Many have pointed to television’s growing fascination with the Western and wondered why this trend didn’t spring up around Deadwood, rather than its many pale imitations, other than the fact that people are fucking stupid. Apparently HBO has been asking itself that question too: It’s just begun developing a new Western drama with Akiva Goldsman and Ron Howard, who will distract themselves from not being able to get Stephen King’s The Dark Tower going by concentrating on another Western, this one a series based around Doc Holliday, the rootinest-tootinest dentist of the Old West. Holliday is, of course, most often associated with Wyatt Earp, as seen in movies like Tombstone and the half-dozen or so other Wyatt Earp projects currently in development, all with varying degrees of postmodern bullshit.
The untitled HBO series will be slightly more grounded in reality than most of those, albeit with a dash of romanticized fiction, drawing from Mary Doria Russell’s novel Doc, in which a sickly Holliday first meets Earp in Dodge City, the two get caught in a love triangle over Holliday’s prostitute wife, and then Holliday coughs up tuberculosis everywhere. Goldsman will produce and Howard will direct the pilot, which is being scripted by Adam Cooper and Bill Collage, two writers best known to date for the 2006 comedy Accepted as well as Tower Heist—though they’ve also worked on upcoming historical and literary reimaginings like Marco Polo and Moby Dick, if that’s any consolation. Promisingly, the announcement plays up the “cruel and violent world” and “lawlessness and desperation” angles of the setting. Not so promisingly, this still isn’t Deadwood.