When Backstrom premieres on Jan. 22, it will have been nearly two years since most people involved in the Fox drama boarded the project. First a pilot for CBS to air during the 2013-14 season, it never got enough traction at the network — despite most thinking it would land a series order, well into the 13th hour.
“I was very shocked,” said creator and executive producer Hart Hanson, addressing reporters, Fox and 20th TV brass at the Television Critics Association press tour on Saturday. “There were even people in this room who were saying at the upfronts, ‘Don’t worry, they’re going to announce [a pickup] in five minutes.’ But I wasn’t there, so that was a pretty good indicator.”
Eventually finding a home with a straight-to-series order at Fox, the show is now being pushed out by Fox TV Group’s Dana Walden and Gary Newman. The duo first championed the show at the studio. Hanson, best known for his other Fox creation (Bones), admits he was skeptical that it would land at another network after it was dead at CBS.
It might have something to do with its not-immediately-likable protagonist — and that’s putting it nicely. Descriptors “racist,” “homophobic” and “misogynist” were mentioned several times when regarding the titular character played by Office alum Rainn Wilson. What viewers will see onscreen is apparently a softened version of the character’s first iteration, in Leif G.W. Persson‘s Swedish book series.
“In the books, he has no redeeming values,” says Hanson. “He’s not even a good detective. He just takes credit for what other people do, much like a showrunner. The change we made was to make him very good at his job and to make him empathetic.”
“And to make him not Swedish,” Wilson chimed in.
Wilson admitted that signing on for another series so quickly after nine seasons on The Office was not what he originally had in mind, but he jumped at it after realizing that good parts don’t often come along for “weird-looking, 48-year-old, pasty white dudes.”