HBO has announced it is developing a new series tentatively titled Reds, inspired by the real-life occurrence of a KGB sleeper agent infiltrating the United States during the 1980s.
The series will be drawn from an encounter writer/director Martyn Burke had while filming a documentary across the United States in the early part of the decade. Unknown to Burke, and the rest of his crew, the soundman they were all working with was actually a colonel in the KGB. Before being found out, the Soviet spy managed to successfully establish a base of operations just outside New York City, and sought to conceal his true identity further by trying to start and raise a family.
Burke is being tapped to develop the show, no doubt for his firsthand knowledge of the situation, but also because the theme has followed him around in his decades-long career. In addition to writing and directing the television documentary The KGB Connection, Burke also worked on the screenplay for Top Secret!, the 1984 Val Kilmer spy-comedy. Currently, Burke is in the early stages of a film based on assassinated Mexican presidential candidate, Luis Donaldo Colosio, entitled: A Death in the Bullfighting Hills. What part Burke’s other commitments will play in the progression of Reds’ development is unknown.
The factual component of Reds becomes even more topical since the 2010 high-profile bust of ten individuals suspected of being spies for the Russian Federation’s external intelligence agency. Beyond the seemingly unbelievable fact that after the fall of the Soviet Union, the Russian government was still aggressively pursuing classified information from within the United States, the case became a major media sensation when one of the accused, Anna Chapman, appeared to have been borrowed from some unseen James Bond film. Chapman and the other nine were detained and eventually returned to Russia in one of the largest public prisoner swaps in United States history.
No stranger to period dramas, HBO could be the perfect place for Reds to capitalize on both the nostalgia of the time and the political minefield that existed during the last decade of the Cold War. With the success of Boardwalk Empire, and the buzz surrounding the just announced Hobgoblin from writer Michael Chabon, the network certainly has been spanning the ages as of late. However, with the subject matter still fresh in the minds of many viewers, one wonders if HBO will tone down the more fantastical aspects like AMC did with Rubicon, or amplify them to avoid that show’s eventual demise.
Early word on Reds is that it will be loosely based on Burke’s experiences, instead of focusing solely upon his account. The show will center on several spies and their double lives as seemingly normal Americans who are actively seeking out and delivering classified intel to Moscow.
More announcements will come as the program moves closer to development and casting stages. Stay tuned.