Chew on This: Chinese American Detective Comes to Showtime

March 28, 2011

In light of the Akira casting controversy last week, perhaps some may enjoy sampling the tastier news of Showtime picking up the script for Chew, a quirky comic book series featuring Chinese American police detective Tony Chu, as a half-hour TV series.

An Eisner Award-winning series written by John Layman with art by Rob Guillory, Chew is set in a world where a catastrophic bird flu outbreak has killed 23 million Americans and rendered all chicken and other bird meats illegal. Into this futuristic world of crime and illegal bird activity enters Tony Chu, a Cibopathic cop from the Philadelphia Police Department who later works for the FDA. As a "cibopath," Chu receives psychic impressions from whatever he eats, be it chicken or ... ahem, corpses.

The growing cast of diverse characters includes D-Bear, who at some point brokers a huge black market chicken shipment for Mother Clucker's, and Chow Chu, a former chicken chef and Tony's older brother who cooks illegal turkey for Thanksgiving.

It should come as little surprise then that the television adaptation of this darkly comic series is being developed by Circle of Confusion, the company behind the hit AMC series The Walking Dead. It is also no secret that Chew writer Layman modeled Chu's physical appearance (and perhaps his sardonic sense of humor) on Lost's Ken Leung and has sent Leung the comics and exchanged emails about the starring role.

I don't know too much about chickens, but I heart Ken Leung. Can we make this happen? Yes. 


p.s. A note concerning Akira and the interesting distinctions between AsAm entertainment properties where casting figures as the central issue and where casting may only be one of the many issues (and perhaps a lesser one). With Chew, clearly non-Asian casting would be morbidly ridiculous. In the case of Akira, Hollywood's setting of the original movie in "neo-Manhattan" (as opposed to neo-Tokyo with its iconic Japanese theme of post-WWII bombings and a certain kind of youth culture) is already problematic.

Without having read the script, one could recommend Hollywood's Akira going all the way in the other direction and changing the character names, setting, storyline, movie title, etc. (a la The Departed, which beautifully channeled HK's Infernal Affairs into a strong Irish-Boston setting). Make it a multiracial cast in neo-Manhattan and have the movie be "inspired by Akira," as really, Japan should make the live-action movie. This kind of half-baked in-between approach (keep the character names, cut Tokyo, etc.) with international movies rarely works well in the States.