PARIS — Douglas Kennedy, a critically-acclaimed American novelist known for his keen eye, is set to make his TV drama debut with France’s AB Groupe and indie producer Sydney Gallonde, Variety has learned exclusively.
Kennedy will adapt two of his best-selling novels, “The Pursuit of Happiness” and “A Special Relationship.” AB Groupe, a vertically-integrated media group which runs France’s largest paybox, is co-producing, financing and handling international sales.
The two TV adaptations are being produced by Gallonde’s VAB Production. An up-and-coming French producer, Gallonde recently got another high-profile American novelist, Harlan Coben, to write his first TV show — an adaptation of his book “No Second Chance” — for Gaul’s top commercial network TF1.
Kennedy is currently writing the treatment for “The Pursuit of Happiness.” The book will likely be turned into an eight episode, hourlong drama series, per Kennedy. The show will shoot in English with an Anglo-Saxon cast.
Set in post-WWII Manhattan and amid the McCarthy era, “The Pursuit of Happiness” centers around the tumultuous love story between an outspoken young woman and an Army journalist who has just returned from the war front.
“‘The Pursuit’ tells a very American story, but what’s behind it is something very universal. Every family has secrets,” Kennedy told Variety.
Kennedy, whose 11 novels have been translated into 22 languages, said the timing was right to dive into TV drama. “When I look at TV today, series like ‘Mad Men,’ ‘The Wire’ and ‘True Detective’ are like weekly installments of a novel — it’s reminiscent of what Dickens and Balzac would do in the 19th century; writing their novels in a newspaper on a weekly basis,” pointed out the novelist, who is also a former journo. “Our series will follow the same path.”
Meanwhile, “A Special Relationship,” which proved a major bestseller in France and in the U.K., will be adapted into a TV movie or a two-parter of 90 minutes per episode. Kennedy is also tweaking key elements to make the series more compelling to international auds: It will center on a French journalist who marries a British man.
In the novel, “Relationship” follows a strong-willed and independent American journalist who falls in love with a British foreign correspondent on assignment in Cairo. After marrying and having a child with him, she finds herself trapped in post-natal depression and faces his suspicion and doubt, which leads to a bitter custody battle, turning the book into a dark-edged courtroom thriller.
Kennedy, who has so far sold over nine million books in France, previously adapted one of his novels, “The Big Picture,” into an eponymous French drama directed by Eric Lartigau and starring Romain Duris and Marina Fois. He also penned the adaptation of “The Woman in the Fifth” for a film directed by Pawel Pawlikowski with Kristin Scott Thomas and Ethan Hawke.
Valérie Vleeschhouwer, topper of AB International, said her team will position both shows as purely international premium drama series and is now looking to get overseas partners on board.