Thankfully, it looks as though Steven Soderbergh's on-again, off-again retirement from film – which reportedly commenced following the release of his last two films, Side Effects and HBO's Behind the Candelabra (which was technically a television movie here in the States) – doesn't extend to the Academy Award-winning director's efforts in the increasingly appealing and crowded medium of television.
Naturally, one way of making a series stand out amongst the throngs of new prestige dramas dropping on cable and premium channels every few months is to fill them with recognizable and venerated names. In that regard, Cinemax has officially announced that it will be teaming with Soderbergh and Clive Owen to bring The Knick to its subscribers' televisions sometime in 2014.
According to Cinemax, the basic plot of the series breaks down like this:
Set in downtown New York in 1900, THE KNICK centers on Knickerbocker Hospital and the groundbreaking surgeons, nurses and staff, who push the bounds of medicine in a time of astonishingly high mortality rates and zero antibiotics. The writing team of Jack Amiel and Michael Begler (Raising Helen, Big Miracle), who wrote the pilot for the series, will serve as executive producers, along with Soderbergh, Owen, Michael Sugar (Rendition) and Gregory Jacobs (Behind the Candelabra).
As reported by the network, Soderbergh will direct Owen in all ten episodes of the first season, which will begin production in New York this September. At present, there is little else to go on but the names of the series' director, star and writers, but there's no doubt that those names have already generated a great deal of attention and interest, so announcements rounding out the cast will likely be coming without much delay.
Having Soderbergh handle all 10 episodes sounds a lot like Cary Fukunaga (Jane Eyre, Sin Nombre) directing all 8 episodes of HBO's upcoming True Detective, starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson. In fact, one has to wonder if this kind of singular directorial vision for an entire season of television will become more commonplace should one or both series take off and garner significant critical praise and/or astonishing ratings.
All in all, though, the biggest winner here seems to be Cinemax; a sentiment was expressed by HBO programming president Michael Lombardo when he said, “We are thrilled that Steven and Clive have chosen to bring this unique and exciting series to Cinemax.”
Now, aside from being a gifted storyteller across a broad range of genres, Soderbergh is certainly known for delivering films quickly and under budget, with no loss to the overall quality of the product. And so, it seems that his retirement from feature filmmaking is now television's and, more specifically, Cinemax's gain, as The Knick is being envisioned as a means by which the network can begin to showcase the kind of prestige-generating programs most generally associated with HBO. The next question then is: will the network's brand of action-fueled original programming like Strike Back, Hunted and, most recently, Banshee still have a place in the line-up, or will the allure of these higher-profile, prestige series see them eventually relegated to the network's dustbin?
The answer to that question will come along in time. But until then, perhaps we can all agree how interesting it will be to see what a filmmaker of Soderbergh's caliber does with 10 hours of story at his disposal, and how his transition to television will define the next stage of his career.
Screen Rant will keep you updated on all the news regarding The Knick prior to its premiere on Cinemax sometime in 2014.