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James Hibberd

Extra Helping of 'Smith'

July 16, 2006 2:53 PM

The 60-minute pilot episode of CBS crime drama “Smith” will air without edits to accommodate typical commercial time in an hour time period, executive producer and creator John Wells said at the show’s TCA session Saturday.

“What we know is we are not chopping,” he said.

Right now it looks like the 60-minute pilot, which is about 20 minutes longer than the length of a network drama (due to time set aside for commercials), will run ad-free for an hour, or be expanded to a 90-minute premiere.

The network has not given Wells any parameters for making the characters--many of whom are violent thieves--more likeable.

The series is “much more based on what we think is appropriate or not appropriate of the character,” he said. “We have not tried to sugar coat that they are criminals. I’ve always been personally more interested in the people who do criminal acts than the people who catch them.”

One critic wanted to know if the character of Oscar-nominated actress Virginia Madsen (one of three in the cast) is in denial about her husband’s criminal career.

She knows what he did in the past, Wells said, but it is not exactly clear what exactly she knows now.
Madsen saw things slightly differently.

“I didn’t think I was in denial at all,” Madsen said of the pilot and her on-screen husband, Ray Liotta. “I know exactly what he’s up to, as most wives do.”

When asked how he came up with the title, Wells said he got the term from a law enforcement official, who referred to unidentified suspects as “Smiths.”

In fact, Wells had the title and the amorphous idea for a series—a man trying to live anonymously—before he came up with the exact concept of this series. He did admit that finding a good title is worth its weight in gold and that coming up with a good one is the bane of a TV creators’ existence.

“The worst thing in the world is titles,” Wells said. “You spend months trying to find the right title and they get worse and worse.”


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