Can an Oscar winner get a break? Last year Paul Haggis had finally made folks forget he was the creator of Walker, Texas Ranger by becoming the first person in the history of the Academy Awards to write screenplays to back-to-back Best Picture winners, for Crash and Million Dollar Baby.
Now he's back in television (along with Crash co-writer Bobby Moresco) with the NBC mid-season replacement series The Black Donnellys, and after its premiere, there's already talk that it's in trouble. You see, NBC is pitting Haggis' TBD up against Aaron Sorkin's Studio 60 for that time slot. It's a cage match and whoever wins the ratings war gets the prize of following Heroes. TBD's one advantage is that it's less expensive to make, so all they have to do is anywhere near Studio 60's weak ratings and they're in and Sorkin's out.
Meanwhile, Haggis has had the headache of having to deal with complications to the soundtrack for the series. He wrote and edited the ending of the pilot to go along with the Arcade Fire song "Rebellion (Lies)," just assuming that they'd be able to get the rights to it later -- it even made it onto promotional DVD pilots that were mailed out and available via Netflix (see video). Well, Arcade Fire said no. So Haggis reportedly then flew to Montreal to try to convince the band to give him permission, but they still could not be convinced by the multiple Oscar winner.
Reminds me a bit of his appearance (as himself) on Entourage last season when he says (trying to sway Vince into a role), “If I let contracts rule my life, I'd still be doing The Facts of Life rather than hanging with my boys.” His boys, of course, being his Oscar awards.
So instead, Haggis approached Snow Patrol about using the song "Open Your Eyes," and of course the Grey's Anatomy music bitches said yes. Watching both back to back, I find that the replacement actually works better -- as you know I love Arcade Fire, but it didn't seem like as good a fit.
While the pilot, which gets an encore airing tonight on NBC, got mixed reviews, I'll reserve my judgment for a few episodes. It supposedly is a follow-up to the series he penned back in '96 called EZ Streets, which plot and style-wise foreshadowed HBO's great The Wire, and for that alone I say give it a chance (even if it comes at the cost of Studio 60).
Playlist: The Black Donnellys - Pilot (Ep 101)
1. "Thunder" - Nuttin' But Stringz (MySpace) - intro flashback
2. "Hella Good" - No Doubt - it's 2002
3. "Are You Gonna Be My Girl" - Jet - it's 2005
4. "Sleepy Maggie" - The Mad Maggies - brawling at the wake
5. "Beautiful Things" - Andain - chasing the italian
6. "Arianna" - Paul Schwartz - Louie "Downtown" makes the drop
7. "The Moment I Said It" - Imogen Heap - hospital
8. "Open Your Eyes" - Snow Patrol - final montage scene
9. "Rebellion (Lies)" - Arcade Fire - originally used, replaced prior to airing by "Open Your Eyes"