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Outbreak Becoming NBC TV Pilot

outbreakIt seems like adapting sci-fi movies from the ’90s into TV shows is starting to become a new trend in Hollywood. We’ve heard that Syfy plans to adapt Terry Gilliam’s 1995 film 12 Monkeys into a new TV show, and now another sci-fi movie from 1995 is getting the same treatment, but for NBC.

According to Deadline, TV producer John Wells and writer Jack Orman are re-teaming for the first time since they left the hit TV series ER on NBC. They are working to adapt the sci-fi movie Outbreak for television, and for the same broadcast network. Wells and Orman describe the Outbreak TV series as, “a medical thriller that follows an ensemble of characters as they race to contain a lethal virus before it becomes a global pandemic.”

Do you remember Outbreak? It was a movie about a fictional deadly disease called the Motaba virus that migrated from Africa to cause an epidemic in a small town in northern California. While Outbreak was an okay movie, I’m hard pressed to see how it could be adapted as a TV show. It just seems that the story formula to find a cure would become tedious after a few episodes. A TV show just sounds like it would be something like The Walking Dead, only without the zombie action.

John Wells and Jack Orman are best known for working on the medical TV series ER from 1994 to 2009, for which they won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series in 1995. Wells also wrote and produced the Presidential TV series The West Wing from 1999 to 2006, which earned him another Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series in 2001. Wells’ current TV show Shameless can be seen on the premium cable network Showtime. Jack Orman wrote for the courtroom procedural J.A.G. on CBS, as well as the short-lived TV series PAN-AM for ABC.

Outbreak was a big hit in 1995, grossing $189.8 million against a $50 million production budget. The Wolfgang Peterson film featured an all-star cast including Dustin Hoffman, Morgan Freeman, Rene Russo, Kevin Spacey, Donald Sutherland, and Cuba Gooding Jr. Outbreak was nominated for a Saturn Award for Best Science Fiction Film in 1995, along with Strange Days, Species, Judge Dredd, Congo, and Waterworld (which is also being considered for a possible TV series). FYI, 12 Monkeys won the award! One of the film’s producers, Gail Katz, is expected to return for the TV version of Outbreak as well.

Hopefully, the Outbreak TV series will be worth watching, but a TV version of Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion might be more interesting. Both movies have a smaller premise with a deadly viral epidemic, but Contagion looks at the problem from multiple levels such as government, journalistic, family, military, organized crime, the prescription drug industry, and school system, whereas Outbreak mainly focuses on trying to find a cure. It just seems like a Contagion TV series would have more longevity and quality than an Outbreak adaptation. Contagion is like The Wire of viral epidemic movies.

There is obviously no airdate for Outbreak yet, but it’s most likely going to air sometime during the fall TV season on NBC.

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