Christopher Guest now has one fewer mockumentary to feel responsible for: While the pilot for ABC’s Detroit 1-8-7, an NYPD Blue-esque cop hour that debuts this fall, was shot in the very trendy fake-documentary style used by The Office, Parks and Recreation, and Modern Family, Vulture has learned that ABC has decided to nix that format and spend four days reshooting scenes on location in Detroit to remove all traces of it from the first episode. Now, the series, which stars Michael Imperioli, will center around cops, not Cops.
The idea of dropping Detroit’s faux doc format was first brought up even before ABC officially ordered the show in May (though as recently as Tuesday, the network’s online press materials still included the conceit in the show’s description). ABC is also launching another mockumentary-style series in the fall — My Generation, a soapy relationship drama which revolves around a group of pals who’ve been harassed by documentary makers since they were high school seniors back in 2000 — so one wonders if the network decided that three such shows (counting Modern Family) might test viewers’s patience. Detroit executive producers Jason Richman and David Zabel, however, say that wasn’t the motivating reason for the decision.
Zabel says that ABC nixed the doc style because the network “found the characters and the storytelling to be strong enough to not require the conceit, and they also were worried about distancing the audiences.” Also, ironically, a reality format could inhibit the reality of the show: Imperioli’s detective character is a hothead, and if he knew he was being documented, he might hold back his reactions to certain situations.
And real life intruded in another way. In late May, Detroit mayor Dave Bing decided to ban camera crews from riding along with the city’s police officers, following the death of a seven-year-old during a raid being filmed by A&E reality show The First 48. “We’re trying to do a show that’s realistic,” says Richman. “And we suddenly found ourselves with a premise that would no longer be viable.” Perhaps Scranton’s mayor could be convinced to pass a similar law; it could make for a graceful way to shut down The Office after Steve Carell leaves.