Monday, April 1, 2013


Happy Easter!

There are many stages between the twinkling of an idea, and a realized television series.  For all the thousands of pitches that broadcast and cable and internet networks hear or read every year, only a tiny percentage receive the order for a script, and far fewer have a pilot shot.  And of the pilots shot, only a small number will lead to a season of shows.  Last week I wrote about the Hallmark’s WHEN CALLS THE HEART, from the CANADIAN WEST book series by Janette Oke.  It will premiere as a TV movie, and ten one-hour episodes have been ordered.  The series has not yet been cast, so it’s not known yet if the stars of the TV movie (see details HERE)  will continue in their roles.  Spinning a series from a TV movie is known in the industry as a ‘back-door pilot,’ and among the notable successes of this process are DR. QUINN, MEDICINE WOMAN and THE WALTONS.  There are two pilots ordered this season that are definite Westerns, as well as one more that is, though not truly Westerns, American-history based.   



Speaking of back-door pilots, ABC, which is owned by Disney, has ordered a TV movie of BIG THUNDER, continuing with their pattern of adapting successful E-ticket park-rides into movies -- often with great success, like PIRATES OF CARIBBEAN (and sometimes like THE COUNTRY BEAR JAMBOREE).  The story centers on the gold-rush era mining town of Big Thunder in the Southwest. After a natural disaster, a doctor and his family come to town, in what is supposed to be a great opportunity for them, but soon learn that not everything in Big Thunder is as it seems, especially as it relates to the mysterious tycoon who runs the town.


To be shot in Vancouver, British Columbia, the script is by Jason Fuchs, whose ICE AGE: CONTINENTAL DRIFT was a big hit.  He’ll also exec produce.   Director Rob Bowan is best known for his work on X-FILES, and has also directed eighteen episodes of the current series CASTLE.  Cast in the lead is Irish-born Ed MacLiam, who has been a very busy telly actor across the pond.  Also in the cast are Ana De La Reguera, recently seen in COWBOYS AND ALIENS; Alex Hassell, who had a small role in COLD MOUNTAIN; Alex Meraz, who played Paul in the TWILIGHT films; Ruth Bradley of FLYBOYS and the TITANTIC miniseries; RESIDENT EVIL star Spencer Locke; and the actor Western fans will be happiest about, Zahn McClarnon.  Zahn has been seen in LAKOTA MOON, THE LAZARUS MAN, CRAZY HORSE, DR. QUINN, INTO THE WEST, COMANCHE MOON, BURY MY HEART AT WOUNDED KNEE, YELLOW ROCK, THE LEGEND OF HELL’S GATE, and is currently playing the very difficult Indian policeman Officer Mathis on LONGMIRE. 



NBC has ordered THE SIXTH GUN to be produced by UNIVERSAL TV/Oni Press, based on the Oni Press graphic novel of the same title.  It’s an other-worldly western about six mythical guns with supernatural powers – or else six supernatural guns with mythical powers. 

It’s written by Ryan Condal, whose HERCULES: THE THRACIAN WARS, to star Dwayne Johnson, is also in pre-production.  Director Jeffrey Reiner is currently directing DO NO HARM episodes, and did 18 of FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS.  The pilot will star Laura Ramsey, known for horror films THE RUIN and THE CONVENT; Holland-born Michiel Huisman of THE YOUNG VICTORIA; W. Earl Brown, who was in 2004’s THE ALAMO, and will soon be seen in THE LONE RANGER; HOBBIT actor Graham McTavish; Aldis Hodge of A GOOD DAY TO DIE HARD, and Russian-born redhead Elena Satine, currently in the MAGIC CITY series. 

AMC Studios has ordered a pilot for a Revolutionary War story.  Set in New York in the summer of 1778, farmer Abe Woodhull and a group of childhood friends band together to become spies known as The Culper Ring.  Based on the book WASHINGTON SPIES by Alexander Rose, the script is by Craig Silverstein, whose many TV credits include NIKITA and BONES.  Director Rupert Wyatt recently helmed the excellent RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES.   In the cast, lead Jamie Bell was recently the voice of TINTIN; Seth Numrich had a continuing role on GRAVITY; Burn Gorman is in THE DARK KNIGHT RISES; Heather Lind is a regular on BOARDWALK EMPIRE; Kevin McNally plays Gibbs in the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN films; and Angus Macfadyen played Robert the Bruce in BRAVEHEART, was the lead in SHADOWHEART, and just completed the Civil War drama COPPERHEAD.


On Sunday, April 7, 2013, the Vintage Paperback Collectors Show will be held at the Valley Inn and Conference Center, at 10621 Sepulveda Boulevard, Mission Hills, CA 91345.  From 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., dozens of dealers will be offering thousands of paperback books, from the pricey, untouched and rare, to the battered, dog-eared books I buy, which are sneeringly described as ‘reader copies’, and for which I rarely pay more than a dollar or two.  I’ve tracked down many a Luke Short here, not to mention plugging the holes in my Edgar Rice Burroughs collections.  Admission is only five bucks, and best of all, about forty well-known authors will be autographing their books – for free!  They tend to mostly be sci-fi and mystery writers, and Brian Garfield, who was to attend, had to drop out.  But Earl ‘The Waltons’ Hamner is still attending.  To get a complete schedule of who will be signing, and when, go HERE.   



CalOsha, California’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, has fined Silver Bullet Productions $61,000, ruling they were directly at fault in the death of diver and welder Mike Bridger, who died in September, while cleaning an under-water tank.  Among other violations, they ruled that Bridger had been allowed to dive without a tether, without a partner, and without a stand-by diver.


In not the first time in recorded history that an actor has let his ego get the better of his brain, Will Smith revealed, in an Entertainment Weekly interview, why he passed on starring in Quentin Tarantino’s Western blockbuster, ‘DJANGO UNCHAINED.’ 

He felt that Dr. King Schultz, Christoph Waltz’s character, actually had the leading role.  “Django wasn’t the lead.  So it was like, I need to be the lead. The other character was the lead!  I was like, ‘No, Quentin, please, I need to kill the bad guy!’”  Not surprisingly, writer-director Tarantino did not jump at the chance to massage Smith’s ego with a re-write.  And yes, Christoph Waltz won an Oscar, for supporting actor, because of course he was not the lead.  Still, Smith is a fan of the film.  “I thought it was brilliant.  Just not for me.”  Those who have seen WILD WILD WEST will undoubtedly agree.


There are a lot of exciting events coming in April.  On the 21st and 22nd, the Annual Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival will again be held at Melody Ranch.  And from April 25th through the 28th, The Turner Classic Movies Festival will be held in Hollywood.  Also this month, Blue Underground will be releasing a quartet of classic Spaghetti Westerns under the title SPAGHETTI WESTERNS UNCHAINED, as well as a beautiful version of Lee Van Cleef in THE GRAND DUEL, to which I and C. Courtney Joyner contributed a commentary track.  There’s plenty more in store.  Hope you had a great Easter!  And brace yourself – Monday is April Fool’s Day!

Happy Trails,



All Original Contents Copyright March 2013 by Henry C. Parke – All Rights Reserved


  1. Look into Klondike, a Discovery Channel miniseries based on the Charlotte Gray novel Gold Diggers which takes place during the 1897-98 Klondike gold rush.

    My blog has the story and links.

  2. Thanks for the tip and the info, Jeff. Yours is an excellent blog! Much obliged!

  3. Thanks for the info and I really like your blog. I just finished a western T.V. pilot that I will be trying to shop around in the near future.