Before the O.K. Corral made Doc Holliday a western legend, he was just a young dentist following his doctor’s orders. Now, HBO and Ron Howard will let us see how it all began in a new western drama series.
Director/producer Ron Howard and Oscar winning screenwriter Akiva Goldsman are together again. The duo that brought us A Beautiful Mind reunited to work on Stephen King’s Dark Tower project and during their collaboration, Goldsman mentioned the Doc Holliday project that had been brought to his attention. According to Deadline, the idea was taken to HBO as a mini-series but the cable network suggested an actual series, instead.
The currently unnamed Doc Holliday project was inspired by Mary Doria Russell’s critically praised novel, Doc, which was published in May. The book tells the story of a 26-year-old dentist named John Henry Holliday who is forced by illness to leave Atlanta for the drier climate of the West. While staying in Dodge City, the burned body of a mixed-blood boy is discovered, and Holliday teams up with Wyatt Earp to solve the mystery.
Ron Howard is expected to direct the pilot, with father, Rance Howard, and wife, Judy Howard, serving as co-producers. Writers Adam Cooper and Bill Collage, who will handle the script, will executive produce with Goldsman and Kerry Foster.
I’ve always been a huge fan of Doc Holliday, even before his popularity surged with Val Kilmer’s performance of the gun-slinging gambler in the movie, Tombstone. The idea of a dignified doctor turning to making a living with cards and a gun intrigues me, and I’ve always been fascinated with the friendship the outlaw had with Wyatt Earp.
Even though I personally think this is a great idea, I’m not sure how a western will do on TV. Deadwood fared pretty well but there haven’t really been any other westerns out there to test the waters. It’s too soon to tell if the new Hell on Wheels will find an audience or not.
When it comes to a character like Doc Holliday, I think the survival of a series will depend on the actors. Dennis Quaid did an okay job as Holliday in Wyatt Earp but he was completely eclipsed by Kilmer’s portrayal in Tombstone. If HBO can find someone that can follow in Kilmer’s footsteps, then the series will probably do well.