Tags: wolf | timing | dramas | TV

Dick Wolf Relies on Timing, Reality to Make Hit TV Dramas

Wednesday, 08 Jan 2014 02:20 PM

By Bill Hoffmann and John Bachman

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Timing is everything, especially when you're in the business of creating gritty, ripped-from-the-headlines TV dramas.

Just ask Dick Wolf, the award-winning creator of TV's "Law & Order," franchise, who was set to begin work on an ambitious miniseries called "Terror" — but had to drop it when real-life interfered.

"On 9/11, we were two weeks away from doing a five-hour miniseries called 'Terror' for NBC which started in an al-Qaida training camp in Afghanistan with 10-year-olds saying death to America," Wolf told Newsmax TV.

Story continues below video.

"The brother of one of them … was going to America to become a great hero. Cut to him and three other guys driving across the Canadian border where they came into Manhattan, set off a bomb under the shuttle, killed 2,500 people and then released anthrax two days later.

"As I said, on 9/11, we were supposed to start shooting on 9/25 — a story that incorporated all three 'Law and Order' casts and was a huge undertaking, but since that period, the miniseries went away. So the ability to do a story of that scope really didn't exist on television."

Wolf, who has been involved with such groundbreaking cop shows as "Hill Street Blues," "Miami Vice" and New York Undercover," is out with a new TV series, "Chicago PD," a spinoff of "Chicago Fire," and a new novel, "The Execution."

He says the Windy City is a great place to film in because of the "fantastic" cooperation there.

"The mayor and the fire department ... literally rolled out the red carpet for both shows and we've gotten unbelievable cooperation and help," he said.

"For example, whenever you see firefighters who are not our firefighters, they're actually off-duty Chicago firefighters ... These guys actually look like they know how to take a hose off the truck, which is hard to find in extras."

Reality is something Wolf strives for in his shows.

"It's one of the things that actually we're really proud of, that we're using most of the firefighting techniques and what happens on that show are incredibly accurate," Wolf said.

"There's an episode coming up where somebody has fallen down a chimney on top of a building because they were trying to take picture of the skyline and got up too high and fell into the thing

"The way they got him out, several firefighters said, wow, that is exactly right and I'd never seen it anywhere before."

To keep things real, Wolf relies on locals who know the score.

"The technical adviser on [fires] is a battalion chief named Chick ... who has been on the fire department for 35 years," he said.

Wolf emphasizes that all the elements have to be in place and the timing just right to create a successful show.

"It's hair-trigger," he said.

"You can get burned or you can be anticipatory and do things [where people say]'how did they know that was going to happen?''' he said.

Asked what his favorite front-page newspaper headline is, Wolf points to the 1983 New York Post story of a maniac who fatally shot the owner of a strip joint and forced a patron to cut off his head.

The New York Post headline was "Headless Body in Topless Bar."

"Can't do better than that!" he said.

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