HBO News Blog

Development Slate: Ryan Murphy’s OPEN; THE LEFTOVERS and More

By Jef Dinsmore on May 9, 2013 to HBO News

dev-logoThis writer is back with quite a bit of development news from the HBO front. I have enough information actually to warrant two separate posts. These topics range from the greenlighting of new productions and signing on of staff and casts to works we have already mentioned. I must admit it is fun wading through all the potential projects that HBO is either pondering and/or actually committing to film. Let’s see if you like any of the works reported here.


  •  Ryan Murphy’s OPEN goes to Pilot

Ryan Murphy, the creator of Glee for Fox and American Horror Story for FX is about to share his talents with Warner Bros. He is now creating a relationship drama for HBO entitled OPEN. This is in addition to the HBO Film we have previously mentioned called THE NORMAL HEART.

OPEN is stated to be a multi-character exploration of the complex, ever-evolving landscape of sexuality, monogamy and intimacy in relationships. Assisting Murphy in the creation of the piece is Lauren Gussis from Dexter. They both will share Murphy_HBOproducing and writing responsibilities. OPEN is said to be a bold and edgy examination of our intimate feelings and expression. In that regard it is similar to HBO’s other foray into the specifics of intimacy with the controversial show TELL ME YOU LOVE ME from 2007. OPEN will revolve around five lead characters, including a married couple in their 30’s, the husband’s male co-worker and a woman in her 40s who is a yoga professional. It has already been ordered to pilot with casting shaping up now. Filming is said to start this fall.

While we are talking Murphy, his other project for HBO, HBO Films THE NORMAL HEART is shaping up. HBOWatch has kept a track of this film in three different posts to date (11.12; 01.13 and 03.13). THE LATEST NEWS: Just added to the cast are Jonathan Groff and Joe Montello plus, it has just been announced that filming will begin starting this June. There will be more on Murphy’s contributions to HBO in the months ahead.


  • John Legend brings DOWN LO to HBO JohnLegend_DownLo

HBO heads to Miami, Florida’s South Beach with a development deal they recently optioned. They picked up the deal from artist John Legend. The singer-songwriter (pictured) is starting to dabble into TV production and as created DOWN LO with production partner Tony Krantz. The work is called an edgy ensemble drama that explores the intersection of three worlds — the world of sports, fashion and music. South Beach has a hot mix of each as the city lights up nights as party central for big money players, seductive women and those looking for fast action of all kinds.

Think of it perhaps as 80’s Miami Vice minus Crockett and Tubbs. Plus, with John Legend behind it will surely feature the right vibe, sight and sounds to make it a unique part of HBO’s line-up if it happens.



Yet another HBthemanWhoWalked_bookO Film is lining up and this one is a big worldwide true life adventure! One that, if you never heard the story, is amazing. The simple facts are that David & John Kunst left their house in Waseca, Minnesota heading East in the summer of 1970 and David arrived back at his doorstep in October of 1974 from the west. The result was a walk around the world.

Amazing, right? Writing and directing of the story, adapted from a book by David Kunst and Clinton
Towbridge, will be done by Robert Connolly. He is a well honored director for films out of his native Australia. The work will give us background on the brothers, the plan, the route they traversed and why sibling John did not complete the on-foot trek and was actually replaced by yet another brother (Pete
Kunst) to complete the journey. That makes David Kunst the only one distinguished as THE MAN WHO WALKED AROUND THE WORD. It sounds like it could a fun and inspiring film for HBO.


  • Ben Wheatley Thriller to HBOBenWheatly_thiller

The concept is entitled SILK ROAD and very little is known about the piece except that it is said to be reminiscent of the 1960’s program The Prisoner. The younger generations might not know anything about that old show but, if SILK ROAD goes anywhere on HBO we will be sure to fill you in on the correlation between he shows as more news comes forth.

The British filmmaker, Ben Wheatly, behind such independent films as Down Terrace and ultra-violent Kill List will write, executive produce and direct this new original concept. It is speculated, being marked a thriller, that the work will be about the danger surrounding the online black market as opposed to the aged trade routes established throughout Asia. However, the format of either being a series  or miniseries has not been determined or announced. We will see what develops.


  • Peter Berg to Direct THE LEFTOVERS

 PeterBerg_leftoversWe have been giving you bits of development news on THE LEFTOVERS  and it is moving forward now with a director attached. Peter Berg, director for such shows as Chicago Hope and Friday Night Lights, will helm the pilot for the potential series and will likely direct a number of episodes if the concept is actualized. In addition to the directing duties Berg, with his producing partner, Sarah Aubrey will serve as executive producers along with Damon Lindelof and Tom Perrotta. Perrotta is the author of the novel the series is based on.

HBOWatch will keep a track of this one and see if the aftermath of The Rapture gets told on HBO or not.


  • HBO’s THE MISSIONARY adds Gayle Rankin & Jesse Plemons.

 Another potential work we have reported on is THE MISSIONARY. It is a Cold War spy drama that interests this writer.  We already know that  Plemons_Leftoversgaylerankin_MissonaryBenjamin Walker has the lead getting involved in espionage in East Berlin. Joining him is Jesse Plemons and Galyle Rankin.

They play Sherwood and Molly Elbridge in the potential series. He is described as “a young Coca-Cola executive who helps smuggle defectors out of the Eastern Bloc.” She “appears to be the traditional, religious wife of Sherwood and one with an affectionately exasperated relationship to her preacher, who is played by Walker. Plemons might be recognized from Friday Night Lights ; she is not as prolific but did appear in an episode of Law & Order: SVU.

THE MISSIONARY is just one of the many possibilities that could make it on HBO. We will let you know what becomes of it.


 That is clearly enough speculation to ponder, isn’t it? As we keep track of these projects some will fall away as HBO passes on them and others will move forward and eventually be a part of the line-up in 2014 and beyond. It is an ongoing story we will do our best to keep track of via Development Slate.

  • April Murk

    I will watch anything Murphy touches (yes, that includes Glee…go ahead…judge’s ok) and expect that a relationship drama that he has anything to do with will be controversial. I look forward to Open as well as The Normal Heart. (What is his deal with “normal” anyway?)
    Also looking forward to checking out The Leftovers as Lindelof is somewhat of a hero of mine (LOSTie forever!) and rarely disappoints with his projects.
    Thanks for the low-down on each of these projects!!

  • I’m always skeptical about ‘relationship dramas,’ however I’ve enjoyed American Horror Story and Dexter enough to give a Murphy/Gussis collaboration a chance. (But Glee though.. ugh!) The Missionary sounds promising, as does Silk Road, I’d certainly give those a shot!

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