HBO Orders David Simon’s ’70s/’80s Porn Drama… and It Stars James Franco… as Twins

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…dun dun dun!

Alas, from that headline alone, you may be experiencing colliding feelings of ecstasy at the prospect of the ’70s/’80s Time Square porn industry seen through the lens of The Wire creator David Simon, and annoyance at the same ’70s/’80s porn industry that, like General Hospital , most universities, and Lana Del Rey’s trips to the beach, now features James Franco. Oh right, two James Francos.

But don’t discount this as yet another minor part in the machine of Franco ubiquity: there’s so much to be excited about in the announcement of Simon’s new pilot that, eventually, even Franco’s presence may start to seem exciting. Firstly, it’s got a sleek title that captures the seediness of ’70s/’80s Times Square perfectly, in its simultaneous evocation of gambling, defecation and an insufferable Midtown Street (42nd) — it’s called The Deuce. Secondly, the pilot will be directed by Michelle MacLaren (also the director of Breaking Bad magnum opus “Ozymandias”). Then there’s the fact that Simon wrote the pilot with The Wire/Treme collaborator George Pelecanos.

Here’s the official description from HBO (via the Baltimore Sun ):

[The Deuce] follows the story of the legalization and subsequent rise of the porn industry in New York from the early 1970s through the mid-1980s, exploring the rough-and-tumble world that existed in midtown Manhattan until the rise of HIV, the violence of the cocaine epidemic and the renewed real estate market all ended the bawdy turbulence. Named for 42nd Street, THE DEUCE is inspired in part by the career of twin brothers [to be played by Franco] who were players in the Times Square world and became fronts for Mob control of the volatile and lucrative sex industry from its origins.

Simon noted, in a statement, his desire not to be exploitative of nor sensational about the subject:

We’re interested in what it means when profit is the primary metric for what we call society. In that sense, this story is intended as neither prurient nor puritan. It’s about a product, and those human beings who created, sold, profited from and suffered with that product.

On top of all this, HBO has also ordered another David Simon pilot about an equally, though aesthetically oppositional, part of American society: Capitol Hill. According to the cable network, the pilot, for which Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein is a co-producer, is a “modern-day examination of partisanship and the influence of money on national governance.” It’ll go into production after The Deuce.

HBO president Michael Lombardo said of the two orders:

We are thrilled to continue our longstanding relationship with preeminent producer David Simon, whose keen eye and visceral perspective on today’s socio-economic ills have set him apart from all others. No one else creates with such authenticity, integrity and brilliant realism. We are so fortunate to support David’s efforts and to reap the benefits of his distinctive voice.