In case you didn’t get the memo, period programming is the new black. Thanks to the runaway success of “Mad Men,” ailing network channels who have been losing viewers to better programming on their cable rivals have been falling over themselves to try and replicate the popularity of AMC‘s show. This past weekend, ABC bowed the very expensive looking, though somewhat middling “Pan Am,” while NBC is already two episodes deep in their poorly received “The Playboy Club.” Perhaps sensing they might need to get another show moving if ‘Playboy’ doesn’t pick up, the network is looking to one of the most popular melodramas of all time to try and find a winner, and have now found a helmer who knows his way around a genre to help out.
NBC has picked up the rights to Jacqueline Susann’s novel “Valley Of The Dolls,” and have tasked “Precious” director Lee Daniels to write and direct a TV series adaptation. The book — which has sold 30 million copies — was mostly famously brought to the big screen in the 1967 film starring Barbara Parkins, Patty Duke, Sharon Tate, Paul Burke, Martin Milner and Susan Hayward. The movie saw some major changes made to the source material, and due to the studio’s insistence on a happy ending, screenwriter Harlan Ellison removed his name from the credits. It was next tackled as a mini-series in 1981 and then a short-lived soap opera in 1994. So in many ways, ‘Dolls’ hasn’t really been done justice yet.
The story itself spans two decades, and centers on three women whose journey through high-society and show business pretty much destroys them. There’s Jenny, a beautiful showgirl who takes up with a philandering nightclub singer Tony Polar; there’s Anne, who works at the talent agency where the girls meet and carries a torch for the company’s lawyer; and Neely, a Broadway star who is trying to make it in Hollywood and is best described as a hot mess. Eventually, the trio wind up using “dolls” — or sleeping pills — to help cope with their various woes. Fun!
Certainly, Daniels is no stranger to overwrought drama, and the key here will be giving social and economic context to the plight of these women. Is Daniels the right guy to do that? We’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, but there are many ways this could go unintentionally camp (actually, the movie adaptation is a pretty good example). No word yet on when NBC would like this ready, but they’ll likely have to wait on Daniels to finish his next feature “The Paperboy,” which coincidentally is also a period based pic. The film is a 1960s-era thriller based on the book by Pete Dexter that follows Ward James, a respected journalist, and his brother Jack, a college dropout, investigating the possible wrongful conviction of a death row inmate who was found guilty of killing the town’s sheriff in Florida. John Cusack, Matthew McConaughey, Zac Efron, Nicole Kidman, David Oyelowo and Scott Glenn star in the movie which will probably hit screens sometime next year. [Deadline]
Valley of the Dolls | Mark Robson | Barbara Parkins | Patty Duke | Movie Trailer | Review