Quinn Taylor’s recent arrival as NBC’s longform programming chief is already paying off in strange ways, and none of them are particularly original. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the network has ordered limited series focusing on Hillary Clinton and the pilgrims, plus two miniseries updates to Stephen King’s The Tommyknockers and Rosemary’s Baby. The latter was enough to make me literally utter, “Egad,” under my breath. Already, the phrase “event series” has grown old, since nothing that starts off popular stays very limited now that longevity controls the market. But at least these are four stories with definitive beginnings and endings embedded within them. That’s hardly a silver lining though.
Let’s tackle this in order of historical importance combined with inspirational sources. Bob Greenblatt, NBC Entertainment chairman, gave the news at Saturday’s Television Critics Association supper press tour, and he credited CBS’ Nina Tassler for having turned this summer into a ratings bonanza with Under the Dome, and Quinn oversaw the King adaptation of ABC’s Rose Red back in 2002. So what better place to start than remaking The Tommyknockers, an alien-tinged slow burn of horror that was originally brought to TV as a terrible 1993 CBS miniseries. It already has a director in Yves Simoneau, who won a Primetime Emmy in 2007 for the HBO miniseries Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. While not necessary, this will at least update something that wasn’t a success the first time, and I’m looking forward to it.
Something I’m less interested in is the network’s four-hour reworking of Ira Levin’s novel Rosemary’s Baby, which was already adapted nearly perfectly by Roman Polanski in 1968. It will be a modernized take on the material, and will feature a Paris setting. There has been an abundance of Satan-centered horrors with all of the possession flicks out there, and the material was already used to absurd ends with the first season of American Horror Story. Queen of the Damned screenwriter Scott Abbott will be writing it.
Hillary will cover the years of Clinton’s life from 1998 up until the present, focusing on her roles as a wife, mother, First Lady and cabinet member. This project will be written and directed by Courtney Hunt, who was nominated for an Oscar for 2008’s Frozen River. Casting for husband Bill has yet to begin, and the miniseries is supposed to lead up to her presumed future run for President. Greenblatt admits this could possibly air before she declares her candidacy, so this project isn’t only uncomfortably modern for a biopic, but it will cover ground that hasn’t happened yet. Network politics has never been so post-modern. Somehow I doubt Hillary will carry the same political undertones of shows such as 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation.
Finally, Emmy and Oscar-winner Walon Green (NYPD Blue,The Hellstrom Chronicles) will spend a few hours compacting the journey across the Atlantic Ocean taken on by the Pilgrims in the limited series Plymouth. This could be pretty epic, all things considered, though I’m certain the historical liberties NBC takes will be pretty extraordinary and uncomfortable.
These four series join NBC’s plan to bring Cleopatra’s story back to prime time, as well as A.D.: Beyond the Bible, the network’s sequel to The History Channel’s ratings-gainer The Bible.
Of course, there are no guarantees that all of these will make it to air, but they exemplify NBC’s urge to follow in the paths of others by nabbing A-list actors who won’t mind committing to smaller projects. Better late than never, right?