Development Deal: Dakota North

by  in Comic News, TV News Comment
Development Deal: <i>Dakota North</i>

If there’s one thing that a quick look at the current state of television and movies will tell you, it’s that there’s not much need for original ideas when there’s so much out there ready and waiting to be adapted, updated or just outright ripped off. That’s why we’ve decided to help in that process with a series which offers up some of the things we’d like to see being brought to big screen or small. This week’s suggestion? Dakota North.

What Is It?
A short-lived, fondly-remembered 1986 series from Marvel Comics about a private investigator (The eponymous Ms. North) investigating crime, corruption and various types of intrigue on the international fashion circuit, accompanied by her twelve year old brother, curmudgeonly father and Mad Dog, her somewhat ironically named secretary. Although the character has since been adopted into the wider Marvel Universe through appearances in Spider-Man, Daredevil and other superhero books, the initial series were devoid of the more fantastical elements of the superhero genre, closer in tone to something like the then-contemporary Moonlighting (or, to use a more recent example, ABC’s Castle), mixing comedy and crime with tongue almost entirely in cheek the entire time.

What Could It Be?
Translating Dakota into another medium feels deceptively easy; all that really has to be done is to look at the original five issue series as the template for tone and content, ignore everything that came afterwards, and simply follow the lead established by her creators. Dakota North feels tailor made for television; it has the benefit of the procedural element being offered by the detective set-up, the ratings-bait already in place with the (a) glamorous and beautiful kick-ass female private eye and (b) fashion industry setting – Every week, at least one hot guest-star who can be seen almost naked in “necessary” backstage scenes! – and comedy sidekicks in the form of brother Ricky and father SJ. How could any network say no to that kind of set-up?

I keep going back to Castle, in part because that feels very clearly in the style of what a Dakota series could be, but also because that show’s Stana Katic would make a perfect Dakota; she had the right look, as well as the right mix of comedic timing and acting chops to make you believe she’s ready to kick ass when the need strikes. While the role of Ricky would likely end up going to an unknown – Are there really that many pre-teen smart-asses out there in TVland right now? – the role of Dakota’s dad SJ feels ready for some kind of stunt casting; maybe an old TV star who’s been missing from our screens for some time, but is ready to make a comeback…? (I wonder if Tom Selleck would be up for sitting in a wheelchair and glowering at everyone else on a weekly basis?)

Showrunner-wise, I’d grab Josh Friedman, who’s not only shown himself to be a successful show runner with The Sarah Connor Chronicles, but also has the right kind of sense of humor to pull this kind of show off – especially when it comes to not going too cute or too cookie-cutter – and, thanks to his current consultant producing gig with The Finder, has some experience in this genre as well… Not to mention, of course, his comic-adapting experience with the awesome Locke & Key pilot. Yes, Marvel would have to get him out of his current deal with Fox, but who’s to say that the studio couldn’t place the show with that network in this fantasy scenario…? Everyone would win!

Dakota North may be off-brand slightly for Marvel – there are no superheroes! – but it’s definitely on target for a lot of their currently-in-development TV shows, which have a heavy female-focus (Mockingbird, AKA Jessica Jones) and more grounding in the real world so as to keep the budget down. If the studio ever wants to push its own envelope a little bit more, it might discover that this hidden gem could prove to be the bet that pays off big.