January 09, 2013

An Intriguing Experiment (That No One Will Ever Do)

Alan Ball, creator of Six Feet Under and True Blood, is about to launch a new cable show, Banshee, about an ex-con who, through the peregrinations of an opening plot twist, becomes sheriff of a small town in Amish country. This will give Ball another chance to air his issues with conservative Christianity and presumably his mother. Given the wildly contrasting tones of his previous shows I’m curious to see where he takes this one. Also, they had me at Ulrich Thomsen.

It’s on Cinemax in the US and, through the peregrinations of pay TV licensing, HBO Canada here in the land of the silver birch.

I mention this here because it inspired a thought experiment. The synopsis given on the HBO Canada site (and presumably repeated on its Cinemax counterpart) goes like this:

From Alan Ball, creator/EP of True Blood, this exciting new Cinemax action drama charts the twists and turns that follow Lucas Hood (Antony Starr), an ex-convict who improbably becomes sheriff of a rural, Amish-area town while searching for a woman he last saw 15 years ago, when he gave himself up to police to let her escape after a jewel heist. Living in Banshee under an assumed name, Carrie Hopewell (Ivana Milicevic) is now married to the local DA, has two children (one of whom may be Lucas’), and is trying desperately to keep a low profile – until Lucas arrives to shake up her world and rekindle old passions. Complicating matters is the fact that Banshee is riddled by corruption, with an Amish overlord, Kai Proctor (Ulrich Thomsen), brutally building a local empire of drugs, gambling and graft. With the help of a boxer-turned-barkeeper named Sugar Bates (Frankie Faison), Lucas is able to stay on even footing with Kai and his thugs, and even manages to bring a measure of tough justice to Banshee. But eventually, Lucas’ appetite for pulling heists pulls him and Carrie into a dangerous cauldron of duplicity, exacerbated when Mr. Rabbit (Ben Cross), the NY mobster they once ripped off, closes in with vengeance on his mind.

That’s complete enough to serve as the basis of play for a DramaSystem series. As a series pitch, it’s way truncated, but you don’t need a series pitch for everything, especially stories set in our familiar world.

The experiment would go like this: take the synopsis of this or any other upcoming serialized cable drama. Use it as the basis of a DramaSystem series...without watching the show. Or otherwise keeping up with where it’s going. When you finish you own series, rent the original on DVD, and compare and contrast.