The Washington Post

Free idea for Netflix: Help the creator of ‘The Wire’ make a show about the CIA

David Simon (Photo courtesy of Samuel Cullman)

Over at Slate, David Haglund makes a heartfelt plea to HBO to give David Simon the money to make a show about the CIA. Simon is the creator of "The Wire," the critically acclaimed HBO drama set in Baltimore, and he's been talking about making a period drama series about the early history of the spy agency for years.

But on a recent panel, Simon seemed to imply that HBO wasn't interested in the project because of cost concerns. According to an Indiewire report, Simon explained the situation:

But it’s 70 years of period-piece filming, it’s all over the world, there’s a lot of CGI. Scene I, Act I is Berlin after the war, in total wreckage. And HBO goes, ‘Listen, it was all fun when we were giving him $20 million and he was making The Wire and no one was watching, but do you take us for fools?’

While Simon did say HBO was exploring alternative revenue sources from downloads and peer-to-peer sharing, things ultimately don't sound promising.

But so what if HBO has its hands full with Daenery's dragon brood? This is exactly the sort of prestige television that Netflix and Amazon should be fighting to make.

In fact, Beau Willimons, who created Netflix's adaptation of "House of Cards," was on the same panel with Simon. Maybe Willimons hooked Simon up with a Netflix contact after the talk because this seems like a clear winner: A serial drama from Simon has the potential to be another "House of Cards"-type property -- not to mention give comfort to subscribers who might still be bitter that Amazon Prime just snatched up streaming rights for "The Wire." (Disclosure: chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos is the owner of The Washington Post.)

It would also fit within Netflix's already established game plan of betting on brands and styles already primed to succeed. With "House of Cards," "Arrested Development" and "The Killing," the streaming company has been financing extensions or adaptions of tried-and-true material. Its fantasy horror series "Hemlock Grove" was original material, but it heavily draws from the supernatural teen romance genre that was already all the rage with the kids these day. With the success of spy thrillers like "Homeland" and "The Americans," Netflix could take on the same subject with some broad "Mad Men"-style period touches and make it a winner.

And Simon? Simon isn't a risk, either. He's a talented storyteller with a proven track record of delivering quality video content -- the exact kind of person you bring on board to attract instant credibility. And at a time when the online streaming business is getting more and more crowded with companies like Microsoft and Yahoo joining the fray, who knows how much of that there is to go around?

Andrea Peterson covers technology policy for The Washington Post, with an emphasis on cybersecurity, consumer privacy, transparency, surveillance and open government.



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