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David Simon CIA Series Rejected?

By Jef Dinsmore on May 3, 2014 to HBO News

DavidSimon CIA

IndieWire has a report out from the Tribeca Film Festival that David Simon, who just concluded TREME last year for HBO, will not be going forward with his CIA series. The concept, that has been in development for quite a while now, is LEGACY OF ASHES by Tim Weiner; it is a history of the Central Intelligence Agency.  During a panel discussion held at the festival Mr. Simon let forth some information of interest to HBO fans regarding this project. He stated –

“I’ve got a story that I’d love to do which I’ve been working on for eight or nine years, which is the history of the CIA, which would basically be America’s foreign policy footprint.”

 “But it’s 70 years of period-piece filming, it’s all over the world, there’s a lot of CGI. Scene I, Act I is Berlin after the war, in total wreckage. And HBO goes, ‘Listen, it was all fun when we were giving him $20 million and he was making THE WIRE and no one was watching, but do you take us for fools?’ They’re looking at what the plausible revenue stream [would be] with all the downloads and BitTorrent. The window of this Golden Age of Television might have a point where it snaps shut on your fingers, because we’re talking like a Hollywood studio. ‘Can we get James Franco? If we get James Franco, you can make it.”

 I have to second the opinion of my source and say that that is a downer. HBO won’t sink money into this project because Mr. Simon has been known to generate low viewer loyalty to his works. That is a fact we cannot dispute, THE WIRE and TREME were not big numbers for the channel. David Simon could shop it elsewhere but we want him at HBO, don’t we? If the CIA project doesn’t come to fruition then, how about entertaining another option? This writer hopes they don’t scare him away from Home Box Office altogether. Do you agree?    


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  • http://ciangaffney.wordpress.com/ Cian Gaffney

    Goddammit! This makes complete sense on a funding/viewership level, but it’s so incredibly disappointing also.

  • Ryo Shenmue

    David Simon pitched five different scripts to HBO. This was the one he wanted to do more than the others. He can’t bring it anywhere else because he still has a development deal with HBO. I hope he’ll be able to do it, otherwise there are other four possibilities.

  • Weds

    If the execs at HBO don’t reconsider on this project, then I would hope that Simon has something a little less production intensive (expensive) in the works that he can shop to them. I’d hate to see a great talent like David Simon go anywhere else, as I’d imagine that the experience could push him away from television for good.

    Maybe his planned mini-series based on the novel “Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase For Lincoln’s Killer” could be green-lit instead. It’d be still an expensive project, but finite, and guaranteed to pull in a decent number of viewers based on the subject matter alone.

    Still, there’s the mini-series about Martin Luther King, Jr. that is supposedly in the works that Simon and Oprah Winfrey are developing, so we have that to look forward to (assuming it goes forward; having Oprah involved might be the push it needs).

  • Paq

    Hope they’ll find a way to make it happen. But were they serious when they said that it’ll pass if James Franco joins in? I have no problem with James Franco, but thought it was a little weird. Probably since they would secure more viewers with a big Hollywood star, but nonetheless very specific.

    • theo

      Read carefully. Apparently they said they will pass if Franco DOESN’T join in. Which is indeed VERY weird, since I for one didn’t know the guy became such a bankable movie star. But it was probably just an exaggeration on Simon’s part.

      And I’m sorry but I don’t buy the thing about the downloads and BitTorrent for a second. Sure, the industry is affected by illegal downloads but I think it’s pretty clear that TV shows can survive just fine even considering that. Like the article says the problem is that HBO thinks Simon’s shows don’t make enough money. And let me say that’s a f***g retarded reasoning. Why did they greenlit Game of Thrones then? -they didn’t know they will make tons of money from a fantasy show.

      • http://hbowatch.com/ Jacob Klein

        Im pretty sure he was joking about Franco..
        Just making a point about how big stars and certain money can tip the scales in a risky, big project like this.

  • http://hbowatch.com/ Jacob Klein

    I’d love to see David Simon do a period drama on HBO. Just need to find the right story at a budget that isn’t GAME OF THRONES sized or scope. Honestly I think the wire would be more appreciated today with the Internet and buzz generation machine. Not to mention the awards….

    • Ryo Shenmue

      No, The Wire would never win any awards and David Simon himself explained why a few years ago. If i remember correctly, he explained that in an interview just before the start of the 5th season. It wouldn’t be more appreciated either, simply because today’s audiences are stupid, they just watch anything and rate anything as “the best show ever made”. You should all read a great article written by a guy, whose name i don’t recall at the moment, that talks about the differences between the audiences of the CW nowadays compared to the audiences of the WB 12-15 years ago(the article it’s called The WB: The network for smart teenagers). The Wire is art and art doesn’t get success or immediate praise, like Stanley Kubrick’s films or Andrei Tarkovskij’s films. If we look back at the history of TV, the only two true masterpieces that obtain both success in terms of ratings, awards and critics are The X-Files and The Sopranos. Most of the great art tv-series never had big ratings, big buzz, awards or anything else and most of them were all cancelled(Millennium, Deadwood, Carnivàle, Rome, Veronica Mars), the only exceptions are Six Feet Under, OZ and Homicide. Every time a new series comes up, i look on metacritic or similar websites to see the reviews just for fun and they’re always incredibly high. 87 – 95 – 98 – 85 – 90 – 93….and then i watch the pilot or the premiere and they pretty much suck. They’re nothing that i’ve never seen before. As Chris Carter said: “The internet became more mature over the years…and yet, there’s still a lot of immaturity on the internet”.

      • http://hbowatch.com/ Jacob Klein

        It’s just a reflection of society. People can go to whatever level they want to at this point. There are more choices. Stupid people who like shitty content just have a place to go now. But HBO is stronger than ever in terms of quality content and I think a lot of its audience reflects that. Much like the music industry we’re all just lost in our own, very specific tastes that can be catered to precisely by all this content available.

        • Ryo Shenmue

          How can HBO be stronger than ever in terms of quality content if they have no quality content at all? Between 1997(when OZ was born) and 2008(when The Wire ended) they produced new, courageous and meaningful art series. Now they only produce crowd pleasers, viewer friendly crap that can sell. Game of Thrones has been embarrassing from season 2 until now and even with the first season it didn’t do anything new or particularly good. It doesn’t mean anything, it doesn’t make you think about anything and has one of the worst characters development in TV-history. Girls is one of the worst cable series ever. True Detective is incredibly overrated. It’s a series that wants to be like Millennium but doesn’t have the mind behind it to do it. The entire thing was marketed around Alexandra Daddario’s nude scene, which was the most hyped of the year. It doesn’t treat any kinds of themes(referencing the eternal recurrence is useless if you don’t actually explore the theme itself). Boardwalk Empire is very very bad, it wanted to be “The Sopranos meets Deadwood” but never knew how…not to mention that there’s no point in wanting to be The Sopranos or Deadwood when they have already been made. Silicon Valley is very funny but doesn’t really say anything about anything(at least Entourage explored the Hollywood industry in brilliant, funny and realistic ways). Since 2008, the only quality products that HBO has produced have been Treme and Luck. One had no viewers and the other has been cancelled by its own creators because horses were dying. HBO died a long time ago. Luckily, David Simon seems to be with me on this.



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