HBO Adapting ‘This American Life’ Segment Into A Series

Published 2 years ago by , Updated March 9th, 2013 at 1:57 pm,

Ira Glass This American Life HBO Adapting This American Life Segment Into A Series

If you are a regular listener of public radio, then you’ve likely been regaled with the compelling tale of James Spring and his journey to free two kidnapped girls from Mexico, all in an effort to combat a midlife crisis. If you haven’t, well then, HBO and producer Rob Thomas (Veronica Mars, Party Down) think you might just enjoy the tentatively titled Thrillsville, a series based on Spring’s exploits.

In 2010, This American Life ran a segment entitled ‘Midlife Cowboy,’ focusing on Spring, who after spending much of his youth smuggling methamphetamine into the United States, naturally segued that life experience into a career writing advertising copy. So far, Spring’s exploits sound like a bizarre mash up of Mad Men and Breaking Bad, but rather than usher in his 40s by emulating more of AMC’s original programming, Spring decided to make a difference in his life, and the lives of others – even at great personal risk.

So this quiet family man with an unlawful past took up the cause of finding two young girls who had been abducted from Northern California, stemming from violence attributed to the drug trade.

Spring’s eventual success in locating the two girls, along with the featured segment on public radio, turned him and his story into a media sensation. But Spring’s story didn’t end there. Instead of calling it a day with one successful investigation, he would embark on yet another career change: this time as an investigator of missing and exploited people. Naturally, with the chance to throw the line “Based on a true story” onto the marketing campaign, Hollywood came calling in the unlikely form of Rob Thomas, Ira Glass (host and producer of This American Life), and Owen Wilson.

Rob Thomas and Kristen Bell  HBO Adapting This American Life Segment Into A Series

Rob Thomas and Kristen Bell

At this time, the project is still in the early stages of development, with Thomas working on the pilot’s script. And while Wilson will serve as an executive producer, there is no word on whether or not he plans to appear in the series in any capacity. Though, from the sound of it, Thrillsville – especially written by Thomas – could be a compelling vehicle for Wilson that would showcase his particular take on comedy and drama.

Though the series would only be loosely based on a segment from This American Life, it would actually mark the second time the radio program has crossed the threshold into the visual medium. The series appeared on Showtime, with Ira Glass in tow, for 12 episodes from 2007 to 2008. Like Wilson, though, there is no word yet on whether Glass will be taking a role other than executive producer on Thrillsville.

In addition to Veronica Mars and Party Down, Thomas also worked on the recent 90210 reboot, but don’t let that be held against him. Mars and Down garnered adoring cult followings, despite ending well before their time, and both flirted with the notion of becoming major motion pictures – though as it stands Party Down will be the only one to likely receive a trip to the big screen. If anything, Thomas’ experience scripting the sleuthing of a young Kristen Bell will translate well into the missing person angle of Thrillsville.

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Screen Rant will update on the progress of Thrillsville, as news is made available.

Source: Variety

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  1. Life really is stranger than fiction. The fact that a movie or TV show is based on actual events, is always compelling.

  2. In addition to TAL going to Showtime, the 2006 movie “Unaccompanied Minors” was inspired by a story first told on This American Life.

    • Oh, yeah. Thanks for the reminder.
      I missed it the first time around, so I’m downloading it now.