Fox Picks Up ‘Backstrom’ Drama Starring Rainn Wilson, FX Nabs ‘Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll’ Pilot with Denis Leary

By January 8, 2014
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Backstrom - Rainn Wilson

Though the Dwight Schrute-centric spin-off of “The Office” may not have worked out for Rainn Wilson, perhaps that’s for the best. The actor has just lined up a project that actually takes him out of the comedy realm.

THR has word that Fox has ordered 13 episodes of a new drama called “Backstrom,” an adaptation of the Swedish books by criminologist and novelist Leif G.W. Persson. The project was actually first developed in the summer of 2012, and made a comeback for the 2013-2014 season by going into development at CBS, but the network apparently decided not to take it to series. Fox swooped in and grabbed it instead.

In the show, Wilson will play Everett Backstrom, an overweight, offensive, irascible detective trying (and failing) to change his self-destructive behavior. He’ll be joined by Kristoffer Polaha (“Life Unexpected”), Dennis Haysbert (“24”) and Page Kennedy. The series hails from “Bones” executive producer Hart Hanson with “Shameless” director Mark Mylod at the helm of the pilot (in addition to executive producing with Hanson).

As of now, there’s no premiere date scheduled, but the series is intended for the 2014-2015 season. It marks quite the change of pace for Wilson, since he got his big break on “The Office” as the overenthusiastic and overbearing assistant to the regional manager at Dunder Mifflin paper company. Wilson will also produce the show and says he couldn’t be more thrilled:

“I couldn’t be more thrilled to get a chance to dig into Detective Everett Backstrom. For an actor it’s rare to get a crack at a role of such intelligence, humor and complexity. He’s a delightfully disheveled misanthrope with a twisted, brilliant mind and a heart of barbed wire. Truly the role of a lifetime.

Hart Hanson is an incredible writer and showrunner and I couldn’t be more excited to collaborate with him. Last but not least, Fox is the perfect home for this fun and disturbed piece of entertainment. They are passionate about the show and I’m ecstatic to be working with Kevin Reilly again — he launched ‘The Office’ on NBC and fought tooth-and-nail for us to stay on the air, let’s not forget — and to be on the same network as my frenemy, Mindy Kaling.”

As for Fox’s entertainment president, he offers some more publicity fluff to hype the show:

“I’ve been in business with Hart for a long time, and not only does he have a rare gift for infusing darker themes with relatable humor, he’s one of the best showrunners out there today. Together with Rainn — who absolutely nails this role and makes it a classic Fox character — I think we’ve got something really special here.”

As someone who’s not a fan of “Bones,” the involvement of Hanson does nothing for me. But seeing Wilson take on a lead character in a drama series is something I’m wholly intrigued by. Fox has certainly been lining up some solid programming for their future slate, including landing the NBC-developed comedy series “Mulaney” from former “SNL” writer John Mulaney, and there’s likely more good stuff on the way.

Denis Leary - Concert

Meanwhile, Fox’s sister network FX has also landed a new show with one of their former leading men switching genres as well.

Deadline reports “Rescue Me” star Denis Leary is returning to FX, but this time for a comedy series. The network has ordered the pilot “Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll,” which will follow Leary as a middle-aged rocker who hoped to find fame and fortune as a musician, but didn’t quite make it. It’s not based on Eric Bogosian’s play of the same name.

In the pilot, Leary will play Johnny Rock, the magnificently talented lead singer of New York’s legendary early 90′s band The Heathens, who was on his way to the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. Critics loved the band, shows were selling out left and right and Leary’s best friend Flash was said to be the next top guitar player in the business. But as with many rock stars, a slew of drugs and some infidelity with his bandmates’ significant others forced the band to break up on the day their first and only record hit shelves.

Flash forward 25 years later and Johnny is trying to get the band back together. As the synopsis stylishly says, “the sex might be harder to find, the drugs might be Luvox and Crestor and Cialis – but rock ‘n roll will never die. It just has a bigger prostate.” Leary wrote the pilot (which hopes to shoot in NYC this spring), and the series would feature original music with occasional guest appearances by real rock stars. Sounds a bit like “Entourage” for the music scene.

Denis Leary - Microphone

As of now it’s not clear if the series would end up on FX or the young spin-off FXX, which has more of a comedy angle. Anyway, FX’s president of original programming Eric Schrier says, “Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll is a terrific script and concept with Denis Leary’s signature brand of comedy.” Sometimes I wish these quotes just said something like, “Well, the script’s all right, I guess.”

Leary is complimentary, but adds a little bit of comedy saying, “I am very excited to be returning to FX where working with Nick [Grad}, Eric and John Landgraf has been one of the best creative experiences of my life. Plus I hear they have much better swag now.”

This new series along with “The Comedians” starring Billy Crystal and Josh Gad promises that FX still has quality programming on the way to join their old hit shows like “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and new triumphs like “The Americans.”

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Ethan Anderton
Some of his favorite films include Ghostbusters, The Empire Strikes Back and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, while his favorite TV series include LOST, Mad Men, 30 Rock, Parks & Recreation, Arrested Development and Saturday Night Live.