After years of failed attempts to reach the big screen, Michael Chabon‘s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay is finally getting its long-awaited adaptation – not as a movie, but as a television series on Showtime.
Chabon and Ayelet Waldman, the husband and wife pair of acclaimed authors and television producers, have signed a new production pact with CBS TV Studios, and the CBS-owned Showtime is developing both a Kavalier and Clay TV show as well as a series based on Waldman’s A Really Good Day, which will star Veep actress Anna Chlumsky.
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
According to Variety, Chabon’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is getting a TV adaptation at Showtime. The story spans several decades (and multiple continents) and follows two cousins who create their own superhero comic book right around the time of the birth of that art form in New York City in the 1930s. Here’s Amazon’s more detailed synopsis:
A “towering, swash-buckling thrill of a book” (Newsweek), hailed as Chabon’s “magnum opus” (The New York Review of Books), The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is a triumph of originality, imagination, and storytelling, an exuberant, irresistible novel that begins in New York City in 1939. A young escape artist and budding magician named Joe Kavalier arrives on the doorstep of his cousin, Sammy Clay. While the long shadow of Hitler falls across Europe, America is happily in thrall to the Golden Age of comic books, and in a distant corner of Brooklyn, Sammy is looking for a way to cash in on the craze. He finds the ideal partner in the aloof, artistically gifted Joe, and together they embark on an adventure that takes them deep into the heart of Manhattan, and the heart of old-fashioned American ambition. From the shared fears, dreams, and desires of two teenage boys, they spin comic book tales of the heroic, fascist-fighting Escapist and the beautiful, mysterious Luna Moth, otherworldly mistress of the night. Climbing from the streets of Brooklyn to the top of the Empire State Building, Joe and Sammy carve out lives, and careers, as vivid as cyan and magenta ink. Spanning continents and eras, this superb book by one of America’s finest writers remains one of the defining novels of our modern American age.
Producer Scott Rudin has spent the past twenty years trying to turn Kavalier and Clay into a movie, with people like Sydney Pollack, Jude Law, Tobey Maguire, Jamie Bell, Natalie Portman, Andrew Garfield, and Ryan Gosling all being possibly linked to the project over the years before ultimately moving on. It was also being considered for an HBO series at one point, but that never came together. I read the book recently and was impressed by its scope even while being maybe a bit overwhelmed by its level of detail at times, but the fact that this story is coming to television instead of being squeezed into a movie (or even two movies) is promising.
Unfortunately, that promise is tainted a bit by the knowledge that Akiva Goldsman and Alex Kurtzman are also attached as executive producers. Goldsman, Kurtzman, and Chabon are all in the Star Trek family now, so that may be how they got involved here; Chabon is currently serving as the showrunner of Star Trek: Picard, and he’ll stay with that show until he transitions over to run Kavalier and Clay sometime next year.
A Really Good Day
Meanwhile, Deadline reports that Showtime is also developing Waldman’s A Really Good Day, which has Anna Chlumsky on board in the lead role. The book, which is about taking LSD in small doses (aka “microdosing”), has a subtitle: How Microdosing Made a Mega Difference in My Mood, My Marriage, and My Life. Here’s the synopsis from Amazon:
When a small vial arrives in her mailbox from “Lewis Carroll,” Ayelet Waldman is ready to try anything. Her depression has become intolerable, severe and unmanageable; medication has failed to make a difference. Married with four children and a robust career, she “should” be happy, but instead her family and her work are suffering at the mercy of her mood disorder. So she opens the vial, places two drops on her tongue, and becomes part of a burgeoning underground group of scientists and civilians successfully using therapeutic microdoses of LSD. As Waldman charts her experience over the course of a month, during which she achieved a newfound feeling of serenity, she also explores the history and mythology of LSD, the cutting-edge research into the drug, and the byzantine policies that control it. Drawing on her experience as a federal public defender, and as the mother of teenagers, and her research into the therapeutic value of psychedelics, Waldman has produced a book that is candid, revealing and completely enthralling.
It’s unclear how closely the show is going to stick to the book or if they’re going to take the basic premise and apply it to a slightly different set of circumstances, but Chlumsky’s energy and comic timing seems like a strong fit for a character who’s taking desperate measures in an attempt to keep her life together. Waldman will write the series and executive produce alongside Chabon, Peter Berg, Michael Lombardo, and Elizabeth Rogers.
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