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Texas political scene to get its own HBO drama series

Posted 5:41pm on Tuesday, Jun. 17, 2014

Maybe Texas politicians have had it wrong all these years.

So many end their speeches with the same sign off: “God bless Texas.”

Perhaps they should have been saying God Save Texas.

That is, after all, the name of the drama series HBO officials have green-lighted about Texas’ diverse and frequently peculiar political scene.

That scene in recent years features larger than life politicians ranging from Tea Party favorite U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz to Texas Gov. Rick Perry to Fort Worth’s own state Sen. Wendy Davis, a Democrat making an underdog bid to become the state’s 48th governor.

“People already think Texas is crazy,” said Bill Miller, an Austin-based political consultant. “It’s just that Texas is a state of mind for the rest of the country.

“It’s interesting and funny and weird and scary,” he said. “If you are doing drama, what more can you ask for?”

Early reports place much of the show at the Texas Capitol, the site of nearly larger-than-Texas debates about issues ranging from gun rights to abortion.

There, it is expected to focus on an “idealistic cowboy” trying to get elected to the state legislature who ultimately “becomes the target of the powerful energy lobby and learns how to survive in the crazy, brutal world of Texas politics,” according to an early description of the show reported by Deadline.com.

The series will be written by Lawrence Wright, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author. X-Men producer Lauren Shuler Donner will serve as executive producer, according to the report.

“I think this will add to Texas’ visibility around the country,” said Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. “The old show Dallas certainly did that.

“Gov. Perry and others frequently say other states wish they were like Texas and had the same visibility,” he said. “I think this will just add to the sense that Texas is larger than life and worth watching.”

‘Wealth of material’

Few details are being formally released about the show, but the pilot is expected to be produced soon.

Texas politics — and its politicians from both parties — have long been featured nationwide.

In recent years, headlines capturing the nation’s attention have ranged from Perry’s “oops” moment during a presidential debate to Davis’ filibuster that even drew attention from the White House.

“For better or worse, political ideas spill out of Texas and take an outsized place in the national conversation, as they certainly will in the next presidential election,” Wright told Deadline.com. “Whether you love Texas or hate it, better to understand it, because here it comes again.”

Miller, longtime friends with Wright, said the two have have talked politics for years.

“I said there’s a wealth of material here, obviously, and people are really engaged with politics,” said Miller, who has represented countless Texas politicians and political interests but is not involved with this show.

Reports show that God Save Texas spawns from Wright’s Sonny’s Last Shot, a 2005 play.

Possible characters

Among the characters who might be featured:

Gov. Rick Perry: the longtime politician who for years has been likened in appearance to the Marlboro Man. Perry, a Republican who became the state’s longest serving governor, is a former and possibly future presidential candidate.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz: the former solicitor general of Texas who arose from anonymity to beat longtime establishment Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in his quest to become the state’s next U.S. senator. Grassroots GOP supporters propelled him to victory and Cruz has become a darling of the Tea Party and a potential presidential candidate in 2016.

Attorney General Greg Abbott: who became a paraplegic after an oak tree fell on him while he was out running one day in 1984. A former justice on the Texas Supreme Court, Abbott has served as the state’s top lawyer since 2002. The longtime politician stockpiled campaign contributions for years and announced he hoped to become the state’s 48th governor when Perry said last year he would not seek another term in office.

State Sen. Wendy Davis: a Fort Worth Democrat and former city councilwoman, who gained worldwide attention last year after an 11-hour filibuster geared to block a restrictive abortion measure. She and other Democrats successfully delayed passage of the bill, but the Republican-led legislature passed it a few weeks later. The experience and attention gained propelled her to run for governor and she now is the Democratic Party’s gubernatorial nominee.

“I have stressed to Larry that there are so many great anecdotes and they are based on actual events,” Miller said. “You hear them and you say, “That’s incredible. It must not be true.’

“But the stories are true,” he said. “I think the show will be made up of things like that.”

Anna Tinsley, 817-390-7610 Twitter: @annatinsley

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