Last week, THUD reported that Spike Lee signed to direct the pilot M.O.N.Y. for NBC. At the time, I said that the project – about an ordinary guy who becomes the mayor of New York – sounded like an ideal match for Lee and that it was one of the new pilots to pay attention to.
I’m telling you now you have to pay attention to M.O.N.Y.
Today, NBC announced that Bobby Cannavale, of The Station Agent, Fast Food Nation and, yes, Snakes on a Plane, signed to star as the titular M.O.N.Y. But it was the Hollywood Reporter’s coverage of the news that sent my excitement for this project through the roof with just two words:
Fontana will be executive producing M.O.N.Y. with longtime collaborator Barry Levinson, which means that this isn’t something they’re lending their name to–this is a Fontana and Levinson show.
In my Holy Trinity of Television Writers, there is Aaron Sorkin, there is Joss Whedon, and there is Tom Fontana. (Although Studio 60 has Sorkin in dangerous danger of being replaced by David “Deadwood” Milch.) Fontana was the show runner on one of the best cop shows ever, Homicide: Life on the Street for its seven-season run. During the first season of Homicide, Fontana wrote what I consider to be the single greatest hour of television ever, “Three Men and Adena.” (Yes, better than “Two Cathedrals.”) I’ve just begun to watch Oz on DVD, too soon to make up my mind about it, but there have been some moments of greatness. (And that’s not even counting Fontana’s years of work on St. Elsewhere.)
Like Milch and Sorkin, Fontana has a clear understanding of how television, at its greatest, at its core, harkens back to its roots in New York in the 1950s. The best television has always been that medium between theatre and film – whether it’s Bartlet ripping God a new one or Al Swearengen and A.W. Merrick talking about the meaning of life (“Stand it like a man, and give some back.”) or Dets. Frank Pembleton and Tim Bayliss stuck in that sweaty, confined box with a suspect, any suspect.
Fontana’s also not afraid to shy away from politics or controversial subject matter, which helps when it comes to the relevance a show like this needs. And I know that they’re going to shoot this entirely in New York, just like Homicide shot for all seven years in Baltimore, even though it hurt them every year come Emmy time.
Adding Spike Lee to this concept with Fontana and Levinson behind it – a concept fit for all of them, a concept with weight that The Jury and The Bedford Diaries lacked – makes M.O.N.Y. a must-see pilot and my most anticipated project of the fall season.
Fontana. Levinson. Lee. You can’t beat that.