Production begins Monday on the latest TV drama pilot to film in Pittsburgh, A&E's "Those Who Kill."
Written by Glen Morgan ("The X-Files," "The River") and based on a Danish series, "Those Who Kill" stars Chloe Sevigny ("Big Love," "American Horror Story") and James D'Arcy ("Cloud Atlas," "Secret Diary of a Call Girl").
Ms. Sevigny plays Pittsburgh police detective Catherine Jensen, who teams with forensic profiler Thomas Schaeffer (Mr. D'Arcy) to solve murders. The pilot's supporting players include James Morrison ("24") as Capt. Frank Bisgaard, Jensen's boss, and Kerry O'Malley ("Shameless"), who will play the precinct forensic pathologist and Jensen's best friend.
The show is produced by Fox 21, the 20th Century Fox division that is responsible for making cable dramas such as FX's "Sons of Anarchy" and Showtime's "Homeland."
Although A&E has been known more for procedural dramas in the recent past (think: "Breakout Kings"), the network has started to turn a corner toward more serialized shows with last summer's hit, "Longmire." That trend will continue with "Those Who Kill."
"It's pretty serialized," Mr. Morgan said in a phone interview earlier this month from his Pittsburgh office. "That's what's great about A&E. Over a year ago when I started working on this, it was to be stand-alone episodes. Then over the summer they said, 'We don't want that, we are changing direction.' I think they're looking to do more of the shows channels like AMC are doing. So this is really character- based and serialized."
Although Mr. Morgan previously wrote for another male-female pair of investigators -- Fox Mulder and Dana Scully on "The X-Files" -- he said "Those Who Kill" feels different.
"It's a much more intense backstory of what happened to Catherine and it's much more grounded," he said. "Half of that ['X-Files'] audience believed in aliens and the other half got a kick out of it. This is much more that you know somebody who has gone through similar things Catherine has gone through."
Mr. Morgan did not reveal exactly what Catherine has been through, but it seems that she was a victim of some sort of a traumatic event.
"Now she's very insulated and doesn't quite know how to get on with her life," he said.
Initial descriptions for the series suggested the lead characters would track down serial killers on a weekly basis, but Mr. Morgan said that's not his plan. Some cases will take multiple episodes to solve, and through the cases the series will explore the past of both lead characters.
Of course, a crime drama about murder that's based on a Danish series brings to mind another recent Nordic noir TV show, AMC's "The Killing."
"The first year I loved that show," Mr. Morgan said. "But that was one specific homicide case and that's the tough part, trying to stretch that out. Ours is really about exploring the characters and their past, and we have different investigations."
When he initially wrote the American adaptation, Mr. Morgan set "Those Who Kill" in Boston. He said he and director Joe Carnahan ("The Grey," "The A-Team" movie) expected to film the pilot in Vancouver and make it appear to be Boston or another American city.
"[Fox 21] said please check out Pittsburgh. So we went feeling like we were being made to come here, and in an hour of being in Pittsburgh, we were like, 'We're coming here to film,' " said Mr. Morgan. "The look is extraordinary. The visual metaphor of the two rivers becoming one is kind of what the two characters are experiencing. Lots of people have an image in their head of what Pittsburgh was like in the early '80s but it's had a resurgence and it came back to life, and that's something great to show another part of what our characters are going through."
Production on the pilot is expected to wrap by Dec. 19, and Mr. Morgan will deliver the completed pilot to A&E by early February. If A&E orders a first season it would be for 10 episodes and will film in Pittsburgh.
"I hope so, I believe so, I don't see why it wouldn't," Mr. Morgan said.
A&E has not said when the series will air if it's picked up, but summer 2013 seems most likely, perhaps paired with the network's returning crime drama "Longmire."
Mr. Morgan said he's eager for production to begin so he can get to know the characters better once he sees them embodied by the actors, just as he did when he watched David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson grow into the roles of Mulder and Scully in early seasons of "The X-Files."
History's "Invention USA" (10 p.m. Wednesday) returned for a new season this week, and next week's episode (10 p.m. Dec. 5) will feature Tony Moran of Valencia with his invention, the Tree Rider.
An electrical contractor, Mr. Moran, 53, created the Tree Rider after his older brother, Jimmy, found he could not climb into a tree stand while hunting due to his multiple sclerosis. The Tree Rider looks like a seat that can climb a tree, taking a hunter up the tree with it.
"It looks like it has failure written all over it," says "Invention USA" host Reichart Von Wolfsheild in next week's episode.
"It could be riddled with safety issues," says host Scotty Ziegler before traveling to Pittsburgh to meet Mr. Moran to film the episode last June. "It does look like a shopping cart in a tree."
In a phone interview this week, Mr. Moran said he'd tried to sell his invention at trade shows before his daughter submitted the Tree Rider to the History cable series.
"The experience of shooting the show and having a crew of 30 people come to my home, it was unbelievable," Mr. Moran said.
He's sworn to secrecy about what happens on the show -- whether the hosts approve of the invention and introduce Mr. Moran to a manufacturer who will help get the product to market -- but viewers who want to see the Tree Rider in action (and risk being spoiled on the outcome of the episode) can visit www.thetreerider.com.
The British TV home of "Downton Abbey" has renewed the show for a fourth season, which means it will continue to air on PBS's "Masterpiece" in early 2014 following season three on PBS, which begins Jan. 6.
But the Brits are ending "Merlin," which means no more episodes on America's Syfy after its next season that begins Jan. 4.
FX has renewed its two late-night comedy series, ordering 13 more episodes of "Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell" (new season starts at 11 p.m. Jan. 17) and "BrandX," the latter of which will expand from 30 minutes to one hour when it returns at 11:30 p.m. Feb. 7.
Comedy Central sketch show "Key & Peele" will be back for a 13-episode third season next fall.
The Hollywood Reporter says that after Monday's episode Fox's low-rated "The Mob Doctor" will have its final four episodes burned off during the holidays, airing Dec. 29 and 31 and Jan. 5 and 7.
The CW canceled its freshman medical drama series "Emily Owens, M.D." but will air all of the produced episodes. MTV canceled its remake of the British comedy "The Inbetweeners."
And ABC has ordered five additional episodes each of "Last Man Standing" and first-year comedy "Malibu Country."
Jamie Foxx will host "Saturday Night Live" Dec. 8 with NE-YO as musical guest. Former "SNL" cast member Martin Short hosts Dec. 15 with Paul McCartney. ... Syfy will celebrate itself on the "Syfy 20th Anniversary Special" (9 p.m. Dec. 10), which will feature interviews with cast members from "Battlestar Galactica" (Jamie Bamber, Katee Sackoff, Tricia Helfer), "Farscape" (Ben Browder, Claudia Black) and other series. ... "Downton Abbey" creator Julian Fellowes will develop a period drama for NBC. "The Gilded Age" will be set in a world of millionaire titans in 1880s New York. ... Christine O'Toole of Mt. Lebanon, whose twin sister was a "Jeopardy!" champion in 2010, is scheduled to appear on the show Monday (7 p.m., WPXI). As a freelance writer she's a frequent contributor of travel stories to the Post-Gazette. ... Steeltown Film Factory will have a screenwriting workshop Monday that offers a sense of what it takes to turn an idea into a 12-page script. The event takes place at 6 p.m. Monday in Room 501 of the Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh in Oakland. Details at www.steeltownfilmfactory.org. ... New MTV reality show "Buckwild" -- sort of a "Jersey Shore" set in West Virginia -- has a premiere date: 10 p.m. Jan. 3.
Today's TV Q&A column responds to questions about "Blue Bloods," "Access Hollywood" on WTAE and "Doc Martin" on WQED. This week's Tuned In Journal includes posts on a local news anchor on a T-shirt, TV-themed holiday gift ideas and "The Cast of A Christmas Story: Where Are They Now?" Read online-only TV content at post-gazette.com/tv.
This week's podcast includes conversation about "Catfish: The TV Show," "Project Runway All Stars" and "The Big Bang Theory." Subscribe or listen at http://old.post-gazette.com/podcast.tvradio
TV writer Rob Owen: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-2582. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook for breaking TV news. First Published November 30, 2012 5:00 AM