This will be a change in pace for the blogs. Over the years, I’ve had a few ideas for books/movies/tv shows/songs. I’ve never brought any of them to life—and for obvious reasons it’s too late for me to do that now. But if you’re interested…
Here’s a long form tv series idea. Long form tv is the television series that lends itself to binge watching. There are variations, but typically the show has at least four or five episodes, each usually 45 to 90 minutes long. Unlike typically episodic tv series in which each broadcast has its own beginning, middle and end, the best long form series (The Sopranos, Downton Abbey, Breaking Bad, etc.) build multiple storylines over extended periods. If Shakespeare were alive today, he’d be a show-runner for Hamlet, a 36-episode tv series that’s actually better than the play. (Bringing together music, video, writing, editing and in depth character development, long form television has clearly become our most powerful art form.)
Although this show has some commonality with 24 and Alias, it’s more realistic and a little more complicated than either. It’s somewhere in tone and style between The Sopranos and a David Fincher film like Seven.
Two reporters for a large international newspaper headquartered in New York create a regular feature called “Devils Incarnate?” It’s about controversial bigger-than-life characters around the world—the fictional equivalents of the Koch Brothers, Putin, Grover Norquest, Dick Cheney, Bernie Madoff, the young Castro, Joe Kony of LRA in Uganda, Wayne LaPierre, Whitey Bolger, Rev. Aaron Swartz of Westboro Baptist Church, Idi Amin, Pol Pot, Mugabe, OJ Simpson, slave traffickers, a KKKer with a horrible history, a serial killer who is freed on a technicality, a priest who molests boys, etc. The villains here are the worst people in the world.
The two reporters are ruthless in getting to the truth about their subjects. For this project, they report directly to the publisher of the paper, a rich old Brit (of course) who lives in Manhattan. At the end of their reporting, they know the facts about the evil people they cover—and their stories are usually published. But for some reason (legal technicalities, geography, world politics, lack of court-worthy evidence, etc.) the criminals remain free and in power.
What the reporters don’t know is that the wealthy publisher has a small, merciless trio of “executioners” who take over from there—a Mission Impossible team without moral restraints. They have to figure out how to bring the bad guys to justice—even if it means killing them—without anyone knowing about their involvement. Obviously, the things they do could start wars, insurrections or revenge cycles.
In the first episode you meet the two earnest young reporters, their editor (the publisher’s 30-yr.-old son), the publisher, the publisher’s lawyer (his daughter by his first wife) and their first subject.
In the first minutes of the first episode there’s a dramatic killing by the “executioners” that is completely unexplained. You don’t learn about the “executioners” until the second or third episode. When the reporters meet with the publisher in the first episode, they talk about the eerie murder of one of the people they wrote about “just last month.”
From then on in the series, the reporters are onto the next story while the executioners finish up the previous case. (Of course, it won’t always be as neat as that. When the bad guys are brought down, the newspaper would naturally assign the two reporters who wrote the story for the follow-ups. Without knowing it, they will be investigating the executioners who work for the same publisher they do.)
Of course, after a few cases media-watchers start noticing “the curse” that happens to the people featured in “Devils Incarnate”—they keep coming to bad ends. That gets both the national and international police suspicious. And, of course, the reporters get very suspicious. Naturally, not every scenario gets played out as the publisher hopes: And some people evade the executioners, who may come back to them later in the series.
To the viewers’ shock–early in the series, maybe the fourth or fifth episode, the old publisher gets brutally and mysteriously murdered. Enter his son, the editor, who immediately assigns his bright young reporting team to work with the police on his dad’s murder case. It turns out the son doesn’t know anything about the executioners—until they arrange a meeting with him through his stepmother (a trophy wife in her late 30s: think Lady Macbeth. To his surprise, his birth mother also knows everything.) He has to decide if he’ll carry on his dad’s enterprise in general—and if he’ll use the executioners to “get” his dad’s murderers.
The son does continue the “family business”—but he’s going to be forever tormented about it. Although he’s inherited the family publishing conglomerate—newspapers, online, etc.—he’s not immune to the horrible business conditions facing most newspapers today. He has to do things to attract more readers/customers and to attract more advertising. He also has to deal with his constantly unhappy, idealistic news staff that’s threatening to strike. The news staff also wonders if the “Devil Incarnate” feature is some sort of sensationalist yellow journalism—something they’d do in England maybe, but not here in America. They know their paper isn’t as respected as The New York Times, just a couple of blocks away. A few episodes into the series we find out that one of our star reporters is worried about his career because he’s not as good as his partner in creating the videos the newspaper demands for its website. We also learn that the other reporter may not be above hacking into private phone lines to get to the truth. One of the reporters has a crush on the daughter/lawyer. The other reporter along with one of the executioners has a crush on the trophy wife/widow.
Possible name for the series: STARR. (The publisher’s name is Neville Starr, his son is Nicholas Starr, the paper is the International Starr. It also suggests the old “Star Chamber” idea.) Another possible name: MALEDICTION. (For the “curse” put on the evildoers.)