EXCLUSIVE: In one of the highest-profile reboots this season, CBS is looking to revive the 1960s action-adventure Western The Wild Wild West with former CSI executive producer/co-showrunner Naren Shankar and Battlestar Galactica developer/executive producer Ron Moore. The network is negotiating a deal for the project, which will be co-produced by CBS TV Studios, where Shankar is based with an overall deal, and Sony Pictures TV, where Moore is under an overall deal. The project originated at CBS TV Studios, which has the rights to the original series that ran on CBS from 1965-1969. (My new colleague Michael Ausiello broke the original story about the project when he was at EW and helped with this one too.)
Shankar and Moore are writing and executive producing the remake, which follows two Secret Service Agents who investigate federal crimes in post Civil War America. The original series, which creator Michael Garrison described as “James Bond on horseback,” was set during the presidency of Ulysses S. Grant who served from 1869-77. It centered on Secret Service agents James West, a gunslinger played by Robert Connrad, and Artemus Gordon, a gadget-maker played by Ross Martin, who traveled the country aboard their luxury train, the Wanderer, as they did missions to protect the President.
In putting together the Wild Wild West remake, CBS is taking a page from its recent successful Hawaii Five-0 reboot which also paired well-known writers with sci-fi background, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, with the co-showrunner of a CSI series, CSI:NY‘s Peter Lenkov. The Rothman Brecher Agency-repped Shankar left the mothership CSI series in April after 8 years, the last five serving as executive producer/co-showrunner alongside Carol Mendelsohn. This is Battlestar Galactica alum Moore’s second high-profile project this season. His fantasy drama 17th Precinct landed at NBC with pilot and series penalties totaling almost $2 million. He is with CAA. Wild Wild West reunites Shankar and Moore who worked together on Star Trek: The Next generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
Mounting a period drama on broadcast TV is a risky proposition as they are hard to pull off. It’s been easier on cable, with AMC’s Mad Men, HBO’s Boardwalk Empire, Showtime’s The Tudors and the upcoming The Borgias, and Starz’s Spartacus. AMC has a pilot, Hell on Wheels, which is set during the same period as Wild Wild West – it chronicles the building of the Union Pacific Railroad in the 1860s. As for reboots, Wild Wild West joins other high-profile film and series adaptations this year, including True Lies and MI-5 at ABC, Munsters at NBC, the rolled over Charlie’s Angels at ABC and Rockford Files and Prime Suspect at NBC as well as Wonder Woman and Goodfellas, which have not been set up at a network yet. This would be the second remake for the Wild Wild West series following its ill-fated big screen adaptation in 1999 starring Will Smith.
One of the signature elements of the original Wild Wild West series, which started off in black and white before converting to color in the second season, was its animated opening sequence. Watch it below.