NYPD Blue's Milch Sets Sights on Ancient Rome

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) — Television writer-producer David Milch, the creative force behind the police drama NYPD Blue for seven years, is working with DreamWorks to develop a TV cop show set in ancient Rome, Variety reported today.

ABC, NBC, and Fox all have expressed serious interest in the project, and high-profile filmmaker Ridley Scott, who directed the summer DreamWorks hit Gladiator, would likely direct a two-hour pilot for the show.

DreamWorks Pictures' co-president, Walter Parkes, an executive producer of Gladiator, brought the idea for a Roman-based police series to Milch, his longtime friend, Variety reported.

Milch, who stepped aside earlier this year as day-to-day supervisor of NYPD Blue to pursue other projects, seized on the Parkes concept and began sketching a broad outline of characters and story lines the new show could explore.

The series would be produced jointly by DreamWorks and Paramount Network Television, where Milch signed a $15 million, four-year development deal just more than a year ago.

While sparked by the commercial success of Gladiator, which has grossed more than $183 million in North America to rank as this summer's second-biggest movie release, the TV project is not a sequel or spinoff of the film that starred Russell Crowe.

Instead, the show will take place during the reign of Nero in 65 A.D., nearly a century before Gladiator, focusing on the head of the Urban Cohort, the Roman police force assigned to keep the city streets safe. Stories will combine the traditional aspects of a cop show with the unconventional backdrop of ancient Rome.

Network insiders told Variety that Paramount is asking TV networks for a 13-episode commitment, with a huge license fee of $1.8 million per episode.

Milch is certainly no stranger to the modern police TV genre, having won two Emmys as a writer and producer on NYPD Blue and an Emmy as a writer for the 1980s cop drama Hill Street Blues.