George Clooney Will Indulge Longtime Interest in Political Intrigue With TV Spy Series 'The Department'
News of the project follows Showtime’s announcement that it will also seek to expand universes of some of its other series.
Over the course of his long and successful career, George Clooney has dabbled in no small number of projects related to espionage, spycraft, and politically-inflected exfiltration or contract killing. He made his directorial debut with the colorful and inventive biographical spy drama 'Confessions of a Dangerous Mind', and also lent his talents to movies like 'Syriana,' 'The American,' and the Oscar-winning 'Argo,' the latter of which he produced.
For his next project, per Variety and other sources, Clooney will be helming a new spy series for Showtime that presumably will not involve a windswept, headline-grabbing balloon. Working in tandem with MTV Entertainment Studios and 101 Studios, Clooney will both direct the series, currently proceeding under the working title 'The Department,' and also executive produce it alongside Grant Heslov, his longtime partner at Smokehouse Pictures.
Showtime, which recently made news when it was announced the longtime cable network and standalone streaming platform would be incorporated as a branded shingle under Paramount+, has staked a significant part of its new identity to the project, rewarding it with a full straight-to-series order.
While spy thrillers are a dime a dozen in the entertainment realm, both the pedigree and focus of 'The Department' seem likely to give it a boost, and considerable differentiation from other works in development in the same genre.
Dating back to his work alongside Steven Soderbergh on the short-lived but high-profile 2003 HBO series 'K Street,' Clooney has long been interested more in the corridors of power — and their intersection with macro policy issues, political decisions and international consequences — rather than just action for action’s sake.
Focusing on special division responsible for training deep-cover secret agents embedding sometimes for years at a time, 'The Department' looks likely to continue to mine that seam of personal fascination.
Helping provide a frame and roadmap will be an award-winning source of adaptation: the French series 'The Bureau,' which debuted in 2015 and has run for five seasons.
Created by Eric Rochant, that show centers on the daily lives and missions of government staffers within France's chief external security service, focusing on the agency’s so-called “Bureau of Legends,” who help identify and recruit valuable intelligence sources. It’s anticipated that 'The Department' will further contemporize this subject matter, as well as make it particular to the United States.
While he costarred alongside Julia Roberts in the recent romantic comedy 'Ticket to Paradise,' Clooney has increasingly turned to directing over the last several years. His recent efforts behind the camera include two projects in which he also appeared as an actor — the Hulu miniseries 'Catch-22' and 2020’s 'The Midnight Sky' — as well as 2021’s 'The Tender Bar' plus the upcoming drama 'The Boys in the Boat,' starring Callum Turner and Joel Edgerton.
Meanwhile, if 'The Department' proves successful, it could easily provide roots for Showtime — which previously enjoyed great results with another espionage series adapted from an international property, 'Homeland' — to set up other projects.
In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, Chris McCarthy, president and CEO of Showtime and Paramount Media, provided some new details about Showtime’s version of the same type of brand expansion plan which has proven successful for Taylor Sheridan’s 'Yellowstone' and its assorted spin-offs.
In addition to a Miami-set 'Dexter' prequel series that will explore the title character’s origins against the backdrop of real-life serial killers of the time, Showtime has potentially up to four 'Billions' spin-offs in the works, including 'Millions,' about hungry, up-and-coming financial market movers and shakers, and 'Trillions,' about the rapacious competitive instincts of the ultra-wealthy.
Might this branded Showtime universe-building, if it works, even mean some type of secret spin-off for David Lynch and Mark Frost’s 'Twin Peaks,' which enjoyed a ballyhooed return engagement on the network with 2017’s 'Twin Peaks: The Return?' Stay tuned, stranger things have happened.