For decades, one of the biggest "injustices" associated with the Oscars was the inability of the Academy to award beloved director Martin Scorsese with a golden statue. No matter how many incredible films Scorsese made, it seemed like the man behind classics like Goodfellas and Taxi Driver was destined to get snubbed at the big show. That is until the 2007 Oscars ceremony, which featured Scorsese's Boston crime thriller The Departed picking up four awards, including the filmmaker's long overdue honor for Best Director. With that kind of pedigree, it's no wonder that The Departed is reportedly the latest hit movie set to make the jump to the small screen.
A remake of 2002 Hong Kong crime film Infernal Affairs, The Departed boasted a formidable all-star cast of supporting players, but the plot mainly focused on three men: fresh out of the academy cop Billy Costigan (Leonardo Dicaprio), enterprising young hood Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon), and ruthless mob boss Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson). Costigan is recruited to infiltrate Costello's organization and bring him down from the inside due to his family's known ties to organized crime. Sullivan is almost Costigan's mirror image, a protege of Frank's that the mobster uses to get eyes inside the police department. That brief outline only scratches the surface of the film's rather twisty story, but to say much more would risk spoiling things for those yet to give it a viewing. To sum things up, things get really, really bad for pretty much everyone involved.
Unsurprisingly, The Departed's ingenious concept of two competing moles working against each other is what drew producer Roy Lee to the idea of migrating the film's universe to TV, although the current plan is to create a new story with new characters that captures the spirit and tone of the movie without simply being a remake of its script. Lee has compared the idea to FX's TV adaptation of Fargo, which has managed to serve as a spiritual successor to the Coen Brothers' film without simply adapting it wholesale. To that end, The Departed TV series would not take place in Boston, and would instead explore the criminal underworld in another as yet undetermined major city. Here is the direct quote from Lee on the matter, per Collider:
“The Departed as a concept is amazing. That’s what attracted me to the story, the two moles working on either side of the law, and translating that idea into other settings with new characters, like how Fargo has taken the feel of the Coen Brother’s film. We were having discussions about making infernal affairs a television series. A different city, so it’s not anything like The Departed, but essentially The Departed as a TV series.”
Lee also says that he and his team of writers are currently having discussions about whether The Departed would be better off becoming a broadcast network show or taking its talents to cable. On the surface, cable (or even a streaming service like Netflix) would seem like a much more viable option, especially for what it sounds like would be a heavily serialized show.
Heading to cable would not only give Lee and the writing staff much more freedom when it comes to violence, strong language, and other adult content, but also allow them to produce a smaller amount of episodes. The big four networks are dipping more and more into the cable model of shorter 13 episode seasons as of late, but the standard order is still for 20-plus episodes per season. It's hard to imagine that The Departed's story could get it to that number without adding in lots of filler material that doesn't serve to advance the main narrative.
Can a TV series based on The Departed hope to reach the heights of Scorsese's film? Years ago the answer would have been a pretty clear "no", but at this point TV has arguably been telling better crime stories than most theatrical efforts do for quite some time. Here's hoping The Departed earns itself a spot among those glorified ranks.
The Departed TV series is still in early development, so we'll bring you more information when (if?) it becomes available.