We Want Our Noir TV: David Fincher and James Ellroy to Deliver a 1950s Crime Series

By  · Published on September 9th, 2014

Paramount Pictures

Please read the following sentence: Look here, sister, start usin’ them getaway sticks or you’ll be takin’ a pill from this roscoe here.*

Did that make any earthly sense? Yes? No? Well, either way we’ll be learning the ways of the noirish gentleman (and lady) soon. Hopefully.

Because David Fincher and James Ellroy are in talks with HBO to start up a film noir TV series. From the Playlist, we’ve got a scant few details: it’ll be set in Los Angeles and steeped in the same general ’50s backdrop as previous Ellroy works (they cite “L.A. Confidential” as a biggie). And that’s about as far as “scant” gets us. The Playlist stresses that there’s “no deal in place,” but given the talent involved, HBO would be foolish to pass this one up.

Fincher’s never made an out-and-out film noir (unless you count a couple of ads for The Gap), but he’s dabbled in things with noir-ish vibes to them. Like Se7en, which was kind of a horror movie and kind of a neo-noir but still had Morgan Freeman in a three-piece suit, trenchcoat and hat. Totally counts in that regard. Ellroy, by comparison, is 100% gumshoe, having written two of the best noirs in recent history: “L.A. Confidential” and “The Black Dahlia.” Also, here’s a salient quote that should be mentioned every time his name comes up – Said by Ellroy, about Ellroy: “declarative and ugly and right there, punching you in the nards.”

It’s also a plus that these two are good buddies. Fincher tried to develop “The Black Dahlia” into a megabudget miniseries a couple years ago, but it never panned out. They’ve remained close since then, so a collaboration like this was bound to happen at some point. It’s to our benefit, because if there’s one thing the TV landscape currently lacks, it’s film noir. Or, television noir, I guess. Any kind of noir, with that timeless period style and shadowy depth, its twisted morals and even twistier tales of woe.

Actual period piece noir is basically non-existent, other than HBO’s Mildred Pierce and Frank Darabont’s so-so Mob City from last year. Expanding the net out to neo-noir nabs us True Detective and Veronica Mars, and so long as the latter continues to live on via movies, spin-offs, drink mixes, etc., we’ll have something to latch onto where people still say words like “zotzed” and “wooden kimono” (if people ever said those words in the first place). Include little bits of Fargo and Boardwalk Empire (one that sorta acts like a noir but doesn’t look like it, the other sorta looks like a noir but doesn’t act like it), and we’ve more or less reached the end of this tiny TV genre subset.

Fincher and Ellroy coming together on this could be a beautiful thing. And hey, with True Detective (which has some real noir-y vibes, even if the characters are speaking from a different thesaurus), Mildred Pierce, Boardwalk Empire and now this, HBO’s looking like the new home for gangsters, guns and hoosegows. Now, if we could only figure out what a hoosegow is.

*Translation: Please pay attention, member of the female sex, vacate this area immediately, or I will be forced to shoot you with my handgun.

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