Director Michael Bay is venturing into television for the first time, reuniting with scribe Shane Salerno (“Armageddon” ) for an hourlong ABC crime drama from Touchstone Television.
Salerno is creating the untitled hour and will exec produce with Bay. Helmer is attached to direct the pilot, schedule permitting, and will also help develop the script.
Character-based contempo drama will have shades of “The Untouchables,” focusing on an ultra-moral Eliot Ness-like U.S. attorney who returns home to Chicago to battle a crime syndicate headed by a ruthless Al Capone-like boss he’s known since both were kids. Story will not be a mob saga, and Salerno plans to tell close-ended stories a la “Law & Order.”
Bay, whose remake of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” opens next week, said he’s glad he’s working with Salerno in his TV bow.
“I’ve always wanted to jump into TV, but nothing’s really excited me enough,” he said. “This project isn’t typical of what people would think I would do. I’m really into redefining myself and broadening my horizons.”
Salerno was 24 when he worked with Bay on “Armageddon” and said reuniting with the helmer on the Touchstone/ABC project “sort of brings things full circle.” Likewise, Bay said Salerno has “grown up a lot and really matured” since the two last worked together.
As for the pilot itself, Salerno was quick to emphasize that, despite its “Untouchables” vibe, the project will not be a gangster story.
“We’re not doing the old mob, the new mob, or anything mob-related,” he said. “After what David Chase has done with ‘The Sopranos,’ anyone who attempts to do something with the mob for TV is a buffoon.”
Instead, the skein will focus on how “a Frank Capra man with a Norman Rockwell life” can maintain his integrity while battling characters with very defined black hats. And while there will be overarching storylines that will appeal to loyal viewers, Salerno wants the show to be accessible to anyone channel-surfing by ABC.
“Like ‘Law & Order’ or ‘NYPD Blue,’ there’ll be a victory or defeat in every episode,” he said.
Touchstone TV prexy Steve McPherson called the Bay/Salerno effort a “dynamic project,” while ABC Entertainment prexy Susan Lyne said that the duo have come up with “a hugely compelling idea … they could hit out of the park.”
Salerno’s last TV effort was NBC’s “UC: Undercover,” which lasted one season. Short life for the actioner taught the scribe an important lesson, he said.
“Characters will trump action sequences every time,” Salerno said. “People who are expecting us to do an action series or a one-hour musicvideo are going to be very surprised.”
While the Touchstone/ABC pilot is Bay’s first foray into TV, helmer doesn’t have any Jerry Bruckheimer-like ambitions when it comes to the medium.
“I don’t want to be a TV mogul,” he said. “When I focus on a project, I want to focus completely. I don’t want to spread myself too thin.”
Salerno’s upcoming feature projects include “Alien vs. Predator,” which he co-wrote with helmer Paul W.S. Anderson. Mark Steven Johnson is directing Salerno’s “Ghost Rider,” set to star Nicolas Cage. He’s also writing “The Mechanic” for MGM.
Project was packaged by UTA; Robert Offer reps Bay and Salerno.