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Bob Odenkirk to play lead in TV adaptation of Richard Russo’s ‘Straight Man’

The series is set to debut in 2023

By Joe Goggins

Bob Odenkirk at Comic-Con, 2018
Odenkirk's comeback from a heart attack last year continues. (Photo: Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons)

Bob Odenkirk has landed the lead in a new TV adaptation of Richard Russo’s ‘Straight Man’.

Per Variety, AMC will bring Russo’s novel to screens, with Odenkirk set to play the central role of William Henry Devereaux, Jr., the put-upon head of the English department at a chronically underfunded school, Railton College, situated in the Pennsylvania rust belt.

Aaron Zelman, a writer on ‘Damages’, ‘Law and Order’ and ‘Criminal Minds’, and Paul Lieberstein are adapting the book and will serve as showrunners. Lieberstein previously worked in that capacity on ‘The Office’ from seasons five to eight, a show in which he also appeared as Toby Flenderson.

‘Straight Man’ its being lined up for a 2023 premiere date. Odenkirk was already a respected comedy veteran when his first collaboration with AMC, ‘Breaking Bad’, shot him to global prominence in a dramatic role. He then worked with the network in the leading role in his own spin-off, ‘Better Call Saul’, which ends with a final batch of 13 episodes that begin this month (April 19 in the UK).

In a press release, Odenkirk said: “I loved Paul and Aaron’s take on Richard’s excellent, entertaining novel. Once again a project with AMC with a focus on character depth and sensitivity. This milieu [academia] seems very pertinent to the conversations we’re all having. I am drawn to the tone of humanity and humor in the novel and I look forward to playing this role — something lighter than my recent projects but still closely observed and smart.”

It marks the latest development in Odenkirk’s bounce back from a heart attack suffered on the set of ‘Better Call Saul’ last July. After reaffirming his dramatic chops in action thriller ‘Nobody’, he released his first memoir, ‘Comedy Comedy Comedy Drama’, last month, and went out on a UK tour in support of it. Meanwhile, he’s also lining up a wholesale return to comedy by re-teaming with his long-time partner, David Cross, for another new show, ‘Guru Nation’.

The pair have previously worked together on the nineties cult classic sketch show, ‘Mr. Show’, as well as a de facto revival of it for Netflix, ‘W/ Bob & David’. ‘Guru Nation’ will see the pair as the titular religious leaders locked in a rivalry, which each setting his followers off against the other’s.

No UK network for either ‘Straight Man’ or ‘Guru Nation’ has yet been announced.