David Simon Reveals Plans for 1970s Times Square Porn Project at HBO

David Simon - H 2015
AP Images/Invision

David Simon - H 2015

David Simon is preparing to take a racy turn.

The mastermind behind HBO's The Wire and Treme, along with his frequent collaborator George Pelecanos, is developing a potential series about the porn industry for the premium network. Assuming HBO opts to move forward with the entry, titled The Deuce, it will chronicle the legalization and subsequent rise of the porn industry in New York’s Times Square from the early 1970s through the mid-1980s. Also explored: the rough-and-tumble world that existed in midtown Manhattan until the rise of HIV, the violence of the cocaine epidemic and a rejuvenated real estate market ended the bawdy turbulence.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Simon acknowledges that he and Pelecanos were hesitant to take on the project when they first heard from one of their Treme location managers, who'd been researching the life of a man who had been one of the mob fronts on 42nd Street during that era. "He said, 'You’ve got to hear the guy’s stories,’" Simon recalls. "George and I looked at each other and said, 'I don’t wanna make a porn show. … I’m married with kids and lawn furniture. I don’t want to go there, man. That’s dark.'”

Curiosity got the best of them, however, and Simon and Pelecanos agreed to meet with the subject. When he and his stories were indeed fascinating, the pair decided to continue exploring that world. As is always the case with Simon, a longtime journalist turned showrunner, that process entailed heavy research.

Still, there were a multitude of other challenges to consider. Simon felt strongly that he didn't want to be sneering at porn while using porn to sell the show, for instance. "You don't want to make porn to critique porn because that would be a venal journey — nor do you want to look down on people because that also is fairly dishonest," he explains, adding of the sweet spot: "You really have to land it in such a way where it’s a story about people and it’s a story about markets — about the moment where something became legal and profitable and what happens to people in that environment when markets prevail."

Though the project has been in the works for some time, executives at HBO had opted to make Show Me a Hero, a miniseries about a housing project in Yonkers, N.Y., Simon's next move. Now, with the latter set to bow in mid-August, network insiders suggest a pilot order for Deuce could be forthcoming. When it's suggested to Simon that the world of '70s-era porn has the potential to be noisier — and thus higher rated — than some of the premises he's tackled in the past, he laughs. "It does," he says, "but I'm sure I'd f— it up."