UPDATED: Apple will not be proceeding with its planned eight-episode drama series Bastards, starring Richard Gere based on the Israeli format Nevelot. The project, from Howard Gordon and Warren Leight, hails from Fox 21 Television Studios, Gordon’s 20th TV-based Teakwood Lane Productions and Keshet Studios.
I hear the decision was made several months ago, and Fox 21 had shopped the project to other networks.
The series, about two Army vets going on a killing spree to avenge the death of a loved one, had been an outlier at Apple from the get-go, considered darker in tone and edgier in subject matter than most of the rest of the streamer’s slate.
For a couple of years now, there had been talk about Apple’s family-oriented global brand and how its original scripted programming foray would fit into it. Disney had been open about only putting family-friendly fare on Disney+. If a series evolved in a direction where it became too adult or dark, the streamer would not proceed with it. That was the case with the High Fidelity reboot, which moved to Hulu.
Meanwhile, Apple, like most Silicon Valley companies who are closely guarding information, has been notoriously secretive about its programming strategy. There had been chatter about a focus on family or aspirational programming, which had been supported by anecdotal evidence: the fact that Dr. Dre’s series Vital Signs, commissioned before Apple officially entered the original scripted arena, was reportedly shelved over graphic content, and one of Apple’s first officially announced scripted shows, an Amazing Stories reboot, saw its original writer exit, allegedly in part over the series being steered into PG-13 territory.
While Apple TV+ brass had been quoted as saying that they would not go for gratuitous sex and violence, I hear they had put the emphasis less on aspirational and more on emotionally-charged programming.
Indeed, Apple TV+ bosses have embraced edgier content, with one of the streamer’s first series to come out, Morning Show, starring Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carell, veering into dark territory and featuring F-bombs in its dialogue. I hear that also was the case with Bastards, which Apple landed in a competitive situation almost a year ago. The original series was violent, so Apple’s commitment to the adaptation raised eyebrows when it was first announced last December.
Yet, I hear that Apple programming executives were on board with the producers’ original vision for the series, but that started to change once scripts started to come in. I hear there was an attempt to shift the series’ creative direction toward the initial pitch, which the creative team was not willing to do, leading to Apple pulling the plug on the series, a move that was accompanied by a penalty payable to the studio.
The news comes amid persistent chatter over the past month about a possible examination of Apple’s scripted slate by company toppers in Cupertino. However, sources I spoke with dispute that. Bastards is believed to be the only series put in turnaround.
Written by Gordon and showrun by Gordon and Leight, Bastards, whose shelving was first reported by THR, centers on two elderly Vietnam vets and best friends — one of whom is played by Gere — who find their monotonous lives upended when a woman they both loved 50 years ago is killed by a car. Their lifelong regrets and secrets collide with their resentment of today’s self-absorbed millennials, and an act of self-defense snowballs into a tragic series of events.
Executive producing the series are Gordon, Leight, Gere, Dror Sabo, Lee Yardeni, Avi Nir, Alon Shtruzman, Rachel Kaplan, Peter Traugott, Yoram Mokady and Mirit Toovi.
Nevelot (Hebrew for Bastards) was created by Sabo with Daphna Levin and Yardeni. Produced for the Israeli cable network HOT, the 2010 series was based on Yoram Kaniuk’s novel Nevelot.
An U.S version had been previously set up for development at HBO in 2015 with a different creative team — Sony TV, Happy Madison, Alan Poul and playwright Branden Jacobs Jenkins. It did not go forward.
Gere recently starred in his first major TV series role on BBC’s MotherFatherSon.