NBC may give George Washington the dramatic treatment


There will be a Season 3 of “American Horror Story.” ( Michael Yarish/FX)
November 15, 2012

NBC is developing a drama series about George Washington, based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning biography “Washington: A Life.” In that book, author Ron Chernow wrote that the country’s first president “ranks as the most famously elusive figure in American history, a remote, enigmatic personage more revered than truly loved.”

“History is written by winners, yet there are two sides to every story and then there’s the truth,” NBC’s logline for its “George Washington” project read.

The potential series will be, NBC said, an “unprecedented intimate look at the enigmatic leader who became the father of a nation on one side of the Atlantic and a terrorist on the other.”

And, NBC continued, “he is not the man who chopped down the cherry tree.”

And, there’s no Santa Claus, NBC added.

Okay, we made that last part up.

The network has ordered a script from David Seidler. You may know him as the guy who won the best original screenplay Oscar for “The King’s Speech.”

“There’s George Washington the national icon, starting from the dollar bill with his supposed mouthful of wooden teeth, and then there’s the George Washington who had an adulterous affair with his best friend’s wife. The George Washington obsessed with social status, finely tailored clothes, his image,” Seidler said.

To recap:

No wooden teeth — check.

No cherry tree chopping — check.

Loads of Sally Fairfax scenes — check.

Picking up where we left off, Barry Levinson will executive-produce the series with Seidler and Tom Fontana, should NBC give it a green light. Levinson also had some thoughts about Washington: “[T]he reality was he was a flawed and troubled character who learned over time to mask his tumultuous inner life.”

Jason Sosnoff, head of production and development at Levinson’s Baltimore Pictures, who would also get an exec producer credit, chimed in: “With America’s ongoing dialogue with leadership, there could not be a more important time to tell the story of a man who had tremendous vision and the will to carry it out against extreme polarization.”

We leave you with the comforting thought that, if it goes to series, “George Washington” would be shepherded by NBCUniversal International’s Carnival production operation – the same operation that distributes PBS’s “Downton Abbey.”

More ‘American Horror’

FX has ordered a third round of “American Horror Story.”

The drama-series-turned-miniseries will launch its third iteration in the fall of 2013; 13 episodes were ordered this time.

FX and co-creator Ryan Murphy were keeping mum as to what the third season would be about. The first was set in a haunted house, while the second is set in an asylum for the “criminally insane.”

FX did confirm, however, that Jessica Lange will return, although it would not say in what role.

Lange, the lead thespian of “American Horror Story” Rep Theatre, this year is playing sadistic Sister Jude, the head nun in charge of administration and discipline at the asylum and very much front and center. FX vowed in Thursday’s announcement that this time Lange will be submitted for all trophy considerations as a lead actress in a movie or miniseries — none of this supporting actress nonsense like last year. (Lange won both the Golden Globe Award and an Emmy for playing weirdsmobile Constance Langdon in the first season of “AHS.”)

News of the pickup comes the day after the most recent episode of “American Horror Story: Asylum” topped all broadcast networks at 10 p.m., among 18- to 34-year-olds, who are the holy grail of TV ad sales.

FX likes to boast that the median age of this season’s “AHS” audience is 33, which is impressive for a drama series, because such audiences tend to skew older than those for comedies. NBC’s freshman drama “Revolution,” for example, has a median age of 45.6 years.

So far this season, “AHS: Asylum” is averaging more than 5 million viewers of all ages. The franchise ends its second run on Jan. 23.

“American Horror Story” was purchased by FX from Murphy and Fox as a drama series set in a haunted house.

But after the first season finale aired, Murphy announced the second season, and every season thereafter, would be a reboot with no relation to the first season, although some new characters would be played by returning actors.

“[T]he notion of doing an anthological series of miniseries with a repertory cast has proven groundbreaking, wildly successful and will prove to be trendsetting,” FX chief John Landgraf said Thursday.

Introducing ‘Cards’

Netflix has unveiled the trailer for its first commissioned original series: an adaptation of the ’90s Brit political thriller “House of Cards.”

The 26-episode project premieres Feb. 1, with the entire first season (13 episodes) being made available simultaneously. Kevin Spacey has taken the role made famous by Ian Richardson in the British version, which was based on a book written by a former staffer in the Conservative Party. The original drew heavily from Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” with some “Richard III” thrown in for good measure.

To read previous columns by Lisa de Moraes, visit washingtonpost.com/tvcolumn.

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