NBC is once again heading to the 1960s for a proposed television series – proving the old adage: If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. This time, however, the network will be mining proven material in the form of Jacqueline Susann’s novel Valley of the Dolls – while bringing with it Lee Daniels, the Academy Award-nominated director of Precious.
Susann’s story is a familiar one – as this series will mark the fourth time it has been adapted since the novel’s initial publication. The book chronicles twenty years in the lives of Anne Wells, Jennifer North and Neely O’Hara, as they navigate the world finding the highs and lows of their personal and professional lives, which – due to an eventual shared addiction to the sleeping pills from which the book gets its name – leads each woman to her inevitable end.
Most famously, Valley of the Dolls was adapted into the 1967 feature film starring Barbara Perkins, Patty Duke and Sharon Tate. Later, in 1981, under the title: Jacqueline Susann’s Valley of the Dolls, the property made its first foray to the small screen as a miniseries. Finally, in 1994, an incredibly loose adaptation of Valley reared its head as a late-night syndicated program that only managed to survive one season.
This time around, Daniels is set to write and direct what will likely turn out to be the pilot episode – and then serve as producer, should Valley of the Dolls be picked up by the network.
Were this any other year in television, reports of extensive updates to Susann’s novel would be considered normal. However, since this is the year several networks have launched their own ‘60s themed programs, it should come as no surprise that the story will retain not only the character’s seemingly intertwined professions of talent agent, movie star and showgirl, but also still be set in the 1960s.
Given the onslaught of period programs like The Playboy Club, the recently well-received Pan Am and, of course, Mad Men – which should either be thanked or blamed for all of this – it is uncertain whether Hollywood’s thirst for the decade will remain unquenched by the time NBC’s Valley of the Dolls is ready for its premiere. Granted, CBS is still planning to join the fray with it’s real-life Vegas cop drama Ralph Lamb sometime next year, so most networks seem to be betting interest will remain high.
However, in the wake of the dismal performance and reviews for The Playboy Club, NBC may see Valley of the Dolls not as an addition to its lineup, but rather as a likely replacement should Playboy fall victim to the network’s axe.
Daniels, meanwhile, is preparing his follow up to Precious with the adaptation of yet another novel, The Paperboy – featuring Nicole Kidman, Matthew McConaughey and Zac Effron - which will hit theaters in 2012.
Look for more news on Valley of the Dolls as production gets underway.