Amazon Gives Series Order to Fantasy Noir Detective Show ‘Carnival Row’

Some of the biggest pop-culture hits of the young century have come from the fantasy genre: Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Game of Thrones. Now Amazon Prime is looking to carve off a piece of the piece (presumably with a broadsword). They’ve given an eight-episode series order to a new fantasy drama called Carnival Row.

Set in a steampunk pseudo-Victorian metropolis, Carnival Row follows the investigation of a string of murders that threaten the peace between the ruling humans and the various mythical creatures who co-inhabit the city. Star Trek veteran Rene Echevarria is serving as showrunner and executive producer, alongside director Paul McGuigan (Victor Frankenstein) and creator Travis Beacham (Pacific Rim). Deadline reports Carnival Row will begin filming this fall, targeting a fall 2018 or 2019 premiere date.

The project originated as a film school spec screenplay by Beacham called A Killing on Carnival Row. The script soon became a hot item, landing a spot on the inaugural 2005 edition of the Black List — an annual compilation of the best unproduced screenplays in Hollywood. From there, it spent a decade bouncing around Tinseltown in development as a feature film. Both Neil Jordan and Guillermo Del Toro were attached to direct while the project was under the banner of New Line, and then eventually Immortals director Tarsem Singh was at bat. None of the film incarnations ever came together, however, and last year Carnival Row resurfaced as an Amazon pilot.

Joe Lewis, Head of Comedy, Drama and VR at Amazon Studios, said of Carnival Row:

There has never been a series like Carnival Row before. The scope of the storytelling combined with the uniqueness of the world, themes and aesthetics haven’t been on TV before. A simple police investigation will lead us down a remarkable journey in a world where humans and creatures co-exist.

Lauren Whitney, President of Scripted Television at Legendary Television, said:

Carnival Row is inspiringly ambitious and timely in a way that we never could have anticipated. We are thrilled to have excellent partners at Amazon, and the infinitely talented trio of Echevarria, McGuigan, and Beacham as the driving force behind this show.

On a personal note, Beacham was one of the first people I ever interviewed, over a decade ago while writing for Creative Screenwriting magazine. I dug the hell out of the script at the time, and I’ve been following the project’s twists and turns ever since. Beacham’s script was a hell of a page-turner, so if they get this right, Carnival Row will be something to see. It also has the potential to, like the best genre fiction, comment on the problems and issues of our own real world through the lens of a very different one. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Carnival Row proves to be something special.

Between this and Netflix’s Bright, it’d be interesting to see if urban fantasy becomes the hot new thing.