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After the Fire
In the July reading blog, I had a little aside about an HBO-style show about Chicago recovering from the 1871 fire.
Here are some questions I raised for myself:
Time span of the series. The tricky part here is that if we're faithful to the timeline, the Haymarket Riot and Streeter's landing are 1886, the World's Fair and Ida B Wells in 1893, Pullman strike in 1894, etc. The Great Migration which helped define Black Chicago is typically defined as starting in 1910. Hard to imagine a TV miniseries covering 25+ years. You could get around this by having the fire be a prologue or flashback relative to the main series plot? Compressing the timeline to have all the characters in play? Or episodes are a decade apart?
Competition. Chicago's hosting of the World's Fair is the setting of The Devil in the White City, which recently had its film adaptation cancelled by Hulu. So there's a risk of overlapping mindshare here, especially if this series would culminate in hosting the fair. Ending with Haymarket or Pullman instead only works if we're making this into a socialist TV series.
I've just found out about HBO's recent series The Gilded Age (set in NYC in 1882), and remembered Apple's Shining Girls (time-travel mystery set in Chicago in modern day and the Depression)
Who to include. Marshall Field, Aaron Montgomery Ward, and George Pullman as the plutocrats; George Streeter as the rebel; Ida B. Wells as journalist; Frank Lloyd Wright as architect (from 1887); L. Frank Baum as writer (from 1891); Governor Altgeld for Haymarket. Absolutely no Mrs. O'Leary.
If you make it to 1899, you can have a baby Alphonse Capone - what a cliffhanger! - though Wiki says he was born in New York City =(
Notable lack of superheroes or the supernatural. How do you market a period piece without the Downton Abbey vibe I get from watching a trailer for The Gilded Age? An obviously fictional component also gives some leeway for messing with the timeline and characters.
Ideas for this - superpowers emerge among Fire survivors (see Peshtigo / meteor theory); strange characters and wandering spirits converge on Chicago due to its role as a rail and shipping hub; ghosts from the Fire and Confederate prison; a modern entrepreneur moves his family back in time thinking he can cut it in the 1870s.