Great, whopping weeks have passed since HBO last optioned a book to add to its insanely crowded development slate, so rather than let everyone assume that it had lapsed into a state of intellectual torpor, the network went big with the Leonardo DiCaprio-produced project Beat The Reaper. Based on the 2009 novel from physician Josh Bazell, it’s a thriller about a young doctor who’s forced to contend with his past life as hitman for the mob when a former associate threatens to pull him out of Witness Protection—in other words, a medical drama mixed with a mafia show, which could finally open the nexus of the pay/broadcast TV universe. The project was once set up as a feature film with DiCaprio set to star, but once he learned that he would only be able to wear a snappy suit with narrow lapels a mere 40 percent of the time, he dropped out. But DiCaprio will do the next best thing by lending his name to the series as executive producer alongside Ocean’s Thirteen writers Brian Koppelman and David Levien, who will also handle the script and direct.
Of course, it’s not clear when you can actually expect to see it, given that HBO now has an entire shelf of books it plans to get around to adapting pretty soon—including a just-purchased version of Jack El-Hai’s The Lobotomist, another medical drama about neurosurgeon Walter Freeman and the way his controversial procedure destroyed his own life as well as the lives of his patients. Although, if we had to pick one medical thriller more likely to see airtime, we’d give the edge to the one with Leonardo DiCaprio and mobsters, and fewer unhappy people cutting into brains.