Wednesday, April 6, 2011

TV Gig

John McFetridge

A while ago I mentioned I was interviewing for a TV writing job and now I’m happy to report that I’ve just signed on to co-write the pilot episode of a new TV cop show. There’s a long way to go for it to become a series, but this is very exciting.

The show is going to be about narcotics cops in Toronto. It’s going to be on the CTV network (if it gets that far) and they’ve asked for it to be very episodic. This presents some real challenges for a show about narcotics cops.

Most network TV cop shows are about homicide cops – the shows often start with the discovery of a murder victim and the the next hour is finding out who the murderer is and then arresting them. So, it’s usually of a closed story.

With narcotics investigations the beginning and end aren’t so clear and the arrest is often not so satisfying as it’s usually just one link in a chain and often one that can be easily replaced. Something that was so well done on The Wire, but that was a very serialized show.

So, we’ve got some challenges ahead.

There have been a few TV shows about narcotics cops – The Mod Squad, Miami Vice, The Nasty Boys (I have to admit I’d never heard of this one about the Las Vegas narcotics squad).

Not that I’m asking you to do my work for me, but really, I need all the help I can get, so, what are your favourite TV shows about narcotics cops? What did they do well and what would you like to see in a cop show about narcotics cops?


Paul D Brazill said...

Well, as much as I like Miami Vice, it was more about '80s pop art and quirky cameos than the stories. The Mod Squad was about shirts and hairstyles and I've also never heard of the Nasty Boys!

And I can't think of any others. But I suppose the duel life of the undercover cop is always the main thing.

Naomi Johnson said...

I loved Miami Vice. It made the world they worked in look dangerously glamorous, instead of seedy. But I'm not sure that would fly with today's audiences.

Dana King said...

Congratulations on the new gig.

I don;t have any good suggestions for you along the way of narcotic cop shows. Look on the bright side: you have no footsteps to follow in or trip over. You are free of the creative shackles that might be imposed on you through expectation you had no part in creating.

(Sorry. Been watching a lot of DEADWOOD lately.)

Brian Lindenmuth said...

I'm just going to riff.

Low level/street level narcotics work is all very local and immediate and therefore more contained and I would think episodic. Individual cases with the bureaucratic eye willfully unaware or just ignorant of the larger connections.

Robberies with a root in scoring could be a case of the week. The world of Pawn shops.

A focus on the cops, their lives and their interactions with each other lends itself to a more episodic nature. Especially if you concede that narco cases often overlap with other divisions (homicide, robbery, etc)

An undercover narco cop story line could be episodic in nature.

Some side thoughts:

Maybe a way to bridge the gap between episodic and serialized would be two and three part story arcs.

If I assume that the "typical" formula for episodic tv is standalone episodes mixed with episodes that push a larger story arc forward that lends itself to the connectivity of drug cases.

Steve Weddle said...

great news
you should watch Adam-12

pattinase (abbott) said...

Great news, John. I couldn't tell you which ones were exclusively about narcotics cops, but I liked HOMICIDE, THE WIRE, MIAMI VICE, THE SHIELD, JUSTIFIED BEACON HILL BLUES, NYPD all the usual suspects.

Sean Patrick Reardon said...

Big time congrats John! I loved Miami Vice, although it kind of jumped the shark toward the end. I got to think about your question some more. I'll take narcotics cops over homicide any day. I would think it's your job to come up with something that hasn't been done before or do it differently. Your novels and stories are full of great material.

seana graham said...

Congratulations! Sounds very exciting and challenging.

You know there is that subplot in Breaking Bad about the brother-in-law cop and he's a narcotics guy. Maybe his role would have some clues for you. It might be that there is some overarching drug lord that they're trying to get to, and the episodes would be more about taking down the little guys first.

Good luck!

John McFetridge said...

Thanks for the input everybody, I appreciate it.

We had a meeting with the network deveopment guy yesterday and he told us they wanted stuff that was, "Completely new, never seen before," and then gave us a lot of restrictions about characters, language, plot, endings and so on.

This is going to be interesting...

Bryon Quertermous said...

Holy crap, NASTY BOYS was awesome. It had the great song by Janet Jackson and was nothing but these guys dressed in black fatigues and ski masks driving around Vegas kicking down doors and shooting people. It was one of the first shows that started breaking me off of SciFi and into crime.

Congrats on the gig.