EXCLUSIVE: Showtime’s Boston crime drama City On a Hill is the brainchild of Ben Affleck and Chuck MacLean. But MacLean, who created the series based on an original idea by Affleck, had his responsibilities on the show scaled back after last year becoming the subject of an internal investigation over alleged misconduct, Deadline has learned.
Following the inquiry, which corroborated one of the claims concerning inappropriate comments, MacLean remained on the series as a writer only for Season 2. He currently has no deal with Showtime, and his future on the show is unclear if it is renewed for a third season.
Here is a chronology of the events. After the City On a Hill pilot, written by MacLean in his TV debut, was picked up to series, Showtime brought in seasoned writer-producer Tom Fontana as executive producer/showrunner, with MacLean as a key writer/executive producer.
When production on Season 1 wrapped, an anonymous complaint against MacLean was filed with multiple allegations. It triggered an investigation by the HR department at Showtime’s then-parent CBS Corp.
City On a Hill, starring Kevin Bacon and Aldis Hodge and produced by Showtime, premiered on June 16 2019; by early August, it was renewed for a second season. “With the inspired pairing of Kevin Bacon and Aldis Hodge and the inspired writing of Tom Fontana and Chuck MacLean, we believe there is a rich future for this compelling series,” the network’s entertainment president Gary Levine said at the time.
CBS Corp. revealed the results of its investigation to the parties involved in September. In the letter, a copy of which was obtained by Deadline, then-VP Employee Relations Michael G. Roderick outlined the allegations. According to Roderick, “the complaint was thoroughly investigated by the Company” and “we were able to corroborate that inappropriate comments were made in violation of CBS policy.”
The letter went on to assure “that appropriate action has been taken in response to (the) complaint that we believe achieves this goal and addresses the conduct… At this point, we consider this matter closed.”
According to sources, the action included MacLean getting sensitivity training. Additionally, Showtime reached a decision that MacLean could no longer be on set or in post-production. He did remain a writer on the second season.
MacLean had a two-year deal for City On a Hill, sources said. The scripts for Season 2 have been written, and with that MacLean’s work on the series under his existing contract is over, we have learned. It is unclear when production on the second season will begin as Hollywood studios and unions/guilds still are hashing out safety guidelines. Because of the delay, it is also too early for a Season 3 renewal decision.
A self-described loudmouth, MacLean, who grew up in a blue-collar family in Boston’s Quincy neighborhood, often uses expletives during interviews as he talks about his hell-raising teenage years and brushes with police when he was young. In a story for the Boston Globe published in June 2019, he noted that he had mellowed over the years but shared stories about “trading insults and profane jokes with City producers Tom Fontana and Ben Affleck.”
City on a Hill is set in early 1990s Boston, when the city was rife with violent criminals emboldened by local law enforcement agencies and corruption and racism was the norm, until it suddenly all changed. The drama is a fictional account of what was called the “Boston Miracle,” the campaign that led to a dramatic reduction of the city’s number of youth homicides, told through the eyes of a cynical, corrupt FBI agent (Bacon), and an idealistic Assistant District Attorney (Hodge).