Western drama Joe Pickett, about a game warden and his family finding their way out in Wyoming, premieres on Spectrum Dec. 6. The series is based on a C.J. Box novel franchise. John Erick and Drew Dowdle are the showrunners.
The Dowdle brothers previously worked on Waco, the Paramount Network miniseries about the standoff between the FBI and the Branch Davidians, which premiered in 2018. They were eager to get back to the expansive west.
“We didn’t know much about game wardens and didn’t know the book series,” said John Erick. “Five pages in, I thought, this is awesome!”
There are something like 21 Joe Pickett novels. The first season is based on books Open Season and Winterkill. C.J. Box also wrote The Highway, which ABC has adapted into Big Sky. Box is an executive producer on Joe Pickett.
Pickett is the new game warden. In the pilot, he faces off with a miscreant who has violated hunting regulations, and Pickett gets his firearm taken away in the tussle. He’s hardly a standard TV tough guy.
“What a weird lens in which to do a thriller/crime show,” said John Erick.
Michael Dorman plays Joe Pickett. David Alan Grier, Julianna Guill and Sharon Lawrence are also in the cast.
Pickett and his family are not all that warmly received in Saddlestring, Wyoming. Drew Dowdle spoke of “the imperfect nature of Joe as a hero. The relatability really grabbed us from the onset.”
The show shoots in Calgary. The brothers said the setting gave them a sense of being “even more Wyoming than Wyoming,” according to John Erick, with a “similar cowboy ethic.”
Spectrum subscribers can access Joe Pickett on demand and ad-free. With so much of America locked inside for much of the past 20 months, they may just be in the mood for something set amidst the open fields of America, with wild horses cantering across them. Yellowstone, for one, is doing quite well on Paramount Network.
“We want this to feel like a bit of a vacation,” said John Erick. “There’s a real strong pull toward nature right now.”
Viewers may also be in the mood for a main character who is trying to do the right thing against the odds. “One thing that really drew us to this is the idea of Joe trying to do his job, in the best, most moral way, even though it might cost him personally,” said John Erick. “There’s something so nice about seeing a man who can be vulnerable and human and who makes mistakes, always trying to do what is right, regardless of what it costs.”
The Hollywood adage advises against working with animals, but the Dowdle brothers have enjoyed it. “Horses are the best extras we’ve ever worked with,” said John Erick. “We want to hire horses to be in the writers’ room. They’re so calming.” ■
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Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.
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