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CBS Orders California Convict Firefighter Drama Pilot

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CBS has given out a pilot order to a drama about convicts that fight wildfires in California.

Titled “Cal Fire,” the potential series focuses on young convict Bode Donovan. Seeking redemption and a shortened sentence, he joins a firefighting program that returns him to his small Northern California hometown, where he and other inmates work alongside elite firefighters to extinguish massive blazes across the region.

“SEAL Team” star Max Thieriot co-wrote the story for the pilot and serves as an executive producer. The show is inspired by his experiences growing in Northern California fire country. Tony Phelan and Joan Rater also co-wrote the story in addition to writing the teleplay. They will also executive produce. Jerry Bruckheimer, Jonathan Littman and KristieAnne Reed of Jerry Bruckheimer Television will executive produce as well. CBS Studios will produce.

Phelan and Rater are perhaps best known for their time working on “Grey’s Anatomy,” on which they rose to the rank of co-showrunners before departing the series after its tenth season. They are also known for shows such as “Madam Secretary,” “Doubt,” and “Council of Dads.” They are repped by UTA and Myman Greenspan.

Thieriot currently stars on “SEAL Team,” which was recently renewed for a sixth season at Paramount Plus after having aired its first four seasons on CBS. He has also directed two episodes of that series and an episode of “Bates Motel,” on which he also starred. “Cal Fire” would mark the first time he has written for television.

He is repped by Gersh and McKuin Frankel Whitehead.

California does in fact use prison inmates to help combat wildfires, a program that has been in place for decades. Per the state, approximately 1600 inmates were stationed in various fire camps as of May 2021. The program has been the subject of controversy in recent years, as those who take part in the program face substantial difficulty in applying for firefighter positions after they are released. The state has recently passed a law that can allow ex-inmates an expedited path to getting their criminal records expunged, giving them a better chance of being hired, but obstacles still remain.