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Chad Hodge has come a long way from The Playboy Club.
The writer-producer behind NBC’s short-lived drama — which was canceled after three low-rated episodes in 2011 — has had an active development season, setting up three very different projects at the broadcast networks this season.
The first, Wayward Pines, is a potential limited-run series set up at Fox, with M. Night Shyamalan on board to executive produce the Twin Peaks-like event project about a secret service agent who arrives in the bucolic town of Wayward Pines, Id., on a mission to find two missing federal agents.
Second, Hodge is exploring Alice in Wonderland, setting up a modern-day procedural with McG at the CW about a young female detective in Los Angeles who discovers another world that exists under the surface of this ultra-modern city.
And finally, Hodge is working with country singer Miranda Lambert for a semi-autobiographical comedy at NBC based on her experience growing up as the daughter of two PIs juggling a family.
The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Hodge to discuss the lessons he learned after The Playboy Club impacted his approach to development season.
The Hollywood Reporter: What did you learn from The Playboy Club?
Chad Hodge: I learned a lot of production lessons on Playboy Club. It didn’t work for a variety of reasons but it did work for a variety of other reasons. I think audiences really rejected that concept outright because no one really showed up for the pilot. The Playboy brand was maybe something that wasn’t exactly right for a network show. That has nothing to do with the show itself that we created. It was maybe just something that people didn’t want to watch.
THR: Looking back would you do it again minus the Playboy brand?
Hodge: Absolutely. It wasn’t even minus the Playboy brand. I had such a great time working with Hugh Hefner. When I first heard the idea pitched to me, my first reaction was a little bit like, “Ew, really? Playboy?” As soon as I started doing the research of what this story was and who these women were and what this show could be about I got really excited about it and realized that there was you know a whole truth to this world that was so interesting and revolutionary but I didn’t know that until I did the research. I feel like audiences rejected it in the same way that I did initially. Had they been able to continue watching the show in three or four episodes in they would probably had seen what I saw. Unfortunately, they didn’t get the chance to get that far.
THR: How did you handle getting the quick hook? Did it take some time to get back on track?
Hodge: It was sad; it was definitely a bummer. I had to close all the episodes and so I still had work to do on them for a couple of months. You try to throw yourself into other work. I didn’t let myself be mad about it for very long because in the end, I got to make a show. I have a really great job that I love and so I tried to move on pretty quickly.
THR: You’re developing three very different projects now — how did your experience on Playboy change your approach to development season?
Hodge: The ideas that I tend to come up with are usually big-swing ideas: a big genre piece or something high-concept or out of the box. In the network broadcast world, they tend to pick up and what really works and for years the more straightforward procedural or soap opera tends to go. I took a step back and looked at everything I had developed in the last seven years, and I’ve gotten two shows on the air. I thought if I wanted to keep working in broadcast television I’d have to realize what it is and instead of being the guy that always likes the big-swing ideas that maybe has a much smaller chance of going, let’s try to find a way to bring that big swing idea into a more conventional network world.
Sometimes when you do a show like Playboy Club or some of the other shows I’ve created in the past and have not gotten on the air, you get so excited about this crazy idea or this fabulous world but then everybody sort of starts to panic about what’s happening every week [on the show]. I still have these big ideas. I’m doing an Alice in Wonderland update for CW and it’s fabulous, musical and wild — it’s everything that I love to do — but it’s also a procedural and every week there’s a case. I said [after Playboy Cub] that I’m not going down this road again where no one knows what’s happening every week. Every week she’s solving a case because it’s network television.
THR: What about the book Pines appealed to you as a potential event series?
Hodge: I wrote that on spec. [Wayward Pines producer] Donald De Line brought it to me and said it was a Twin Peaks-type small-town mystery. I read it in about a day and a half and fell in love with it. When closed the book was, I thought it was the perfect television show — mystery, question marks and mythology. I wrote it in three weeks. We talked about directors attached to the script before we took it out. We took it to Shyamalan first and within two days he was attached and I flew out to Philadelphia to meet with him and we totally hit it off. We sent out the script and sold it in this great way to Fox to do it as 12-episode straight to series model. I’m writing a bible of what the next 11 episodes are going to be. Once they read that, it’ll go forward or not.
THR: You’re also working with Miranda Lambert on a semi-autobiographical comedy. What’s the common thread among the three?
Hodge: The Miranda Lambert comedy is the first one I sold this year. I’ve always dabbled in different things and I like to write in different genres. For me it’s always about putting a character in a crazy or interesting situation. That’s the common thread. Playboy Club was that, Runaway on the CW with Donnie Wahlberg was, too. It lasted for a whole three episodes but that was family on the run. Alice in Wonderland is this young cop from Los Angeles who discovers Wonderland under the city. Wayward Pines is a secret service agent who goes to this small strange town in Idaho called Wayward Pines and soon realizes that he can’t get out. The Miranda Lambert show is a normal seeming husband and wife who happen to be PIs who use their children in their cases. It’s true story and totally crazy and fun. It’s a character in a wild situation that’s really the only criteria for me. I think I would get bored if I was doing the same thing all the time.
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