HBO has stepped up their game in recent years in response to a number of other cable stations stepping in on their “respectable television” kool•aid, and now their present and future slate is filled with collaborator names like Martin Scorsese, Michael Mann, Neil Gaiman, and Spike Lee. The network is still gunning to be the classiest and most prestigious channel on TV, and they’ve now added a new name for that: Akiva Goldsman. The director has signed a two-year exclusive deal with HBO that will see him heading up a number of projects, and generally becoming another prestigious feather in the network’s cap.

Notice the repeated operative word here is “prestigious,” not necessarily “good.”

Whether you like his work and frequent collaborations with Ron Howard or not (and I don’t think much of them), it’s undeniable that the Oscar-winning screenwriter of A Beautiful Mind and Cinderella Man comes with some classy cred for the network. Lest we forget though, Goldsman is also responsible for writing movies like I Am Legend, the two Schumacher Batman movies, I, Robot, and all of the Da Vinci Code movies. A little Oscar gold will go a long way for one’s reputation, no?

Regardless, according to Deadline, Goldsman’s first major project with the network will be turning his pitch for a Doc Holiday mini-series into a full season series at HBO’s request. Since this is a big happy new set-up for the writer/producer he’s pulling out all the stops and isn’t just making the predictable move of working with Ron for his new show… he’s bringing in the entire Howard family! Along with Ron producing and directing the pilot episode, his wife Judy and his father Rance Howard (apparently a Doc Holiday enthusiast) will be involved. They’ll be basing their efforts on Mary Doria Russell’s novel Doc, which expands on the man so often viewed as the quirky appendage of Wyatt Earp.

Though he died young, Doc lived a fascinating life that began in Georgia as an educated son of a war veteran to an ailing dental practitioner that found gambling more lucrative than trying to work on teeth with a consumptive cough. Hell, he was a lot like the wild west’s Mr. White– the all-encompassing presence of near-death empowered him to grow huge balls and do great (if often questionable) things.

As a screen character Doc is a bit of a whore, having been portrayed by everyone from Cesar Romero, Adam West, Stacey Keach, Dennis Hopper, Willie Nelson, both the Quaids, and, of course, Val Kilmer. No word yet on who Akiva and crew are eyeballing for their John Henry Holiday, and I wouldn’t expect that news for some time.

My fingers are crossed that whatever western these guys come up with manages to come close to the high bar that’s already been set for dusty dramas on HBO. Holiday is certainly worthy of this kind of treatment, but I get a little nervous considering Ron Howard’s name was one of the big ones on the worst western in a long time. That said, I doubt we have to be worried about alien cameos in this project.

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(via Dark Horizons)