David Milch’s HBO TV pilot Luck – a period drama that examines the world of legal horse-racing (and the illicit dealings on the side) – earned its fair share of critical acclaim, in addition to generating ratings that were high enough for the cable network executives to justify giving the show a season two renewal. Unfortunately, behind the scenes problems - resulting in the the deaths of multiple horses featured on the show – prompted HBO to pull the plug even before the first season had been completed.
Milch is back with another potential TV series titled The Money, which has already secured a pilot order from HBO. The pilot will be headlined by award-winning Irish actor Brendan Gleeson as James Castman, a wealthy American mogul who seeks to expand his media empire – without also losing control of his family in the process. This would be the first U.S. TV series for Gleeson, whose diverse resume includes roles in blockbusters like Mission: Impossible II and the Harry Potter movies, in addition to more personal Europe-set dramas like In Bruges, The Guard and Albert Nobbs.
Deadline is reporting that Milch will executive produce The Money alongside Art and John Linson (Sons of Anarchy) and Frank Rich (Veep), with Sarah Caplan (Brothers & Sisters) and Eric Roth (House of Cards) co-executive producing with Justin Chadwick – who will also direct the pilot. Chadwick started out working as a director for the small screen, as he boasts a handful of episodes from the BBC series EastEnders, MI-5 and Bleak House under his belt; he’s since made the jump to theatrical fare, having previously helmed the King Henry VIII drama The Other Boleyn Girl - starring Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson – plus the upcoming biopic Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, featuring Idris Elba as Nelson Mandela.
It has increasingly become customary for TV pilots to be directed by someone with big-screen filmmaking experience; in addition, cable television in general has been pushing harder to blur the line between TV and cinematic storytelling – as can be observed in the most recent seasons of shows like Games of Thrones and Breaking Bad, among others. Chadwick, in other words, sounds like a proper choice, as far as being a director who can make The Money pilot feel like an appropriate balance of the two mediums – so it won’t stand out too much stylistically, when compared to subsequent episodes.
HBO has been collaborating with Milch for around a decade now, beginning with the Golden Globe-winning gruff western series Deadwood back in 2004. The latter – who earned three Primetime Emmys for his work on NYPD Blue (a show Milch co-created with Steven Bochco) – would go on to develop the the supernatural-lite drama John from Cincinnati and Luck for the network, in addition to the cop drama pilot Last of the Ninth (which failed to go to series).
Unfortunately, the most prominent shared quality between all of Milch’s HBO series to date is that they’re critically-acclaimed, but short-lived shows – perhaps with the (relative) exception of Deadwood lasting three seasons - which ended up being canceled prematurely, for one reason or another (low ratings, production issues, etc.). The Money pilot has the ingredients necessary to produce a show that offers a captivating look at American society, through the story of a domineering family man from a specific class background (a la The Sopranos, Boss) – but will that be enough to buck the short-life trend of Milch’s last two HBO series?
We’ll keep you posted on The Money as more information becomes available.