TVThe Departed Is the Latest Hit Movie Hoping to Become a Hit TV Show
It's getting harder and harder to stay optimistic about these things.
Before we begin, let us take a moment to appreciate the FX television series Fargo. It is the most unlikely of success stories, an excellent show that mashes up two television trends that aren't going away anytime soon: Remaking movies into shows, and foregoing the traditional television narrative structure in favor of the "anthology drama" format made popular by American Horror Story, in which every season is a complete standalone story. Fargo seemed like such a bad idea, mostly because Fargo, the Coen Brothers movie, is pretty much perfect.
Now, Fargo, like Hannibal, has burdened us all with the tiresome duty of giving every new movie-turned-television-series the benefit of the doubt. Those shows stand there like aesthetically pleasing sore thumbs, reminding us to be measured in our knee-jerk reactions to these new shows based on movies that no one really asked for, even though we are totally justified in thinking said new show is far more likely to be like this year's already forgotten Rush Hour TV series or last year's Minority Report.
That said, a TV show based on The Departed—itself a film based on the 2002 Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs—seems like a questionable idea.
According to Variety, the Martin Scorsese film is being adapted into a TV show for Amazon, with one big twist: It's moving the action from Boston to Chicago, and swapping out the Irish mob for a Latino gang.
This seems like the moment to point out that Latinos don't need help being cast as gang bangers and petty criminals, because those are the kinds of roles that are constantly made available to Latinos. It's an almost downright boring decision, creatively—loads of edgy modern crime dramas revolve around Latino gangs, which almost always involve drug cartels and the like. You know, like that Vin Diesel movie A Man Apart, or Sicario, or Training Day—even Suicide Squad and Veronica Mars.
However, The Departed was, in many ways, about Irish people in an Irish town; Irish cops hunting down Irish criminals. In its cultural specificity, it showed how a big city can feel like a small town, and used that to heighten the tension and drama of its central cat-and-mouse game. A Departed show focused on a Latino gang could conceivably work in a similar way, breaking down the social and cultural dynamics of a culture on both sides of the law, and building tension from the ways they intersect—while allowing for a more nuanced view of Latino culture that isn't just "stock criminal." However, there's no telling if that's on anyone's mind for this new series. At the moment, the only details made public are a list of producers for the show, which seems to be led by writer/producer Jason Richman. (His previous credits include Detroit 1-8-7 and Lucky 7.)
But remember the Fargo rule: We should probably give this the benefit of the doubt. Even when it gets hard to do, which it does sometimes; especially today, when it happens on the same day that we learn Ray Romano and Chris O'Dowd are starring in a Get Shorty TV series. And we have to continue to withhold judgment on all the other adaptations in the works. Like that The Lost Boys show on The CW. And that Varsity Blues show coming to CMT. That Snatch show, which is… now starring… Rupert Grint? Okay, you know what? Forget it, man. New rule: Your show sucks until it proves otherwise.