NBC Developing George Washington Drama From David Seidler & Levinson/Fontana

With United States’ 16th President Abraham Lincoln back in the cultural zeitgeist with Steven Spielberg’s feature biopic, NBC hopes to do the same on the TV side with the nation’s first president. The network has put in development George Washington (working title), a drama series from Oscar-winning writer David Seidler (The King’s Speech), Barry Levinson, Tom Fontana and NBCU International Prods’ Carnival Films & Television, the company behind phenom Downton Abbey.

After taking on Britain’s King George VI in King’s Speech, U.K. writer Seidler will now tackle the American commander who led the country’s war for independence from the British Kingdom. He will write the script based on the best-selling and Pulitzer Prize-winning biography by Ron Chernow, Washington: A Life. Levinson intends to direct the pilot.

George Washington is described as an intimate look at the enigmatic leader who became the father of a nation on one side of the Atlantic and a terrorist on the other, a man to be eliminated at all costs by the British Crown. As episodes move back and forth through the war hero and President’s life and tell the little-known and unlikely story of his survival and triumph, his true character is revealed for the first time. And he is not the man who chopped down the cherry tree. “There’s George Washington the national icon, gazing out from the dollar bill with his  mouthful of supposedly wooden teeth, and then there’s the George Washington who had an adulterous affair with his best friend’s wife,” Seidler said. “The George Washington obsessed with social status, finely-tailored clothes, his image. Not an icon, a very human human-being, who learned how to lead. That’s the man I want to understand.”

Seidler, Levinson and Fontana will executive produce with Carnival’s managing director Gareth Neame and Jason Sosnoff, Head of Production & Development at Levinson’s Baltimore Pictures. “What’s so interesting is here was a man who was more instrumental to what our country is today and more famous than any other figure in our history, and yet no one knows anything about him,” Levinson said. “We know the myth of the man, but the reality was he was a flawed and troubled character who overcame his flaws to become one of the foremost leaders of this nation.”

The 75-year-old Seidler, who became then the oldest Oscar winner for best original screenplay when he got the award last year for King’s Speech, now may become the oldest show creator in his US series debut with George Washington. He is with WME, manager Jeff Aghassi, and UK agent Greg Hunt.

This is the second high-profile project for Carnival at NBC — the company is also behind the network’s upcoming series Dracula. Levinson/Fontana’s BBC America series Copper, created by Fontana, was recently renewed for a second season. The duo is repped by UTA.

Comments (107)

  • Great team behind this and I loved Chernow’s book- but I am surprised Seidler’s first quote is a lascivious one concerning Washington’s friendship with Sally Fairfax (also a dear friend of Martha’s). Deep affection to be sure- hot contemporary affair the likes of Petraeus? No. Does is always have to be so salacious? Washington’s lifelong bitterness at being passed over repeatedly in the British Army when younger much more central to the story. Persnickety, I know (as I am sure this will be great ultimately).

    Comment by donal Logue — Wednesday November 14, 2012 @ 4:48pm PST  
    • Simply the incredible hardships he overcame during the Revolution alone would make more than enough dramatic fodder, they don’t need to impose any soapy nonsense on what is already an incredibly dramatic story.

      Comment by sffan — Wednesday November 14, 2012 @ 5:05pm PST  
      • TWO intelligent comments IN A ROW? (With multi-syllable words?)

        WTH is happening her-

        (Oops! – Sorry! – Thought I was at TMZ.)

        Comment by TWO IN A ROW? — Wednesday November 14, 2012 @ 7:25pm PST  
    • (Donal Logue of “Life,” and many other great roles/performances? Loved that show, wish it could have lasted more than the one season.) I, too, am disappointed that it looks like NBC may be going the “docudrama” route, where anything that may be even remotely seamy, gets played up over the more insightful life episodes that built an historical figure’s character. Let’s hope the producers are more inclined to go the “King’s Speech” route, which was a great, stay-on-point story. I predict we’ll all be able to tell which way it goes, within the first 20 minutes!

      Comment by Texann — Wednesday November 14, 2012 @ 8:54pm PST  
    • I liked HBO’s JOHN ADAMS mini. But only once, and not all the episodes.
      This sounds far more interesting. If you don’t agree, then don’t watch it.

      Comment by TV Fan — Wednesday November 14, 2012 @ 9:00pm PST  
      • This will be a complete farce. They will do whatever they can to sully our greatest Presidents’ name, mark my words. They are already talking about him having an affair, GIVE ME A BREAK, there is no historical proof that he had an affair, the evidence indicates he would NEVER do something like that. George Washington is easy to understand he was dedicated to God, dedicated to virtue and honor He made a covenant with God before the crossing of the Delaware. This network is a piece of crap, I haven’t watched it for 5 years and I will NEVER watch it again. Read the Real George Washington, if you have the attention span.

        Comment by Evilpa — Thursday November 15, 2012 @ 12:19pm PST  
    • I am glad you posted what you did because I noticed that right off how the writer describes GW’s relationship as “adulterous” when in fact there is no evidence, and no one has recently written, the relationship was anything but a deep affection. I certainly hope this project doesn’t turn into a blast against GW.

      Comment by Tom — Thursday November 15, 2012 @ 2:36am PST  
    • VERY TROUBLED that the proposed writer of the series either is ignorant of the fact that Washington NEVER had an affair with Sally Fairfax— or does not care for historical fact over salacious fiction. NOT a good omen.

      Comment by DJT — Thursday November 15, 2012 @ 3:55am PST  
    • Shameful. Washington had an adulterous affair? Are you kidding me? Has Seider even read Chernows book? Chernow explores this question throughly. His conclusion? It didn’t happen. I will not be watching this inaccurate attempt to destroy the man. Shameful!

      Comment by Eric — Thursday November 15, 2012 @ 6:32pm PST  
      • Remember how much was made about Seidler being old? I am sure he is only mentioning the adultery to be relevant to his peers.

        Comment by tim — Saturday November 17, 2012 @ 11:05pm PST  
  • Oh my God.

    Comment by Nathalie — Wednesday November 14, 2012 @ 4:53pm PST  
  • Insert cynical joke about vampire-hunting/zombie-killing/crime-solving/etc here. It’s good to see it’s not some high-concept gimmick thing. You can make real drama out of history. As to whether or not that place is NBC, one can only hope.

    Comment by Johnny Ringo — Wednesday November 14, 2012 @ 4:57pm PST  
    • I’d prefer a highly stylized historical drama. Not zombies or vampires, but a contemporary, maybe action-heavy series. Korean television dramas have done a lot with taking stuffy historical dramas and turning them into stylized, action and romantic epics.

      Comment by DryedMangoez — Wednesday November 14, 2012 @ 5:23pm PST  
  • Barry Bostwick did GW long ago and it was really good. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0090437/

    Comment by George Washington — Wednesday November 14, 2012 @ 5:00pm PST  
    • This was really good. G.M. did a great job with that miniseries: the childhood of GW through the new constitution. Anything new should seek to exceed the water mark set by it.

      Comment by Jonathan — Wednesday November 14, 2012 @ 11:56pm PST  
    • A football player in the role of His Excellency?

      Pish posh!

      Comment by Barney Google — Thursday November 15, 2012 @ 9:39am PST  
  • Historical drama on broadcast??? I can’t fault their ambition, I just hope they get the audience needed to support the expense.

    Didn’t AMC have some kind of Revolutionary War spy drama in the works? That certainly would have involved Washington. Maybe they can integrate some of that material, it sounded pretty good.

    Comment by sffan — Wednesday November 14, 2012 @ 5:04pm PST  
    • AMC did have such a project in development, but they apparently passed on going further with it.

      Comment by MoreTears — Wednesday November 14, 2012 @ 5:22pm PST  
      • They did and Levinson was involved I believe. It was less biographical and more about the Culper ring and espionage.

        Comment by Laurel — Thursday November 15, 2012 @ 11:43am PST  
  • An intriguing concept, but I’m not watching anything on prime time NBC (football excluded) so long as Leno is there. I’m far from alone.

    It is interesting that feature people are gravitating to television.

    Comment by Wonk — Wednesday November 14, 2012 @ 5:08pm PST  
    • That’s a very closed minded way of thinking. Not watching a network just because of one person.

      Comment by DC — Wednesday November 14, 2012 @ 5:24pm PST  
    • Unless Jay is playing Washington, what does he have to do with anything?

      Comment by temis — Wednesday November 14, 2012 @ 7:20pm PST  
    • NBC puts political spin into almost everything it does (football excluded). The prospect of them producing a rewrite of Washington’s life is rather scary. I won’t denounce it until I’ve seen it, but my expectations are low.

      Comment by Cedarstrip — Thursday November 15, 2012 @ 6:40am PST  
    • NBC will go for the tabloid sensationalism and try to denigrate Washington. Nobody will watch, especially on NBC.

      Comment by NotNBC — Thursday November 15, 2012 @ 7:08am PST  
  • Wow. You mean you’re actually going to show GW’s flaws? How brave. I will make sure not to watch. It doesn’t sound promising. A TV series that reveals the real GW, and you start by saying he had sex with Sally Fairfax? Where is the evidence? Who cares? It’s TV!

    Comment by George — Wednesday November 14, 2012 @ 5:11pm PST  
    • Well, how about the whispers about Lincoln’s association with his friend, Josha Speed. Just because they shared a bed in the building where they both practiced law, does not necessarily mean Lincoln was gay.

      Comment by Beagal — Wednesday November 14, 2012 @ 6:25pm PST  
  • There is not a shred of evidence that Washington had an “affair” with anyone. This is a man whose life has been picked over endless times for flaws, and there really aren’t many. I smell a hatchet job. Far better to simply rebroadcast the excellent 8 hour bio that CBS had of George Washington.
    This proposed “series” would simply trivialize the greatest man in our history.

    Comment by George Sarant — Wednesday November 14, 2012 @ 5:20pm PST  
    • Dude hunted alien tea-baggers and you know it!!!!

      Stop trying to rewrite history. Washington wanted out of England cause of all the Kryptonians who were infecting the countryside.

      Comment by WNNNNNNNBC! — Wednesday November 14, 2012 @ 5:48pm PST  
      • I really doubt it.

        Comment by AT-AT — Thursday November 15, 2012 @ 2:46pm PST  
    • hell. no one’s perfect…if Cinton can get away with his shit why not george? hell, Bill is farm from being a Washington.

      Comment by Isa — Wednesday November 14, 2012 @ 6:11pm PST  
      • agreed ! I really hope this does not turn into some hatch job on George Washington. It was a different time in this nation and without his fortitude and courage this Republic wouldn’t have began.

        Comment by Ian — Thursday November 15, 2012 @ 10:44am PST  
    • Revisionist history is what hollywood is all about.If they broadcast it on NBC, nobody will watch, so that should stop it.

      Comment by BryanD — Thursday November 15, 2012 @ 9:12am PST  
  • Ditch the George Washington title and call it “U.S. Presidents” then it can continue way past the G. Washington Presidency

    Comment by Heather Gillroy — Wednesday November 14, 2012 @ 5:24pm PST  
  • read David McCullough’s book, “1776″ This movie is bound to be a farce

    Comment by jvan — Wednesday November 14, 2012 @ 5:43pm PST  
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