch and HBO weren't on the same page. I can't see anyone viewing the first few episodes and expecting it to be anything more than a cult show.

dez said...

I wonder if Conchords' ratings would have been better if it had been paired with Curb Your Enthusiasm instead of Entourage? At any rate, I hope it's picked up for a second season (and beyond!).

Undercover Black Man said...

Indeed, Alan, Milch was talking about the Bill Clark undercover project way back in the mid-'90s. Specifically, Bill Clark was undercover with the Black Panthers, which always blew my mind. He knew Afeni Shakur (Tupac's mom).

No, Bill didn't accomplish this with blackface makeup... but I guess the BPP had a lot of long-haired Communistic white-boy groupies.

Gish said...

If you remember correctly, this was Andy Sipowicz' back story. He mentioned it a couple of times while trying to explain why he can't get over his racist tendencies. Apparently he was not treated very well by the Black Panthers and he couldn't defend himself without blowing his cover. I'd love to see Milch do this next, but it has been on my development sheet for five years.

BigTed said...

If this new series comes out at the same time as David E. Kelley's version of "Life on Mars," we'll once again have two similar series concepts competing against each other -- in this case, police shows set in the gritty '70s. It may not matter, since one will be on HBO. But often in these situations ("Studio 60" vs. "30 Rock," for instance), one survives and the other doesn't.

Gish said...

I can't imagine the Bill Clark project being anything like Life on Mars. Mars is a gimmicky show where a modern day detective wakes up in the 70's. It's kind of gritty, but mostly for the benefit of the transported cop to react to how different things were. I also don't expect that to ever get made. Kelley's script didn't change a thing from the British series and they couldn't get a director last time.

Ty Keenan said...

As someone who wasn't old enough to watch or appreciate NYPD Blue during the Milch years, could someone briefly describe the writing/storytelling style to me? Was it pretty normal with occasional Milchian strokes? I'm trying to decide if I should watch them (and what seasons were they, anyway)? Thanks much.

Andrew said...

I'm not certain since I didn't watch the show, but I believe Milch was in charge of NYPD Blue for its first seven seasons.

Gish said...

Ty,

You absolutely should watch them. You will recognize Milch's rhythms all over the early seasons. Those seasons are the reason I am working in television now. I believe Alan used to write extensively about NYPD Blue, hopefully someone has a link?

Dark Tyler said...

Yeah, the link is under his profile on the main page. I actually love what he's done with these recaps, I've used them as companion pieces to the actual episodes of the first four seasons I've watched.

Now, if Fox would be as kind to release the next 3 seasons...? (These episodes are damn hard to find. Not even eMule was helpful. I'm afraid I'll die not having seen all of Milch's NYPD seasons.)

Ty Keenan said...

Thanks for the help, guys. I guess I'll have to put it on the watch list, although who knows when I'll get to all that stuff.

BigTed said...

Gish, it certainly sounds as if "Life on Mars" is a go. They just hired Jason O'Mara and Colm Meaney to play the leads.

Gish said...

Bigted,

I saw that about an hour after I posted. They had O'Mara since fall, but I do believe they will film it this time. I just don't know how you sustain that premise for very long. By the end of the first US season, you will have eight more episodes then the entire series run in the UK.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Ty, if you're still reading these comments, I'd suggest sticking with seasons 1-3. (1 & 3 especially, but 2's important in that it transitions from Caruso to Smits.) There's some great stuff in the later seasons, but far less frequently.

drake leLane said...

There's another piece in Variety (from one of their blogs) that interviews Milch about JFC and it answers a lot of questions about the series.

Milch, though, ended the interview with a statement about Deadwood that seemed to need a follow-up question:

"I wrote (Deadwood's") Al Swearingen for Ed (O'Neill)...If he'd had that part the show would still be running."

Alan Sepinwall said...

Thanks for the pointer, Drake. I think the O'Neill as Swearengen quote is just Milch's bitterness that HBO wouldn't let him cast O'Neill in the part (they thought he'd be too identifiable as Al Bundy for people to take him seriously).

Dark Tyler said...

Wow, never knew that. Bill O'Neill was a true revelation in "John", and while Ian McShane is still a God, I really can't wait for the next part Milch offers Al Bundy. (Maybe the precinct's Captain in the new Bill Clark show? Anyone?)

dez said...

From the Milch interview: **Don't read too much into the characters' names. When I mentioned that Linc's pivotal role in the finale made it clear that Luke Perry's character was "aptly named," Milch said think again. "I don't work that way. I give characters a chance to pick their names."

Gotta say that sounds a bit disingenuous, especially with a character named "John Monad."

Ty Keenan said...

Thanks for the tip, Alan. Having to watch three seasons is a lot less daunting than having to watch seven.

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