Film and TV

How Did Code 58 End Up Shooting In Dallas? Because It Looks Like a '70s Cop Show Set.

Like I said Sunday, we'll have much more about Code 58 in the paper version of Unfair Park the closer we get to the series' debut on FOX. But this morning, I went back to Fair Park to visit with the series' creator, Matt Nix, and the first episode's director, Tim Matheson, who are one day from wrapping the premiere episode that'll introduce Bradley Whitford (Dan) and Colin Hanks (Jack) as mismatched Dallas Police officers whose routine-crimes beat is, of course, anything but routine.

Nix, creator of USA's Burn Notice, has been writing and rewriting this series for kicks for almost a decade; it was initially set in Los Angeles, matter of fact, before FOX signed off on shooting and setting its initial 13-episode run in Dallas. I asked Nix how they settled here.

"Well, it was a bit of a process," he said. "Basically, the production model for the show is, it's like doing a cable show on a network. It's a cable budget, a cable run of 13 episodes, cable everything except it happens to be broadcasting on FOX. Even in success, it can't go much beyond 13 episodes because Fair Park's only available part of the year. A [full season] 22-episode order would be too much for that. We could get it up to, like, 18.

"So you look for a city where you can shoot quick and cheap. FOX came up with a list of cities with tax incentives, the infrastructure. There are places with great tax incentives but no crews, and vice-versa. And once Dallas got on the list, I fought very hard for Dallas."

I ask him, Why Dallas?

"One thing was Fair Park," he said. "To say the city was film-friendly would be a wild understatement. Fair Park makes it possible to put so much more awesomeness on the screen it's not even funny. The other thing is, the look of Dallas. It's important it be a cosmopolitan enough city to justify a wide variety of crime. And, this is a throwback to the classic cop shows, and Dallas has the look of those shows. I kept saying to people, 'If we shoot this in the suburbs, it'll look wrong. We need power cables.'"

So, Matt Nix, are you saying Dallas looks like it's stuck in the '70s? Because, yeah, it kinda does.

"I kept saying, the conceit of the show is kind of old school meets new school," Nix said. "Dan has all the powers of a '70s, '80s television cop paired with a guy [Jack] who has the power of a modern-day TV cop. And Dallas has that in spades. It's got old brick buildings and streets you can chase around on, and it's got a brand-new modern opera house, so it's exactly that. Honestly, I came here to scout, and it far exceeded my expectations."

We spoke for a long time, about half an hour; Matheson too went on and on about how much he liked shooting here. They both couldn't stop talking about Fair Park and the surrounding neighborhoods, which will factor heavily into the series. Said Matheson, who's been here since January 5 and leaves Thursday to begin editing the pilot in L.A., "I like the roughness of Dallas -- the rough, urban aspect of what I've seen. It's not a city that's been shot to death, either. Miami's like Vegas, but Dallas has real character."

As we were sitting on the set, waiting for Matheson to finish blocking a shot set inside a sound-stage whorehouse, Nix went on and on about the possibilities of shooting at Fair Park -- the fact he can stage chases without ever leaving the set. And the Cotton Bowl ... and Hall of State ...

"This place ...," he said, looking around and sizing up the possible. "I could kiss the mayor." He laughs. "Just like a guy kiss, nothing that would make him uncomfortable."

Have you met him yet?

"No, but I met Chief Kunkle," Nix says. "He was very cool. He's got a big office."

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky