Two years ago this month, word leaked out that Syriana and Traffic writer Stephen Gaghan, who used to write for TV shows such as The Practice and NYPD Blue before becoming an Oscar-winning filmmaker, was ready to return to the small screen via a big bucks commitment from ABC. He wrote a pilot script and worked with Alphabet chief Steve McPherson to develop the project; still, as sometimes happens in TV land, things simply stalled. McPherson, meanwhile, abruptly exited ABC last summer. Cut to yesterday: NBC announces that it has green-lit production on S.I.L.A., an hour-long drama weaving together stories about crime, law enforcement, and politics in a multi-layered style not unlike Traffic. The writer and director of this impressive-sounding drama, widely seen around town as a major coup for new Peacock chief Bob Greenblatt? That would be Stephen Gaghan.
Insiders tell Vulture that S.I.L.A. is indeed the project Gaghan started working on at ABC. What nobody’s willing to say (at least not now) is how a once-hot ABC scripted ended up shifting a few sunny California blocks from Alphabet City to Peacock Row. However, considering the script’s beginnings at ABC, it’s pretty likely that McPherson’s replacement, Paul Lee, had plenty of opportunities to green-light the S.I.L.A script to pilot. For whatever reason, he didn’t — and now Greenblatt has a project insiders say boasts the same twists and deep plot scructure as The Wire, but with a more broadly accessible plot that makes it suited to broadcast TV. An ABC rep didn’t immediately respond to our request for comment.