After a two-and-and-a-half-year journey at different networks with different writers, the drama adaptation of Leif G.W. Persson’s best-selling Backstrom series of books is finally heading to the screen with a 13-episode order at Fox. The network, which first developed the project during the 2011-12 season, has stepped in to pick up the pilot starring The Office‘s Rainn Wilson, from Bones creator/exec producer Hart Hanson and 20th Century Fox TV, which was ordered by CBS last season. The series centers on Detective Everett Backstrom (Wilson), an offensive, irascible detective, as he tries, and fails, to change his self-destructive behavior. Throughout the series, Backstrom leads his team, the Serious Crimes Unit, as they navigate Portland’s most sensitive cases. The entire cast led by Wilson is set to continue with the exception of Mamie Gummer whose character is being tweaked. Hanson is expected to focus his attention on Backstrom, with his top Bones lieutenant Stephen Nathan, who has performed day-to-day showrunner duties on the long-running Fox procedural, including while Hanson ran Bones spinoff The Finder, taking lead, with Hanson having a final say on major decisions.
The project sparked a slew of bidding wars ever since the Backstom books were shopped by LA literary agency RWSG in summer 2011 — when 20th TV won them in a very competitive situation for Stephen Gaghan to adapt. The project with Gaghan as writer triggered another round of heated bidding among all four major networks until landing at Fox with a put pilot commitment for the 2011-12 season but didn’t go to pilot. In July 2012, with Hanson as writer/showrunner, 20th TV again garnered a lot of interest, landing a pilot production commitment at CBS where the script went to pilot last season. After a lengthy and difficult casting process, the pilot got Wilson for the lead and was considered a solid contender but didn’t make the cut to series in May. 20th TV remained high on the project, extending the options on the entire cast through the end of 2013. But it couldn’t make a move as CBS did not release the pilot until its option expired on December 15 when the studio took the project to its original network, Fox, which quickly began negotiations on a series order. “Naturally, all of us who worked on Backstrom thought it was too promising a series to die unseen and (20th TV chairmen) Dana (Walden) and Gary (Newman) were relentless in their support of the project,” said Hanson. “Imagine our delight to find that Kevin Reilly and his team at Fox agreed enough to pick it up and give us a good home. Thanks Fox!”