Ahead of this month’s debut of David Simon’s latest show for HBO, miniseries Show Me A Hero, the pay cable network has put in motion two new potential drama series from The Wire and Treme creator, giving pilot orders to dramas The Deuce starring James Franco, which is set in the Times Square demimonde of the 1970s and 1980s, and a Capitol Hill project, on which Simon is collaborating with veteran journalist Carl Bernstein of Watergate fame. The pilots are set to film over the next year. It is unclear whether at least one is guaranteed to go to series, but, given Simon’s track record at HBO, that appears likely.
The pilots extends HBO’s 17-year collaboration with Simon and his Blown Deadline Productions. “We are thrilled to continue our longstanding relationship with preeminent producer David Simon, whose keen eye and visceral perspective on today’s socio-economic ills have set him apart from all others,” said HBO programming president Michael Lombardo. “No one else creates with such authenticity, integrity and brilliant realism.”
Written by Simon and long-time collaborator George Pelecanos and directed by Michelle MacLaren (Breaking Bad), The Deuce, which had been in development for awhile, will be the first to go into production in New York this October. Named for 42nd Street, it follows the story of the legalization and subsequent rise of the porn industry in New York from the early 1970s through the mid-1980s, exploring the rough-and-tumble world that existed in midtown Manhattan until the rise of HIV, the violence of the cocaine epidemic and the renewed real estate market all ended the bawdy turbulence.
The Deuce was inspired in part by the career of twin brothers who were players in the Times Square world and became fronts for Mob control of the volatile and lucrative sex industry from its origins. Both will be played by Franco.
“We’re interested in what it means when profit is the primary metric for what we call society,” said Simon. “In that sense, this story is intended as neither prurient nor puritan. It’s about a product, and those human beings who created, sold, profited from and suffered with that product.”
The pilot script is by Simon and Pelecanos, with Richard Price (The Color of Money) also credited on subsequent scripts. Simon, Pelecanos, Price, MacLaren and Franco will serve as executive producers, along with longtime Simon collaborator Nina K. Noble. Marc Henry Johnson (A Huey P. Newton Story), who was instrumental in documenting the story, is a producer.
“With The Deuce, I’m pleased to continue a creative collaboration with David Simon and Nina Noble that goes back nearly 15 years, from The Wire through Treme,” says Pelecanos. “Porn, prostitution, pimps, the Mob, after-hours nightlife, institutional corruption, and New York in its Wild West heyday…it’s a world rich in character, and a fascinating story we’re eager to tell.”
Set in the present-day world of Capitol Hill, the second pilot is described as a detailed examination of partisanship and the influence of money on national governance. Along with Simon and Bernstein, also attached to the project are Ed Burns, Simon’s co-writer and producer on The Wire, William F. Zorzi, former Baltimore Sun political writer who collaborated with Simon on Show Me a Hero, and Noble.
In addition to Show Me a Hero, The Wire and Treme, which he co-created, Simon, a former Baltimore newspaperman, also wrote miniseries The Corner and Generation Kill for HBO.
Giving a creator/filmmaker two simultaneous pilot orders is rare. HBO recently did it with David Fincher for Videosyncrazy and Utopia, the first of which has gone to series but both projects are on hold at the moment.
Franco next is starring in the Hulu limited series 11/22/63.