'Detroit 1-8-7' Ditches Documentary Feel - TCA Report
by Laura Prudom, posted Aug 1st 2010 5:02PM
For those who've seen the pilot of ABC's cop drama 'Detroit 1-8-7', things might look a little different come fall; unlike the Alphabet network's existing slate of docu-feel projects such as 'Modern Family' and the upcoming 'My Generation,' '187' has chosen to switch to a more traditional format before its premiere.
"While the documentary conceit was compelling, in the ongoing series we felt that we were going to be a little hemmed in and hampered by that in the long run; [losing the documentary style] freed us up as storytellers to do what we want to do," explained executive producer David Zabel. While 15 percent of the pilot had to be reshot, the producers seemed comfortable with the switch during their TCA presentation Sunday morning.
But storytelling wasn't the only reason why the documentary vibe had to go; there was a decidedly more tragic motivation at work too. We have details on that and the rest of the '187' panel after the jump.
Executive producer Jason Richman admitted that there were a lot of reasons why they decided not to break the fourth wall, but that the main factor for the producers was an incident that came a week before they visited the city to scout for the first time. Allegedly, a documentary film crew from another network was following a police team on a raid in search of a homicide suspect, there was an "implication" that police might have been amping up their performance for the cameras, and in the ensuing chaos, a seven-year-old girl was killed inside the house.
"The city was very concerned, understandably, and they patently said that no documentary film crews could follow police around any more," Richman explained. "It oddly became the one city in America where a documentary crew cannot follow police around, so the realism of the concept was immediately undermined."
Other news from the panel follows below:
-- Zabel said that there are "lots of benefits to shooting in Detroit," and that they are aiming to fill out their crew with a lot of locals.
-- On what attracted them to Detroit: Richmond said, "It's a really compelling place, it's a quintessential American city in transition, it's an underdog story. It was very important that all the characters in this show were bound to the city and bound to the story of Detroit. The city itself is a character -- we've seen a lot of other cities, but we haven't seen Detroit."
-- Star Michael Imperioli explained the motivation of his character versus the motivation of a criminal, "The motivation to be a police officer is very different from being a criminal; the detectives in Detroit really believe in what they do and want to make their city a safer place for the citizens."
-- In preparation for the role, Natalie Martinez had a chance to meet real homicide detectives in Detroit, "I got to pick their brains and see what made them want to be homicide detectives -- my character is a very strong woman," she said. John Michael Hill agreed, "there's a lot of pride in the force, they're from the city, they're passing places where they grew up so they have a need to protect the city and those places they're familiar with."
-- Zabel said that they'll be casting the show in four different cities, Detroit, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. "We want the most eclectic, diverse cast that we can find. Every episode will have a number of roles played by Detroit natives."
-- Star James McDaniel admitted that he was "one of the rah-rah team that wanted to shoot in Detroit, because that's where the action is." He went on to discuss the reactions that friends were having when he told them he was moving to Detroit, noting that many of them were "sorry to hear it." He pointed out, "So many people have never been to Detroit, they've only heard the negative points; my wife and I fell in love with it -- there's so much to see, the people are lovely, it's the finest architecture I think I've ever seen in this country."
-- Given the shake-up among ABC executives, many reporters asked what the relationship is now like between '187' producers and network higher-ups. "They haven't suggested that we have to prove ourselves," Richman insisted. "We had a great working relationship before, we expect to have a great working relationship going forward."
-- Zabel pointed out that the homicide rate in Detroit has often been the highest in the country, and that Detroit homicide detectives have some of the highest-case loads because of that, in addition to an under-manned police force. "Their backs are up against the wall, you have to be that much more meticulous," actor Hill chimed in.
-- In case you were wondering about the title; 187 is just another way to say homicide, Richman informed us.
Will you be catching this procedural despite the lack of documentary style as a hook?
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