Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski is returning to television, partnering with Will Smith’s Overbrook Entertainment and Georgeville Television to create a new pandemic thriller drama for ABC. JMS has been keeping busy in recent years, working on the screenplays for Thor, Underworld: Awakening, and the Academy Award-nominated Changeling. Assuming the unnamed drama gets picked up, this will be one of Joe’s first gigs on a TV series since he ran Showtime’s Jeremiah.
There aren’t many details at this point, with Deadline merely describing the show as a “high-octane pandemic thriller that combines closed-ended procedural and serialized elements.” I’m guessing that’s TV speak for “it’ll have self-contained episodes, but also an ongoing arc of some sort.” Straczynski knows from serialization, having shepherded Babylon 5 through five seasons while hewing – more or less – to a pre-planned arc.
A few more possible details can be gleaned from the show’s entry on IMDb Pro. Listed under the title Epidemic, the is said to follow “a group of virus hunters working for the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta as they track epidemics around the world.”
Right now ABC has given the show a script-to-series commitment, so if ABC likes the pilot script, the show will get an automatic 13-episode pick-up. That’s good to hear in an era when many new shows barely even make it past the opening credits before being cast down into perdition.
At this point I’m thinking Straczynski must have one of those time-turners from the Harry Potter books, because I don’t know where the guy finds the time for his workload. In addition to this new pandemic show, he’s also developing a series called Vlad Dracula for Starz, partnering with Rob Tapert and Roy Lee. He also recently founded a new media company, Studio JMS, along with Babylon 5 alum Patricia Tallman. That company is working on another series called The Adventures of Apocalypse Al, a musical version of Night of the Living Dead (Tallman starred in Tom Savini’s 1990 remake of the Romero original), and several original comics series under the resurrected “Joe’s Comics” imprint.
As a long-time fan of both Babylon 5 and Straczynski’s work in general, it’s great to see his dance card filling up. Although I am still keeping my fingers crossed that JMS’ scripts for a Forbidden Planet prequel and an adaptation of E.E. Doc Smith’s Lensman books
Finally, here’s a promo video from the Studio JMS webpage.