‘The Departed’ TV Show: Is This a Good Idea?

After years of false hopes, fans of Leonardo DiCaprio finally saw the acclaimed actor win an Academy Award for his performance in The Revenant. Many critics have questioned whether the role was truly the greatest accomplishment of the actor’s career to date, and while we have offered our take on DiCaprio’s finest work, his performance as undercover Boston cop Billy Costigan in Martin Scorsese’s 2006 gangland epic The Departed is typically one of the most commonly cited roles. Now it looks like that instant classic may be on the verge of being reborn as a television series.

Producer Roy Lee recently discussed development on a new show inspired by the Scorsese film, which is itself a remake of the 2002 Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs. That original film ultimately inspired two sequels, and there was once hope that The Departed might similarly evolve into a trilogy, with a tentative plan involving both a prequel and a sequel to the events of the 2006 film. With Scorsese no longer interested in such a project, Lee envisions a television series building upon the central premise of “two moles working on either side of the law and translating that idea into other settings with new characters.”

Source: Warner Bros.

Source: Warner Bros.

In particular, Lee cites the FX series Fargo as an example of how a show could translate an existing, Oscar-winning film into an ongoing storyline. At this point, it’s unclear if a TV show based on The Departed — which features an ensemble cast that included DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen and Alec Baldwin — would embrace the anthology storytelling approach of focusing on separate stories each season or attempt to follow the same characters from one batch of episodes to the next. If it is the former, then it’s easy to imagine the show becoming the next True Detective. Each season thus far, that HBO series has followed a loosely connected group of characters using the same core premise and attracted top-notch talent like Matthew McConaughey and Rachel McAdams each year.

Alternatively, The Departed could adopt a structure like The Wire, which focuses on a different institution and its ties to law enforcement each season. Since corruption is a key element of both properties, a series based on The Departed could easily explore any number of cities with the same thorough lens as The Wire does Baltimore. Perhaps the first season would serve as an extended version of the Scorsese film, and another season could then turn to the world of politics, just as The Departed sequel was once reported to do.

Leonardo DiCaprio in The Departed

Source: Warner Bros.

Basing a television series on a beloved film may be a dicey proposition, and in fact, most shows that have aimed to do just that have failed to achieve much long-term success. However, what makes The Departed work isn’t necessarily its characters but the world they inhabit. If Lee could translate that tone and basic premise to the elongated world of television and extrapolate those themes out into multiple story arcs, there is the distinct chance that a series based on Scorsese’s modern masterpiece could prove to be a worthwhile endeavor that actually provides a deeper examination of the moral complexity the filmmaker captured within the confines of a single film.

Of course, it’s too early to tell just yet if The Departed TV show will even come together, let alone provide a satisfying viewing experience. Still, the potential for something great is clearly present, and we’ll be keeping an eye out for further news on the project in the months ahead.

Follow Robert Yaniz Jr. on Twitter @CrookedTable

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