James Gunn's 'Starsky and Hutch' TV Reboot Lands at Amazon

The retail giant and streamer has handed out a script commitment for the drama from the 'Guardians of the Galaxy' mastermind.
Photofest (Still); Courtesy of PMK*BNC (Gunn)
'Starsky & Hutch'; James Gunn (inset)

Amazon is getting into the James Gunn business.

In a competitive situation, the retail giant and streamer has landed the Starsky and Hutch TV reboot from Guardians of the Galaxy mastermind James Gunn. Amazon has handed out a script-to-series commitment to the drama from Gunn, his brother Brian Gunn and cousin Mark Gunn (meaning if the script comes in well, Amazon would order the drama straight to series).

The potential series is slated to be a continuation of the original 1970s show and is described as a character-driven drama that deconstructs the buddy-cop genre in the same way that Gunn did with sci-fi and Guardians of the Galaxy. The project is a co-production between Amazon Studios and Sony Pictures Television Studios.

“Chekhov said if you have a gun in the room, it's going to go off. We can't wait to see what three Gunns do with Starsky and Hutch,” Amazon head of comedy, drama and VR Joe Lewis said Thursday in a statement.

The Starsky and Hutch project is Gunn's first TV foray for his Troll Court Entertainment banner. Brian Gunn and Mark Gunn are writing the script based on an idea that James Gunn developed between writing Guardians 3 and starting preproduction on the feature. James Gunn and Brian Gunn previously worked together on web parody series PG Porn, which has more than 100 million hits; yet another Gunn, Sean, stars as Kraglin in the Guardians franchise; and Brian Gunn and Mark Gunn are a writing duo who previously penned Journey to the Center of the Earth 2. James Gunn may direct a potential pilot should the drama move forward at Amazon and it works with his busy schedule.

The project hails from Sony Pictures Television Studios, which controls the TV rights to the IP and is the worldwide distributor for the original series. Warner Bros. Pictures controls the feature film rights. The new Starsky and Hutch has been in the works since last year when deals for everyone involved closed; it was taken out to bidders this summer. Sony-based Neal Moritz and his Original Film banner topper Pavun Shetty also executive produce.

“We are thrilled to be working with Amazon on this unique approach to a character-driven procedural,” said Jason Clodfelter, co-president at Sony Pictures Television Studios. “The Gunns completely surpassed our expectations while paying respect to the original.”  

Starsky and Hutch first premiered in 1975 as a movie of the week on ABC. The series was created by William Blinn and produced by Aaron Spelling and Leonard Goldberg's Spelling-Goldberg Productions. Starring David Soul as Kenneth "Hutch" Hutchinson and Paul Michael Glaser as David Michael Starsky, the show ran for four seasons and nearly 100 episodes. It was distributed by Columbia Pictures Television, which later became SPT. A feature film take on the franchise starring Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson was released in 2004 by Warner Bros. and Dimension Films and grossed $170.2 million worldwide.

“When I was a kid, Starsky and Hutch was the first 'adult' show I ever saw, and I fell in love,” James Gunn said. “It instilled in me a lifelong love of gritty street shows, of killer '70s threads, and muscle cars. So when Neal Moritz asked me if I wanted to be a part of an all-new Starsky and Hutch on TV, I was instantly intrigued. I teamed up with the two writers I trusted most in the world to work with us, my brother Brian Gunn and my cousin Mark Gunn and together we came up with a show that I’m really proud of. At Amazon, I believed we would have the most freedom to create something that is different, challenges the audience, and that strays outside the parameters of genre from time to time.”

For his part, James Gunn is already attached to pen and direct the third Guardians of the Galaxy feature after writing and helming the first two films in the Chris Pratt-fronted franchise. His screenplay credits include features Scooby-Doo (2002) as well as Dawn of the Dead (2004). Gunn is with UTA.

Reboots continue to remain in high demand as broadcast, cable and streaming outlets look for proven IP in a bid to cut through a cluttered scripted landscape that is quickly approaching 500 original series. Key to the remakes is having the original producers — in this case, Sony TV — involved in some capacity as more studios look to monetize their existing film libraries. This development season shows no signs of that trend slowing down as ABC is readying a live-action take on The Jetsons while NBC is adapting The Munsters and Miami Vice.

For Amazon, Starsky and Hutch comes as the streamer is also readying a reboot of Galaxy Quest with writer Paul Scheer.