With Breaking Bad’s Emmy-winning five season run now firmly in the rear view mirror, the focus of the TV industry is shifting toward Vince Gilligan’s next project, the upcoming CBS crime drama Battle Creek. Created and executive produced by Gilligan, Battle Creek centers on the uneasy partnership between two very different law enforcement officers, as they struggle to clean up the streets of the titular town.
Gilligan has elected not to serve as showrunner, delegating that duty to House creator David Shore. Shore has been largely absent from the TV scene since House’s 2012 series finale, presumably waiting for a project befitting his talents to come along. Now, another equally big Hollywood name has attached himself to the project.
Bryan Singer, whose directing prowess will next be on display during the highly anticipated film X-Men: Days of Future Past, is set to direct the pilot for Battle Creek, as well as serve alongside Gilligan and Shore as an executive producer. Singer served a similar function on House, directing the series pilot, then staying on to produce.
However, Singer is not the only name to join Battle Creek in the last few days. Prolific character actor Dean Winters (Oz, Law & Order: SVU) signed on to co-star in the project this past week, playing no-nonsense police detective Russ Agnew. Russ is a pragmatic man with a low tolerance for B.S., and is willing to do whatever it takes to bring down Battle Creek’s various criminals.
This gruff attitude has earned Russ a high conviction rate, but not exactly endeared him to his peers. By-the-book FBI Agent Milton Bradley (yes, that’s actually the character’s name), Agnew’s reluctant new partner, has yet to be cast. Winters joins previously announced cast members Kal Penn (Harold & Kumar), Janet McTeer (The White Queen), Aubrey Dollar (666 Park Avenue) and Edward Fordham, Jr. (Key & Peele).
Gilligan originally pitched Battle Creek to networks almost a decade ago, but found little success. With a bunch of Emmys under his belt since, it’s not at all surprising that CBS jumped at the chance to work with him, granting Battle Creek an immediate 13-episode series order. Adding powerhouse names like Shore and Singer only sweetens the pot, and increases the likelihood that fans of Breaking Bad, House, or Singer’s superhero films will all feel compelled to tune in for Creek’s premiere during the 2014-2015 season.
Battle Creek will also likely serve as the second half of a big test for Singer. While the director hit the ground running early in his career, earning acclaim for such films as The Usual Suspects and X-Men, the last near-decade hasn’t exactly been a cakewalk for Singer. His first directorial work after House was the largely panned, and at the very least divisive, Superman Returns. Singer of course succeeded in angering X-Men fans at the same time, when his decision to follow his Superman dream left the former franchise in the clutches of maligned director Brett Ratner.
Singer then moved on to the ill-advised Tom Cruise vehicle Valkyrie, which was met largely with derision, and laments from fans about where his once promising career was heading. In 2012, he directed the pilot for The Munsters reboot Mockingbird Lane, which NBC passed on, and simply aired as a one-off special. Last year’s Jack the Giant Slayer did nothing to rehab Singer’s image, largely tanking at the box office.
It would certainly be an understatement to say that the success or failure of Days of Future Past will go a long way in determining Singer’s career trajectory going forward, but one should not discount the pressure involved in helming Vince Gilligan’s first TV project since Breaking Bad. Will 2014 begin the resurgence of Bryan Singer? Only time, and fan reaction, will tell.
Battle Creek is set to premiere sometime during the 2014-2015 broadcast season.