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HBO plans Lincoln assassination mini-series

by Allison Waldman, posted Sep 18th 2008 1:05PM
logo HBOA week from now, HBO will probably be one of the big stories from the Primetime Emmys thanks to the success of the John Adams mini-series. But it's not sitting on that success, the premium cable net is banking on it. HBO announced today a mini series based on the assassination of Abraham Lincoln called Manhunt. That news would be interesting enough because the series will deal with the 12 days after Lincoln was shot when the assassin, John Wilkes Booth, was on the run. However, the guys that HBO have tapped to work on Manhunt are two of the best in television -- David Simon and Tom Fontana.

HBO knows Simon and Fontana's work really well. Simon was the creator of The Wire and Fontana's brainchild was Oz. This is also not a new collaboration. Fontana turned Simon's book, Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets, into the Homicide: Life on the Streets TV series for NBC.

This is really exciting news. Two quality writer-producers, a network that will give them dramatic license to do things their way, and a subject that's of historical significance and fascination. In the past few years, there's been a slew of creative projects centered on Lincoln -- including historian Doris Kearn Goodwin's bestseller Team of Rivals, which has been fodder for lots of political chatter during this presidential election season and Steven Spielberg has been talking about filming with Liam Neeson as Abe since 2001.

There's also synchronicity at work here because in 2009, America will celebrate the 200th birthday of Lincoln. Unless I miss my guess, HBO will endeavor to get the Fontana-Simon mini on the air during that celebration.

According to Simon and Fontana, the mini will not be a star vehicle. That's in keeping with their styles. They cast actors who go on to become stars. In addition, their take on the Lincoln story won't focus on the president or the assassin. Instead, they're going to use the event as the epicenter of many other stories, kind of like the myriad of lives touched by 9/11 or JFK's assassination.

This is going to be character driven. As Simon said, "I don't do action." Hopefully, there'll be some action, and if it meets The Wire or Oz's level of engagement, it'll be must-see TV.

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Jeremy Kenyon

Sounds great to me, but it's obvious where they got the story:

Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer by James Swanson.

It was a rather popular book a few years back.

September 19 2008 at 10:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Scott Lackey

The book Manhunt is just fabulous...filled with detail, dramatic tension...and compelling portraits of the common man.With Simon & Fontana this will be fabulous...let's hope it makes '09.

September 19 2008 at 9:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Lemon Lyman

These guys.

September 19 2008 at 8:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jenny K.

I can't believe how excited I am by this news; I'll watch anything Simon and Fontana do.

September 18 2008 at 9:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

After Homicide, Oz, The Wire, The Corner, Generation Kill...

There really is no reason not to watch this.

Wonder how Simon's New Orleans show is coming along. He is also writing a miniseries about the Chicago riots during the depression or something.

September 18 2008 at 9:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Also, these guys must have previous interest in Lincoln, because in Seasons 1 and 2 of Homicide, Detective Crosetti is obsessed with conspiracy theories of the assassination, and it provides some great dialogue. Can't wait to see this project.

September 18 2008 at 2:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

HBO: keep riding the David Simon meal train. I'll keep watching!

September 18 2008 at 2:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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