Shoot The Messenger, WGN's latest television event, premieres Feb. 26 and started its life as a political thriller on CBC. The intrigue is compelling enough that it may lead audiences to question whether Shoot The Messenger is based on a true story. While the Canadian series draws inspiration from a variety of sources, fictional and otherwise, it might resemble a scandal that those North of the border will recognize from a few years back.
First of all, this series is not to be confused with the 2014 Jeremy Renner film Kill The Messenger. That movie was directly based on the life of Gary Webb, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who investigated the CIA. The series shares a similar title and some similar themes, but that's it.
According to Deadline, Shoot The Messenger "follows Daisy Channing, a young reporter trying to balance a messy personal life with a burgeoning career. Things begin to go sideways for Daisy when she witnesses a murder she thinks is gang related, only to find herself slowly drawn into an interconnected web of criminal and illicit sexual activity that reaches into the corridors of corporate and political power." The show takes place in Toronto, and the cover-up Daisy finds could bring down the government, Deadline summarizes.
Why does sex, drugs, and a seedy underbelly of Canada's largest city ring true?
In 2013, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford was caught in a scandal when video footage surfaced of Ford allegedly smoking crack cocaine, making its way to Gawker and other outlets. He was seeking reelection at the time, dropped out of the race in 2014 when he was diagnosed with a rare form of abdominal cancer, ran for city council instead, won, and died of a heart attack three years later, all per NBC News. (He also had some kind of vendetta against raccoons.) That part of the Ford story sound a lot more like Parks and Recreation than House of Cards, but still somewhat inspired this new thriller.
In a way, that is. “It’s not the Rob Ford story," co-creator Sudz Sutherland said in an interview with Canada's Global News, "but we were all inspired by that and I thought that unmasked a lot of what was going on behind the scenes of the city." For one thing, Shoot The Messenger revolves around an attorney general, not a mayor. "We took the barest piece of the Rob Ford stuff and that inspired us,” said Sutherland. He continued:
"We wanted to actually explore these relationships between people who are super rich and political people with political power and people who are business leaders but have these skeletons in their closet.”
Sutherland cited shows like Scandal as an inspiration, and his wife and co-creator Jennifer Holness named Homeland, particularly Claire Danes' character Carrie Mathison.
The two of them reiterated this inspiration in an interview with Shifter Magazine. They also talked about being interested in exploring just how messy facts are interpreted into news, and who gets to tell those stories in journalism. Sutherland said:
"We were a little bit inspired by the Rob Ford story, but the thing is that the show was an interesting intersection of a bunch of different things. That was a really rich politician who had a common touch, a man of the people. He was also spending time with these guys who were kind of on the bottom of the underclass. This was a guy who wasn’t spending time with them, mentoring them, and showing them the inner working of power, helping them navigate the system; this guy is smoking up, getting high. The thing is that we had a lot of background information from the cops that we have in our contacts, and our consultants — because in doing a show we were always interested in how the real world is so much more complex and interesting versus the stories you get in the newspaper, which has been smoothed and sanitized"
In Shoot The Messenger, the journalist (a white woman) in question gets involved in a Somali community through her investigation. Class and racial perceptions are something they wanted to play with as well, according to the same interview.
This isn't the only foreign crime drama that WGN is airing in 2018. According to Variety, the network acquired two other shows. There's Pure, a fellow Canadian series about Mennonites, and The 100 Code, a serial killer drama from Germany and Sweden. Paired with Shoot The Messenger, this should make for a thrilling year of international intrigue and a few drops of truth sprinkled throughout.