David Zurawik

HBO orders pilots for series on porn and politics from David Simon

With a new David Simon miniseries, "Show Me a Hero," set to debut, HBO today announced that it was ordering two more pilots for series from the creator of "The Wire."

And there is a possibility that one of them could be made in Maryland, which would be very good news in the wake of the departure of "Veep."


"The Deuce" will star James Franco and is set in the Times Square porn industry of the 1970s and '80s.

Simon wrote the pilot with George Pelecanos (HBO's "The Wire" and "Treme").


The second project, which is as yet unnamed, is set in the present in Washington and offers an "examination of partisanship and the influence of money on national governance," according to a release from HBO.

Carl Bernstein, of "Watergate" fame, is a co-producer. Longtime Simon collaborators Ed Burns and Bill Zorzi are writing and producing.

Simon and Zorzi are former Baltimore Sun reporters. Burns is a former Baltimore city police detective and public school teacher.

Zorzi co-wrote and co-produced "Show Me a Hero," a six-hour miniseries about a housing desegregation battle in Yonkers, with Simon. It airs for three Sundays on HBO starting Aug. 16.

Another longtime Simon collaborator, Nina K. Noble, is an executive producer on both projects.

"Maryland has a wealth of locations that can stand in for Washington, D.C.," Noble wrote in an email response to a Sun question about filming the Washington pilot in Maryland. "David and I love working here and are excited by the possibility of returning with this project."

It will be interesting to see what kind of effort the state makes in terms of incentives to get this prestige production. I can't believe Virginia and D.C. won't be going all out to work with Simon and HBO.

"We are thrilled to continue our longstanding relationship with preeminent producer David Simon, whose keen eye and visceral perspective on today's socio-economic ills have set him apart from all others," Michael Lombardo, president of HBO programming, said in a statement. "No one else creates with such authenticity, integrity and brilliant realism. We are so fortunate to support David's efforts and to reap the benefits of his distinctive voice."


Here's part of the release from HBO:

Directed by Michelle MacLaren and slated to film first in New York this October, THE DEUCE is a narrative set in the Times Square demimonde of the 1970s and 1980s, and will feature James Franco (Oscar® nominee for "127 Hours"; "Pineapple Express"), who will also co-produce.

It follows the story of the legalization and subsequent rise of the porn industry in New York from the early 1970s through the mid-1980s, exploring the rough-and-tumble world that existed in midtown Manhattan until the rise of HIV, the violence of the cocaine epidemic and the renewed real estate market all ended the bawdy turbulence.

Named for 42nd Street, THE DEUCE is inspired in part by the career of twin brothers who were players in the Times Square world and became fronts for Mob control of the volatile and lucrative sex industry from its origins.

"We're interested in what it means when profit is the primary metric for what we call society," says Simon, who has helmed five dramatic series and miniseries at HBO. "In that sense, this story is intended as neither prurient nor puritan. It's about a product, and those human beings who created, sold, profited from and suffered with that product."

The pilot script is by Simon and George Pelecanos (HBO's "The Wire" and "Treme"), with Richard Price ("Clockers," "The Color of Money") also credited on subsequent scripts. Franco is slated to play both twins.


Simon, Pelecanos, Price, MacLaren and Franco will serve as executive producers, along with longtime Simon collaborator Nina K. Noble. Marc Henry Johnson ("A Huey P. Newton Story"), who was instrumental in documenting the story, is also a producer.

"With THE DEUCE, I'm pleased to continue a creative collaboration with David Simon and Nina Noble that goes back nearly 15 years, from 'The Wire' through 'Treme,'" says Pelecanos. "Porn, prostitution, pimps, the Mob, after-hours nightlife, institutional corruption, and New York in its Wild West's a world rich in character, and a fascinating story we're eager to tell."

A collaboration between Simon and journalist Carl Bernstein, of Watergate reporting fame ("All the President's Men," "The Final Days"), who will co-produce, is the basis for the second pilot. Set in the present-day world of Capitol Hill, this second pilot is a detailed examination of partisanship and the influence of money on national governance.

Also attached to the project are Ed Burns, Simon's co-writer and producer on "The Wire," and William F. Zorzi, former Baltimore Sun political writer who collaborated with Simon on the "Show Me a Hero" miniseries. Nina K. Noble, who has co-produced all of Simon's previous work at HBO, is also attached to the Capitol Hill project.

Prior to the upcoming "Show Me a Hero," Simon co-wrote and produced the HBO series "The Wire" and "Treme," as well as the HBO miniseries "The Corner" and "Generation Kill."

A former Baltimore newspaperman, he is the recipient of a MacArthur grant and the author of two books of narrative nonfiction: "Homicide," which was adapted for an NBC drama series that aired from 1993 to 1999, and "The Corner," the basis for the Emmy®-winning 2000 HBO miniseries.