A little over a year after David Carr died suddenly in the New York Times office at the age of 58, AMC has announced plans to adapt his widely-praised memoir The Night of the Gun for the screen. Carr was loved by all who knew him and churned out some of the best, if not flat out the best, media criticism in the entire business before his passing. Like any great journalist, Carr wasn’t afraid to be biting when necessary nor did he shy away from including details from his own past in a story in order to add layers or underscore a point. His life was the stuff of a prestige drama to begin with, so it only makes sense that it fits perfectly at AMC.
For those unfamiliar, Carr suffered from drug and alcohol addiction for years before defeating his demons. His memoir outlines his fight against addiction, including harrowing stories about raising his two daughters while working through his issues and other irresponsible and scary events. He wasn’t afraid of admitting his faults and reflecting back on those rough days from a position of sobriety. Shawn Ryan and Bob Odenkirk, both producing the project and the latter taking on the role of David in the series, both seem to realize the nuances of Carr’s life are what made him such a noteworthy individual and exactly why his life would be suited for television.
The official project rundown from Sony Pictures Television, which is partnering with AMC on the show, is as such:
“David Carr’s work as a journalist was uncompromising, enlightening, and most of all, always driven by a fundamental quest for the truth. When he turned those skills and values around to focus on his own life as an addict, the result was a stunningly original, compelling and important piece of journalism the likes of which the world had never seen – a simultaneously heartbreaking, funny, and inspirational account that redefined the idea of telling a personal story. Shawn Ryan, Bob Odenkirk, and the incredible team behind this have embraced all the things that David would have loved as a storyteller, and crafted a vision for ‘The Night of the Gun’ that we hope will be as timeless as David’s book.”
“David Carr’s life was the antithesis of formulaic and only a team as creative as this could bring it to life with authenticity, audacity and reverence.”
From that synopsis, it’s clear that both AMC and Sony understand what the emotional heart of the show needs to be for it to work without being exploitative of Carr’s life or struggles. His daughters take his memory very seriously, as they should, so it stands to reason that they would not let the rights to his life story go without a convincing reason and confidence in the final product.
There are few men that instill more confidence in the industry than Shawn Ryan and Bob Odenkirk, both in front of and behind the camera. Ryan has shepherded many similarly nuanced dramas to the screen such as The Shield, Terriers, and The Unit while Odenkirk started his career in comedy with Mr. Show before moving on to great dramatic work in Breaking Bad and that show’s spinoff Better Call Saul. Odenkirk’s ability to balance dramatic moments with sarcasm and bits of levity fits about as well with Carr’s reputation as possible, and is the most important piece of the puzzle when portraying somebody who only recently passed and is remembered by so many.
We know Shawn Ryan can expertly write and craft dramas, and that both men are sensible enough not to sensationalize Carr’s story for their own gains so it is just a question of how everything melds together when the show hits the screen. There is a lot of things that could happen between now and the show’s premiere, but for a project that could go wrong at every turn the early details are more than comforting to fans of David and his work.