CW Developing Period Drama Based on Black PI Who Inspired Philip Marlowe Character

'Marlowe' will be set in 1937 but feature social issues ripped from today's headlines.
Aaron Kaplan

The CW is getting into the procedural game.

The network is teaming with prolific producer Aaron Kaplan to develop Marlowe, a period drama inspired by the real-life African-American private investigator who inspired Raymond Chandler's famed fictional character Philip Marlowe.

The project is described as a character-based procedural with a modern feel and contemporary soundtrack. It follows Samuel Marlowe from the mansions and red carpets of Beverly Hills to the jazz clubs and back alleys of Little Harlem, where he navigates crimes, mysteries and social issues ripped from today’s headlines through the prism of 1937 Los Angeles.

Devon Greggory (Shark, Harry's Law, CSI Cyber, State of Affairs) will pen the script and co-executive produce the CBS Television Studios drama. Kaplan will exec produce.

Chandler's Philip Marlowe first appeared in his 1939 work The Big Sleep and went on to appear in subsequent pulp magazines, short stories and radio programs on CBS, and later NBC. The character previously appeared on TV in Philip Marlowe, Private Eye, a British mystery drama that aired on ITV in the U.K. and stateside on HBO in the 1980s. The series starring Powers Boothe was the first drama produced for HBO. ABC took on the character from 1959-60 with a half-hour crime series starring Philip Carey. The series was canceled after one season of 26 episodes. The BBC revived the radio series in 2011 with a series of Chandler's works.

Actors who have played the famed detective include Van Heflin (NBC Radio), Robert Montgomery (CBS Radio), Dick Powell (CBS Radio), Gerald Mohr (CBS Radio), Ed Bishop (BBC Radio), Danny Glover (Showtime) and James Caan (HBO's Poodle Springs movie).

The CW entry marks the latest TV project to re-examine Philip Marlowe. In 2013, Castle creators Andrew Marlowe and Terri Edda Miller teamed with Michael De Luca for an untitled drama set up at ABC that was described as an update of Chandler's character set in present-day L.A. ABC also took a stab at Philip Marlowe in 2007 with a drama pilot, also called Marlowe, that starred Jason O'Mara and did not move forward.

For Kaplan, meanwhile, Marlowe becomes his latest sale this development season. He has projects in the works at CBS (with Liz Feldman), Fox (with Sharon Horgan), ABC (with Barbie Kligman) and NBC (with Telefe USA), among others.

For The CW, the drama comes as intellectual property remains in high demand amid the so-called "Peak TV" era of more than 400 scripted series. Should Marlowe move forward, it would become the first series on the network with a black actor or actress No. 1 on the call sheet.

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