Harry Thomason on His Good Bad Road
Got quite the surprise in the morning mail: all six unaired episodes of 12 Miles of Bad Road, the set-in-Dallas series HBO shut down before producers Linda Bloodworth-Thomason and Harry Thomason got the chance to shoot the 10 eps the network originally ordered two years back. As we noted earlier this week, HBO pulled the plug on the series, starring Lily Tomlin and Mary Kay Place as Dallas real-estate queens clearly modeled on Ebby Halliday, and the Thomasons, multiple Emmy nominees for their Designing Women, for are looking for a new home -- which, Harry tells Unfair Park, won't be easy, as every episode of the hourlong drama cost damned near $3.5 million to shoot.
"It's a big ol’ sprawling Dallas show that’s expensive to make," Harry says of the show Linda actually created. "I’m not gonna say it was good, but if you look, HBO sent it to Newsweek and Broadcast & Cable [last year], and they both raved about what a viciously funny show it was and how it was just what HBO needed. It’s one of the mysteries of life."
Lifetime's already passed on the series -- it was created for a premium pay network, after all, that could split the expensive production costs more easily than a basic-cable net -- and now the producers are sending out the episodes in hopes of accruing further good reviews that might get another network to bite; we'll actually Buzz about 'em in next week's paper version of Unfair Park.
Harry doesn't know why HBO axed the show, only that it did so too late. Six episodes were shot, one more script was finished, and three more were being completed before the Writers Guild of America put down its pens and picked up picket signs on November 5.
"If they’d told us at the beginning of the writers' strike last fall, we’d have had adequate time to move it," he says. "But when you’re trying to it on the fly, that won't work. And we had a great cast and things went absolutely right on the show, we loved doing the show, HBO loved it, we received encouragement from HBO the entire time. And then this happened. It's puzzling, to say the least. But we understand -- it’s their TV channel."
Though most of the show was shot in Los Angeles, Harry does say several scenes were films in Dallas. In fact, all the homes seen in the six finished episodes are local residents, either in Preston Hollow or Highland Park. And Tomlin and Place were in Dallas, at least once, to meet with Ebby Halliday to discuss how to sell expensive homes in the 214. "We were in Dallas two, three times," Harry says, including for an episode titled "Texas Stadium," much of which was shot during a Cowboys game last year.
"We hope HBO reconsiders and puts it on," Harry says. "That’d be the best solution for everyone. And I suspect they’re going to be under a lot of pressure [to do that], but I doubt it'll happen. I just think it’s probably a nightmare for them at this point. We just want to move it, and if there’s anyone out there that likes it, it’d be nice to of 'em to help us to move it. Trust me, it would have been good." --Robert Wilonsky
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Observer's biggest stories.