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Vince Gilligan’s “Battle Creek” to premiere on CBS

Gilligan sold the script for the "Battle Creek" pilot to CBS in 2002, but the network was not able then to find the right cast to make a pilot. (Thinkstock)
Gilligan sold the script for the “Battle Creek” pilot to CBS in 2002, but the network was not able then to find the right cast to make a pilot. (Thinkstock)

“Battle Creek,” a drama about two mismatched law enforcement officers created by Vince Gilligan before he created “Breaking Bad,” premieres at 10 p.m. tonight on CBS.

Gilligan sold the script for the “Battle Creek” pilot to CBS in 2002, but the network was not able then to find the right cast to make a pilot, CBS Entertainment Chairman Nina Tassler said during the Television Critics Association press tour.

Gilligan told reporters he was visiting a castle in Scotland in 2013 with Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg, Sony Pictures Television’s presidents, U.S. programming and production, when they mentioned CBS was interested in ordering “Battle Creek” as a series.

Because of Gilligan’s commitment to “Breaking Bad,” which ran on AMC from 2008-2013, winning Emmys as television’s best drama series in 2013 and 2014, “this was the first window of opportunity where he was free to really get into a conversation about producing it,” Tassler said.

Sony Pictures Television gave the script to David Shore, creator of the 2004-12 Fox medical drama “House.”

“I read it and liked it and loved the characters,” said Shore, who revised the script for tonight’s episode and became the show runner for “Battle Creek,” because Gilligan’s responsibilities as executive producer for AMC’s “Breaking Bad” spinoff “Better Call Saul” doesn’t allow him the time to be much involved with “Battle Creek.”

“Battle Creek” stars Dean Winters as an old-fashioned, cynical police detective in economically depressed Battle Creek, Michigan, who becomes partners with a newly arrived sophisticated FBI agent (Josh Duhamel).

The cast also includes Kal Penn and Edward Fordham as detectives and Janet McTeer as a police commander.

Gilligan said he began creating “Battle Creek” “thinking along the lines of” its characters, then doing the “time-honored thing that writers do,” putting “opposites together.”

“Dean’s character is sort of kind of the everyman character that most of us relate to, the underdog,” Gilligan said.

Gilligan said this summer he had never been to Battle Creek, best known as the headquarters of the cereal making Kellogg Co.

“In this fictional version of Battle Creek, it feels like a city of underdogs, a police force of underdogs,” Gilligan said.

Shore described Gilligan’s initial script as “very funny and we’re carrying that forward.”

“I want to have as much humor as possible in this,” said Shore, who won the outstanding writing in a drama series Emmy in 2005 for the “House” episode “Three Stories” and had been a producer on the long-running NBC crime and legal drama, “Law & Order.”

“I think it’s really important to the show. It’s got to be grounded. It’s got to be real. It’s got to come from the characters. I think you’ll watch the show, even though it’s about dark subjects. You will be scared at times, but you’ll have a stupid little grin on your face, I hope, at the end.”

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