Posted on Wednesday, September 22nd, 2010 by Russ Fischer
OK, first up, right now, if you’re interested at all in Goodfellas and haven’t read the massive, magnificent GQ article that is built out of quotes from nearly everyone involved in the making of the film, go read it. Waste no time.
That’s not even an idle connection, like, “oh, here’s a good place to mention that article.” Because after reading that article, and learning about all the risks and improvisation and energy that went into making Goodfellas the movie it became — not to mention the obsessive detail-oriented work from director Martin Scorsese — you’ve got to wonder: could a Goodfellas TV show work?
Or, maybe I should ask if we haven’t already had the Goodfellas TV series, called The Sopranos?
Regardless, Deadline reports that Nicholas Pileggi, who wrote all the parts of Goodfellas that weren’t improvised on set or designed by Scorsese and his actors, will “likely [write] at least the pilot episode.” (Things Pileggi didn’t write include the famous “you think I’m funny?” sequence.) What will the show be? We don’t know.
Based on the basic pitch, “Goodfellas on TV,” I don’t see it working. Take out any one ingredient (the locations, the actors, Ray Liotta’s voiceover, the real wiseguys, Scorsese, Thelma Schoonmaker, Michael Ballhaus, etc) and it doesn’t work the same. If we hadn’t had The Sopranos, the obvious television child of Scorsese’s film, and if we didn’t have Boardwalk Empire now, which could become an unlikely companion piece, then the idea of a series derived from the film might seem less outlandish. But with those already in existence, why?
That’s not to say that Goodfellas can’t work as a TV series, but there are so many other ways to approach a gangster show that wouldn’t have the same hurdles and the same potential for failure. And Goodfellas being what it is, unless the series just knocks the story out of the park, what will it achieve? Being almost as good as the movie?
But we don’t know much at all — there could be something here that will make the whole equation look like a much more promising idea.