That swearing you heard was Jackson Lamb finding out that Slow Horses is being adapted for Apple’s new streaming service AppleTV+. I kid, of course.
Having done quite a bit of research on the Slough House series over the past few years, I knew that a television adaption was in the opening stages but finding that Apple will be putting its considerable bankroll behind the series was quite a surprise. That money was no doubt part of how they were able to sway Gary Oldman to take the part of Jackson Lamb, the cranky, foul and very reluctant leader of the worst spies MI5 has on the payroll. Oldman is no stranger to the spy world having memorably played George Smiley in the film adaption of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and it will be interesting to see him take on a spy character that is the polar opposite of the thoughtful and restrained Smiley.
More important than where the show will be streaming or who is starring is the creative team behind the scenes. In this case, the show is in good hands – Will Smith, who served as a writer for Veep and The Thick Of It and Graham Yost, producer of shows like Justified and The Americans. If you combine those two types of shows together, biting satire and thrilling character drama, you’ve got a pretty good formula for an adaption of Slow Horses.
With this, rather bare bones initial information, what can we anticipate we might see for the rest of the TV series? Well, the first book introduces Peter Judd, a not very subtle analog for Boris Johnson. Will the writers lean into that or shift away due to his unexpected rise to the Prime Minister role?
Given Apple’s money, I would think they would be open to a season long arc devoted to each book but can the book Slow Horses support 10 plus episodes? I see a couple stories within the first books that could easily be pulled out for individual episodes, stealing information from the reporter, for example. However, it’s a ticking clock story; if stretched out it might reduce the tension. They could instead go with the decision to come up with original stories within the world. Herron has certainly created distinct characters that a good writer will be able to run with. Still the amount of shenanigans this group of spy screw ups can get into without pushing credulity will be a fine line to walk.
I will be quite interested in seeing who is cast as the rest of the crew. Catherine Standish would be a great role for someone, any younger leading man type should be chomping at the bit to play River Cartwright and Louisa Guy is another great female role. Will they go after more “name” actors? Or try and find some under the radar actors? I would lean towards up and comers, TV makes stars, you don’t need them for a hit, especially now that they already have their big name.
Finally, another tricky line to walk will be the use of Lamb. He’s a bit of the special sauce. You need him, he adds a lot, but too much can ruin the dish. Given the big name star they got, there may be pressure to put him on screen as much as possible to “get their money’s worth.”
Overall this is exciting news and I will be following the rest of the developments closely. No release date has been given but I wouldn’t imagine we would see a premiere before the end of 2020 but far more likely is 2021.
More on the Slough House series here.