HBO Reportedly Scraps Steve McQueen’s ‘Codes of Conduct’ Amid “High-Class Problems”

HBO Reportedly Scraps Steve McQueen's 'Codes of Conduct' Amid "High-Class Problems"

The following was buried in a Hollywood Reporter piece published a few days ago, titled “HBO’s High-Class Problems: $100M ‘Vinyl’ Disappoints Amid ‘Westworld,’ David Fincher Woes,” which takes a look at the premium cable TV giant’s waning ambitions, thanks, in part, to underwhelming ratings for “Vinyl,” the new period rock drama from Martin Scorsese and Mick Jagger, which premiered a couple of weeks ago: “THR has learned that McQueen’s drama, ‘Codes of Conduct,’ with Paul Dano, Helena Bonham Carter and Rebecca Hall, has been scrapped. The pilot was shot, and HBO had ordered a six-episode series before pulling out.”

Of course the project being referred to here is Steve McQueen’s “Codes of Conduct,” which, announced a year ago, HBO had moved beyond the pilot stage, ordering a 6-episode season (it was meant to be a one-time limited/mini-series).

One of us here at S&A actually read the script for “Codes of Conduct,” but we weren’t able to review it, because doing so would’ve meant having to give much of the plot away. So we passed. But now that it’s been shelved (although maybe not for good), we might go ahead and publish that review.

An exploration of a young African American man’s experience entering New York high society, with a past that may not be what it seems, newcomer Devon Terrell was to play a character named Beverly Snow – a talented, confident young man from Queens, NY, who, with a chameleon-like ability, breaks into the social circles of Manhattan’s elite, testing the boundaries of social mobility.

And as is common practice in the biz, it was reductively tagged as “Six Degrees Of Separation” meets “Shame.” I threw Wendell B. Harris’ “Chameleon Street” into the mix as well. 

The project was expected to be in McQueen’s signature provocative style – perfect for premium cable.
HBO was fast-tracking the project, meaning it would’ve premiered on the network some time in the current TV season, or over the coming summer.

On Terrell’s casting, McQueen shared the following: “I needed to find an extraordinary actor… Although you’re trying to find something you recognize, it’s more about finding something you’re surprised by. Devon had this quality. It was no easy task casting the character of Beverly Snow and, with the help of HBO, we left no stone unturned. This was a 10-month intense process in which we came across many talented actors, but only one Beverly.”

This won’t be the first series we were anticipating here on S&A that HBO recently scrapped. In January, eight months after the network ordered a half-hour comedy from Diallo Riddle and Bashir Salahuddin to series, they pulled the plug on the project, which was to be titled “Brothers in Atlanta.”

Executive produced by Lorne Michaels, along with Riddle and Salahuddin, the series was to star both actor/writer/comedians as 2 young struggling entertainers trying to make it big in Atlanta: “After some time apart, 2 old college friends, Langston Rogers (Riddle) and Musa ‘Moose’ Almuharib (Salahudin), reunite in the black mecca of the New South, Atlanta. Both determined to make it big, their unique perspectives on the quirks of both Atlanta and the black community inevitably lead to personal and professional conflicts.”

Maya Rudolph, Finesse Mitchell and Jaden Smith were all part of the cast, in recurring roles. And Tim Story directed the pilot (and was to direct more episodes).

At the time of the announcement, HBO released the following statement: “After assessing our programming needs we talked to Bashir and Diallo and decided moving forward didn’t make sense for us at the time. We feel they are immensely talented and we hope to work with them in the future.”

Almost 2 months later, no word yet on whether another network is considering picking up the series.

As far as we know, Issa Rae’s “Insecure” is still in play; unless I just missed some announcement that it too had been yanked. Although I think Issa Rae would’ve mentioned something on her various social media pages, all of which I follow. So I think she’s good to go.

A key section from the Hollywood Reporter piece reads: “Yet HBO is in a period of challenge. It hasn’t had a breakout drama hit since ‘Game of Thrones’ launched in 2011, and in recent months, it has seen several troubled shows go expensively into and then out of production. Those include the mega-budgeted futuristic ‘Westworld,’ which was halted in December with several episodes shot but needing additional work. The series now might be pushed into 2017 despite an initial plan to have it ready last year. Other projects shut down well into the process include two shows from David Fincher, a limited series from Steve McQueen and another on Lewis and Clark from producers Brad Pitt and Tom Hanks. HBO says some of these may be revived. ‘We make no apologies for sticking by a project we believe has the potential to be great,’ says programming president Michael Lombardo. ‘Unfortunately, we also at times find ourselves in the position of deciding not to move forward with others. That is never fun, but that is our business.’

I’d submit that Netflix and Amazon (and even Hulu) getting heavy into the original scripted programming game, might also be influencing HBO’s woes.

“Codes of Conduct” was to be Terrell’s big introduction to the world; alas, it won’t be, unless some other network picks up the series, or maybe HBO revisits it at a later date, when they feel more assured of its success, or are willing to take the risk.

McQueen penned the script for  “Codes of Conduct” with “World War Z” co-writer Matthew Michael Carnahan. Russell Simmons (yes, that Russell Simmons), and the Oscar-winning producers of “The King’s Speech,” Iain Canning and Emile Sherman, were co-producers.

McQueen is currently working on a drama about the lives of black Britons for the BBC, which will tell the story of a West Indian community in London, across three decades, beginning at Enoch Powell’s infamous “Rivers of Blood” speech in 1968. It’ll follow the lives of a group of friends and their families from 1968 to 2014. A year ago, the BBC formally commissioned the “epic” drama, which will be produced by “Game of Thrones” producer Frank Doelger via his Rainmark Films banner, and former BBC Films executive Tracey Scoffield, with a spring 2016 shoot date eyed – which means we likely won’t see it until 2017.

It’ll be a 6-episode miniseries which McQueen will of course direct, and co-write alongside Debbie Tucker Green (most recently, she directed Idris Elba in what was her feature film directing debut, “Second Coming,” which world premiered at the London Film Festival and is now available on VOD here in the USA).

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Comments

Martin

I want to the "Codes of Conduct" ! I’m a huge fan of Steve McQueen and know that he could make something great out of this. Please do it at another network! And the actor he chose looks very interesting!
Should this series never happen – it would be a shame and a terrible waste of time and talent. But please show us at least the pilot as a stand-alone TV movie!

jess

Interesting that HBO is pissing off power players all across the spectrum. That Brothers in Atlanta show had been in discussion for what felt like so many years. Did HBO recently have a reshuffle among execs? It makes no sense that so many shows would be given the axe before seeing the light of day, whereas at Netflix, original content producers seem to get 2 season commitments off the bat, no pilot necessary. And Vinyl tanked because it was doing the old-school HBO thing of catering to middle-aged white men’s fantasies and nostalgia. That retro ish was DOA.

gjones

hope it gets made i don’t care foreign or domestic ethnic people with roles is all good!

IG-88

‘Does Steve McQueen clap’

to the 3 whiners

@Nat – what? @SHeldonShaw – welcome to type-casting – don’t like it? Don’t try to be an actor. @peggy – I am assuming you’re joking, as your comment is idiotic.

Sam

A Bit harsh Peggy, Devon was actually born in America, and his father is African American, get your facts in check before making any comments…. He moved with his mother to Australia, after his parents split…

CoquieHughes

Wow…this article.

Peggy

We all know HBO will NEVER put on a series that doesn’t portray blacks as buffoons. The Issa Rae thing has been going on for 10 years now it seems. What the f is the problem? Can the girl write or not?

Peggy

I AM SO SICK,of their hiring foreign blacks to play American blacks. THIS HAS TO STOP.

Deacon

I don’t know..after reading the plot line for C of C I’m not terribly impressed. It’s unfortunate because I’m McQueens biggest fan. I can see Terrell’s character as part of a broader storyline focusing on the "new" or modern new york high society. Something like a darker gossip girl with some people of color in it but not as much of a parody of itself. As far as the Brother’s in Atlanta project, It just feels forced, too literal and not very funny. Who’s the demographic anyway? I don’t see either of those projects gaining much viewership past a pilot or a couple of episode mini series anyway. The thing HBO has going for it is production. They are gonna have to have stories that match the level of production they know how to deliver. These dark, quirky drama series a la sopranos is hard to really get people invested in unless it taps into some type of cultural zeitgeist of the moment and even then it may take a couple of seasons before people catch on. I really got behind what they did with boardwalk empire though and think they should spark that fire again. Cast a veteran actor in an unlikely role and build a world of characters with original stories around him or her.

Sheldon Shaw

I was in line for that audition for 6 hours and then sent all the dark skinned folks home without being seen at all….The hired a very light skinned guy i think from Austraila or England to play a guy from Queens?

Nat

Good. That’s what he gets for wasting the time of men with many complexions, when they only intended to cast a light, bright or damn near white guy to start with.

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