A real-life tragedy is the primary reason the producers of “Detroit 1-8-7” are getting rid of the documentary element of the show, but they also see some creative opportunities in the change.
Shortly before the show filmed its pilot, a young girl was killed in a police raid that a crew from A&E’s series “The First 48” was filming. The city subsequently banned crews from following cops around, which meant that “1-8-7’s” documentary element — the show regularly had its characters talking to the camera — was no longer realistic.
“The credibility of the premise was undermined at that point,” executive producer David Zabel says.
As Zabel and creator Jason Richman started talking about losing the documentary format, though, they realized it could also open things up creatively.
“In some ways, while the documentary conceit is very interesting and compelling as a pilot, in the ongoing series, we would actually feel a little hampered by that and hemmed in,” Zabel (“ER”) says. “It was going to limit the ability we have to send characters in different directions and explore different character arcs and emotional lives. … It freed us up as storytellers, writers, directors and actors to explore a lot more than I think in the long run we would’ve been able to do had we stuck with the conceit of the documentary.”
Zabel says reshoots on the pilot are pretty well finished, and that maybe 15 percent of what’s on screen in the original version will change. The reshoots, however, often involved redoing an entire scene to eliminate one line where a character acknowledges the camera.
Photo credit: ABC