It’s not hard to imagine a version of this series that follows Rick and his employees as the war threatens to bury all of them alive, the Nazis breathing down their necks on one side and the Allies on the other.
That, however, would require the kinds of breakthroughs modern television takes for granted. A series like that could not have been made in 1983, and sadly, that’s when NBC took a stab at turning that compelling setting into a TV show.It's actually surprisingly easy to imagine a prequel series (with all the necessary caveats: talented writers, strong cast, supportive network, budget for historical setting, etc.) working well. It's much easier to imagine failure like we actually got back in the early 80s though.
So what would a good Casablanca: The Series look like?
VanDerWerff hits on one of the key components of a worthwhile effort: a willingness to take on themes of anti-imperialism and Muslim political identity. In light of current events from Egypt to Libya, a Casablanca series today could make itself relevant by using it's North African setting as something more than an exotic locale for American and European Anglos to have soap operas in.
If it were up to me, the series would be designed to run three seasons and end. The first season would be the story of Rick opening Rick's Café Américain, helping -- and not helping -- people trying to get to America, his competition with Signor Ferrari, encounters with friends and enemies from his past lives as a gun runner and professional soldier, and, of course, his uneasy dealings with Louis and the local authorities. I would end a season one with and arc around Ugarte and the letters of transit and the arrival of Ilsa and Victor.
The second season would basically be the rest of the movie retold, with more emphasis on the ensemble, the length of the series giving us more time to see Rick, Ilsa, and Sam in Paris, a larger role for Victor, and more of Louis.
The third season would have to be about Rick and Louis dealing with the aftermath, and actively working to undermine the Nazi presence in Casablanca. I'm afraid we'd have to have them both killed in action at the end to prevent the series dragging on too long. But it could be a noble death in the course of dealing the Axis powers a significant defeat.
An incomplete list of casting suggestions:
Rick - Nathan Fillion
Sam - Ice Cube
Victor - Benedict Cumberbatch
Ferrari - John Goodman