Once every six months, I head out to L.A. for the Television Critics Association press tour, and whenever I’m there, I check in with John Landgraf, President and General Manager of FX, to get a status update on the network’s pilot for their adaptation of Brian Michael Bendis’s awesome comic book, “Powers.”
The first time, he said, “It’s in development We’ve seen a draft of the script, we’ve given the notes on it, and we’re waiting on another draft. But I liked it.”
The second time, he said, “We have a new writer who came in and who’s working with Brian Bendis. He’s a really, really good writer who got really excited about the project. The new writer and Brian have got a good take on it. They came in about two months ago and pitched what they were doing, and it was great.”
You’ll no doubt note, as I did, that he didn’t reveal the name of Bendis’s collaborator, but he assured me that he’d tell me the writer’s name as soon as he was permitted to do so…and, to my amazement, he did so a few days later. The new writer turned out to be none other than Kevin Falls, late of NBC’s much-mourned “Journeyman.”
Well, here we are again, sir. What have you got for me this time?
“We’re working on it!” said Landgraf, who – as you might expect – remembered me as soon as I came up to make my bi-annual request for information. “We just had a meeting, actually, with Brian Bendis and Kevin Falls and Michael Dinner, who’s a writer/director, about 10 days ago – just before Comic-Con – and it went great! And a lot of what it is, really, is…Brian, I think, has said this, but the best adaptations are not slavish in the way they translate the adaptation from one medium to another. ‘Powers’ is obviously just a great series of books in and of itself, but a lot of it is how to translate that into the right tone of series. We’ve made headway all along the way; I think we just wanted to put a finer point on it.
“From our standpoint, we don’t feel that the world of costumed superheroes on television has been very successful. Not only hasn’t it been that successful from a commercial standpoint, but more importantly to us, it hasn’t been that successful from a creative standpoint. Part of what you have to figure out is how to use the medium. If you’re making a Marvel movie, you have a $150 or $200 million budget, you can do massive stunts, and use CGI to create a big, bombastic, larger-than-life version of the world. How do we bring the same level of innovation to the genre that ‘The Shield’ brought to the cop genre, or that ‘Nip/Tuck’ brought to the medical genre, and how do make the sort of scale and production of television an asset? I think what most people who’ve gone down that road have done is tried on a limited amount of time and budget to do as close to what a feature film would do with the material as possible, as opposed to really honing in on the virtues of television, and I think ‘Powers’ is a uniquely good property to do that with, actually. That’s what Bendis and (Michael Avon) Oeming were doing: looking through the whole world through a different prism. As opposed to coming through the front door, they were coming through the side door. I’m excited about it.
“We just want to get it right if we move forward,” Landgraf continued, “but the truth is…gosh, I’ve been at the channel for seven years, and we’ve only made one drama pilot in seven years that we haven’t gone to series on. For us, we work really hard and as long as possible on the script, and then we work as hard as we can on getting the pilot exactly right. We don’t make pilots experimentally. Once we move forward on the pilot, we’ve sort of honed in and understand what the creatives are trying to execute and how to help them get there. I hope we’ll be able to move forward with ‘Powers.’ I’m really excited, and I’m very encouraged by the process so far and where it sits now, so I’m pretty optimistic.”
So you might have some good news for me in January, then?
Let’s all keep our fingers crossed tightly for the next six months, shall we?