In The Heat Of The Night, a present-day drama series based on the Oscar-winning 1967 United Artists feature, has been put on fast-track development at Showtime.

The project, written and directed by Tate Taylor — writer and director of The Help and director of the James Brown biopic Get On Up — was put together by the Fargo team of MGM TV and producer Warren Littlefield.

I’ve learned that Showtime has ordered multiple scripts, with the idea to bypass the pilot stage and go straight to series, contingent on script approval. Described as an exploration of character and race set in modern-day Mississippi, the series is executive produced by Taylor, who hails from Mississippi; Littlefield, who, as an NBC executive, developed the movie’s previous TV series adaptation; as well as The Help’s John Norris. The Littleton Co.’s Ann Johnson will serve as producer. The 1988 adaptation of the show starred Caroll O’Connor and Howard E. Rollins Jr.

The 1967 feature, directed by Norman Jewison, broke ground when it came out as race relations were boiling over in the civil rights era. It starred Sidney Poitier as a police detective sent to investigate a murder in a small Southern town in the face of hostility from the local sheriff, played by Rod Steiger. It won five Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Steiger, with its famous slap scene, in which Poitier’s character strikes a bigot, shocking the nation and becoming an instant classic. Here it is:

The In The Heat Of The Night deal comes on the heels of Showtime’s pact to revive cult classic Twin Peaks with the series’ creators David Lynch and Mark Frost.