Selleck at present is in Halifax, Nova Scotia shooting the seventh installment of the "Jesse Stone" telepic series for CBS and Sony Pictures TV. The made-fors, based on the series of crime novels by Robert B. Parker, revolve around the maverick police chief of the fictional town of Paradise, Mass.
The telepics are standalone hard-boiled crime stories, but Selleck has gotten under the skin of his unconventional character who battles personal demons as well as criminal adversaries. Selleck, who is a longtime devotee of Parker's work, has an active role in shaping the scripts and producing the pics in the secluded environs of Halifax.
With so much invested in the role, Selleck would love to see CBS sked two "Jesse Stone" pics a season, which would allow fans to check in regularly with the character in the same way NBC and ABC skedded Peter Falk's "Columbo" telepics in the 1970s and '80s (though "Columbo" in its mid-'70s heyday did as many as six to eight episodes per season).
The aud for "Jesse Stone" has been mature but dependable since the first pic, "Stone Cold," bowed in 2005 with more than 18 million viewers. The subsequent titles have hovered between 13 million-15 million viewers. It's the closest thing to a recurring original movie franchise that network TV has at a time when longform fare is at a low ebb on the broadcast airwaves.
But even as lensing is underway on pic No. 7, "Innocents Lost," CBS still has yet to sked No. 6, "No Remorse," which wrapped production late last year. And Selleck has no official word from the Eye on an order for No. 8, but he's hopeful. The movies have sold well in international markets and the DVDs have been steady performers for Sony.
"We don't do cliffhangers. The movies stand on their own. But with regular viewing the audience gets the bonus of a continuing backstory," Selleck said in an interview just before he headed north earlier this month.
"People want to know what's going to happen with this guy. He's basically a decent guy with a lot of flaws. He's his own worst enemy...but he's a guy you want to root for," he said.
After six productions, Selleck and the crew have become very much at home in Halifax. It's a welcome break from the Hollywood hubbub, and the locals appreciate the economic benefits of having their city stand in for coastal Massachusetts, Selleck said.
"It's a nice town. The people are pretty down to earth," he said. "They're very good about affording you privacy while you're eating" in a restaurant or out and about, he said.
Before heading up north, Selleck had recently completed production on the Robert Luketic-helmed romantic comedy "Killers" (he plays Katherine Heigl's dad). He's got other TV and film prospects, but there's something special about Jesse Stone for Selleck -- perhaps because he feels like complicated cop is carrying the flag for the longform biz on network TV.
"There's a market for us," Selleck said. "We're proving that the network TV audience does want to see movies -- they just want to see good movies."