Rob Thomas, Ira Glass, and Owen Wilson Developing THRILLSVILLE for HBO; Series Inspired by THIS AMERICAN LIFE Segment “Midlife Cowboy”

     April 4, 2012

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Rob Thomas, Ira Glass, and Owen Wilson are teaming up at HBO for a drama series tentatively titled ThrillsvilleVariety says the series is inspired by the This American Life segment “Midlife Cowboy,” in which former methamphetamine smuggler James Spring tells the story of his inspiration to help others before his 40th birthday: “His quest led him to mount a search for two young girls who were kidnapped in Northern California in connection with drug-trade violence and taken to Baja California.”  His success in finding the girls led him to a new career as an investigator in missing person cases, which I imagine is how they will turn this into an ongoing series.

I’m a big fan of Thomas.  His lighter fare (Party Down, Cupid) is great, but his best work is Veronica Mars, so I’m in Thrillsville seeing him return to darker territory—especially at HBO.  There is no mention of Wilson doing anything but producing, but he would be a good fit in the starring role… I just ask that you consider it, Mr. Wilson.  Hit the jump for more on the story.

Here’s an excerpt from the TAL transcript:
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“At 39, I took a little inventory of my life and found myself to be unremarkable in almost every way. For more than a decade I’d held a job writing ad copy and radio commercials in San Diego. I had a wife, two kids, two mortgages, TiVo, prescription reading glasses, and about 20 extra pounds that I no longer had the energy or ambition to lose. My 40th birthday was only a couple of months away, in April… In the end what I thought was, I’m going to do something big to help somebody else in a big way. It’s going to be a great big thing. When it’s done, I’m going to feel really, really good and helpful…

And so on the eve of my 40th birthday, I brought up Google and typed the words Baja and missing. The top result on Google was a day old newspaper article about a fugitive couple wanted for kidnapping and murder. The story, essentially, was that this couple, Richard Carelli and Michelle Pinkerton, were a pair of chronic meth heads who killed their landlord in San Francisco. Then they drove to Santa Cruz and kidnapped their own six year old daughter from the grandparents who’d been given legal custody. And, oh yeah, also on the run with them? Their two month old baby girl with Down syndrome. Clearly these were not great parents.”

Spring goes on to detail his fascinating search for the missing girls.  You can listen here.

Glass mentions at the end of the episode that Spring has since helped in “half a dozen cases”:

“There was the paranoid schizophrenic in Laguna Harbor, the guy who’s been missing for 35 years, the tow truck driver’s missing wife, the father who stole his son and fled to Mexico. His current case is a missing family of four in Southern California.”

That gives me hope that it will be one case per season rather than case-of-the-week, like Veronica Mars.  But I’m getting way ahead of myself.  For now, I’ll just root my little heart out that HBO orders Thrillsville to series.

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