It was only a matter of time before Hollywood’s love affair with Hunter S. Thompson penetrated the realm of peak TV. The Hollywood Reporter confirms the late writer and former Playboy contributor’s wild life will be the subject of a new series, with Get Shorty showrunner Dave Holmes set to take the reins.
While details surrounding the show remain scarce, the current working title of Fear & Loathing suggests it could mine its plot from Thompson’s essential 1971 collection Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream. If it does, we can expect more of the drug-addled psychedelia that made the 1998 film such a staple in college dorm rooms across the country.
In fact, considering how frenetic Thompson’s life was, it’s surprising that we haven’t seen more screen adaptations of his gonzo adventures. There’s Terry Gilliam’s aforementioned film starring Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro as Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo, Bill Murray’s 1980 semi-biographical Where The Buffalos Roam, and Johnny Depp’s 2011 adaptation of Thompson’s landmark novel The Rum Diary. But that about does it.
If the show ventures beyond Thompson’s exploits in Vegas, what might we expect from Holmes’s take on American literature’s enfant terrible? An appropriate place to start would be Thompson’s 1967 book Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs, in which he embedded himself in the dangerous gang for a year. It’s an immersive, visceral depiction of one the country’s most violent subcultures, and with the success of Sons of Anarchy, we know that audiences have a real appetite for stories situated in that world.
Another worthy jumping off point would be “The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved,” Thompson’s delirious account of this American institution and the eccentrics who populate it. While the article itself is too short to make into a full series, it could serve as a compelling launchpad for a show about a fearless journalist’s personal and professional journey through the rotting bowels of America’s underbelly.
Finally, if the show’s creators don’t want to venture too far from their working title, they could explore the time Thompson delved deep into the dark heart of U.S. politics with his book Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72. Over the course of a year, Thompson trailed the George McGovern presidential campaign while railing against Richard Nixon’s iron grip on the country. Not only is this widely considered Thompson’s greatest achievement, but if there was ever a time for a show about the toxic culture of American politics and the people who cover it, it’s right now.