Panthers & Pigs is a timely 1960s television series project, created by Alan Marshall, the renowned civil rights playwright/director.
In response to unchecked police brutality against black citizens, young African Americans formed armed patrols to protect their communities from police misconduct. The Panthers were brash, profane, fashionable, and according to J. Edgar Hoover, they were also “the single greatest threat to the internal security of the United States.” For the next five years, law enforcement waged a ruthless war of repression against them, their families, attorneys, and their radical white allies.
In the wake of the impassioned demonstrations that reverberated around the world following the death of George Floyd, an unprecedented number of white Americans spoke openly, many for the first time, about reversing the impact that racism has had on law enforcement. Purging racism, individually, and collectively, will require an honest and vigorous national dialogue. It will not be easy, nor should it be. Each of us must participate in the process of forging change powerful enough to break the cycle of violence, brutality, and distrust. Should our efforts fail to right these historic wrongs, we will bequeath to future generations a racial legacy more lethal and divisive than the one left to us.
If the youthful, racially diverse, and politically engaged protesters who comprised the heart and soul of most of the demonstrations represent the demographic most likely to embrace Panthers & Pigs: The Battle for the Soul of America then the show can become a source of quality entertainment and audience retention for several years. That's very important to the production, and everyone associated with it. But this compelling series, set in arguably the most dynamic social, cultural, and political periods in American history, has the potential to accomplish much more.
Panthers & Pigs can inspire constructive action, deepen personal understanding, and enrich our vital national dialogue. The series will transport the audience deep into hearts and minds of its characters, drawn from all sides, who in ways large and small, failed to dislodge the stranglehold of violence and brutality that mortally weakens our great nation whenever the precious lives of her citizens, who are disproportionately black, are unnecessarily extinguished by the hands...or knees...of those we have entrusted to serve and protect.
In 1967, a small band of young, Oakland based militants, calling themselves the Black Panther Party for Self Defense, began arming themselves with shotguns, handguns, and law books. They formed roving patrols of their members to shadow police cruisers around the Bay Area. Because of the daily indignities and the regular episodes of violent abuse endured by black residents, members of the patrols openly observed the conduct of police officers and regularly initiated scenes of public confrontation with law enforcement.
The intense public confrontations between the Black Panthers and police officers (commonly referred to as "pigs" by black militants and their white allies) were vital to the Panthers' meteoric rise. Within months, the publicity generated from their clashes with police transformed the Panthers from local folk heroes into the celebrated “Vanguard of the Revolution.” Their audacious defiance, however, would ultimately produce a vicious, deadly backlash.
Much of the conflict in the series surrounds how the Panthers navigate internal conflicts, jealousies, and rivalries which were often exacerbated by opportunistic agent provocateurs and the more than 2,000 FBI counterintelligence agents tasked with disrupting the lives of the Panthers, their families, supporters, and attorneys.
The cast features Panther legends, Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, Elaine Brown, Kathleen & Eldridge Cleaver, and fictional Panther party members to provide creative flexibility. The series also includes some of the Panther’s radical attorneys who’s outsized personalities often received as much publicity as their high profile clients, including one who carried on an emotional and sexual relationship with two of her clients. Rounding out the ensemble cast are characters from local law enforcement, informants, the FBI, prosecutors, and politicians.In the spirit of THE WIRE (HBO), PANTHERS & PIGS offers complex anti-heroes from the Panthers and law enforcement.
The principal story engine can sustain a minimum of four 13-episode seasons covering 1967 - 1972. The extended story engine can support an additional four seasons.
Season two of Panthers & Pigs offers a potential spin-off series (tentatively called UNDERGROUND). In the second season, a storyline explores an alliance between the Black Panthers and the Weathermen, a splinter faction of white radicals from Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). This interracial coalition of young, leftwing revolutionaries committed to the violent overthrow of the United States government, is the realization of J. Edgar Hoover’s worst nightmare.