I Think I'd Make A Pretty Good HBO Show

18th-Century France
18th-Century France

I don't think I'm talking out of turn here when I say that, as far as historical eras are concerned, I am probably one of the richest and most exciting periods in Western history. That's not me bragging; it's just a generally accepted truth at this point. After all, not every century of a nation's past can boast successive international wars, a radical intellectual movement, and a bloody revolution, but I've got all of that and then some. In fact, one would be pretty hard-pressed to find a period more compelling and ripe for gripping drama than myself.

Which is why, when you think about it, it's pretty crazy there hasn't been an HBO original series about me about by now. Something like 40,000 people were beheaded during me, for God's sake. Put that into a made-for-TV drama that weaves a rich tapestry of historical narrative with gritty tales of intrigue, murder, and sex, and I'm pretty much an untapped gold mine of programming, right?


I know, I know, everyone and their mother thinks they have a great idea for a cable television show, but stick with me on this one. Between sprawling aristocratic estates juxtaposed with sordid underworlds and political upheaval driven by ambitious but flawed political figures, I can deliver the full HBO package. You want elegant costumes? Check. Candelabras? Check. Beautiful women with moles? Check and check. I'm packed full of cool stuff. You could slot me in on, say, Sunday nights at nine and probably get a 2.5 Nielsen rating, easy.

Look, here's the first episode: A prominent but crooked nobleman hires a cash-strapped young libertine to ruin the innocent daughter of a politically outspoken peasant against the backdrop of Robespierre's Reign of Terror. Boom. That took me five seconds.

I'm just going to free associate now on some of the things you could see in an HBO show about me: a boar hunt in the verdant French countryside, a corseted young woman riding in an ornate gilded carriage through crowded Parisian streets, a stately duke applying his powdered wig in the morning with the help of his trusted footman. Seriously, tell me when to stop, because I can do this all night.

By the way, did I mention that I, 18th-century France, was a patriarchal society teeming with illegal brothels and prostitution? There's your gratuitous sex scenes for the first five episodes right there.


Cast-wise, off the top of my head, I'm thinking GŽrard Depardieu would pretty much be a given for me. You could probably get Selma Blair to play a beautiful young prostitute with royal ties in my prerevolutionary years—she could pass for French, no problem. Marion Cotillard would obviously be a tough get for a series regular, but I'm sure she'd do a cameo or two as a duchess or something. Throw in a little Tom Wilkinson as a Girondin sympathizer and Jean Reno as a wily beggar with revolutionary leanings, and you've got yourself a series. I can already envision the cast posing on the cover of Rolling Stone, goofing around with a prop guillotine under a headline like, "Sacrebleu! It's a hit!" It's almost too perfect, really.

And I think HBO is the right home for me, too. I feel like the other pay cable networks would not be able nail the period detail stuff as well, and basic cable just feels sort of cheap in a way, which I was anything but. I like HBO's track record. Michael Lombardo has made some smart programming choices lately, and I think he'd be sympathetic to my appeal to a young female demographic. Women have always been entranced by my mix of visual opulence and high intrigue. I don't mean to generalize, but it's true.


Oh! Just thought of something amazing. Maybe they could do some kind of cool narrative maneuver wherein NapolŽon Bonaparte is just a peripheral character quietly introduced halfway through the first season, but then as the political drama unfolds, he's deftly laced into a primary story arc, and we see how his life intersects with one of the lower-class characters. Might be good.

And also, all that NapolŽon stuff only started happening right at the end of me. Go back a ways and you'll find some wars with Austria and England, the reign of Louis XIV, an influx of immigrants inviting cultural fears of the unknown, and the Enlightenment, which shattered preconceptions about religion, science, and sex. That's more than enough material for a sharp TV writer—maybe one of the Deadwood guys, if possible—to set up character backgrounds and introduce themes that resonate with our current political and cultural landscape, like the rise of oppressive political leaders amid widespread social and economic decline.


Honestly, should I just pitch a treatment? Why not, right?

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