TV Surf Report: HBO Max And What To Expect From Yet Another Blue Chip Streaming Service (Hint: Going After Women)

[Updated, Oct. 23, 2019}

Santa Monica, CA — Warner Media has announced its impending launch of its own streaming service, HBO Max, for sometime in early 2020. Heads up Disney+, Apple TV, NBC Universal Comcast, Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and the rest….

So what can we expect to find there (Hint: Adaptations and Branded Titles), and just as importantly, how much are we going to have pay to see it? Audience-wise, HBO Max appears to really be targeting Women with their original programming.  Greg Berlanti and Reese Witherspoon both have deals to produce original films, which I expect to be geared toward a female audience.  CNN’s Lisa Ling (This Is Life) just signed an overall deal to produce docuseries.

Am interested to see what happens with the DC Universe and whether or not it’s folded into HBO Max.  We shall see what chairman Bob Greenblatt has in store. The executive team hails mostly from sister programming outlet TNT.

HBO Max is spending a lot of money on its development slate. Here’s some of what’s on tap, most of which are straight-to-series orders (smart!):

FRIENDS, Matthew Perry, Courteney Cox Arquette, Matt LeBlanc, Lisa Kudrow, David Schwimmer, Jennifer Aniston, (Season 5), 1994-2004, © Warner Bros. / Courtesy: Everett Collection

  • FriendsCome for the reruns. Stay for the original programming! Warner Bros. paid a lot of pesos to pull this lucrative piece of library content (200+ episodes) from rival Netflix and air it exclusively on HBO Max, its sister company. That’s great news for Kauffman & Crane, the cast, and probably, an agency package (CAA). Let’s meet up at Central Perk soon, okay?  Ditto recent acquisition of Warner Bros. TV superhits The Big Bang Theory and Two And A Half Men.
  • Gossip Girl: The Revival Series creator Josh Schwartz is re-imagining the original for a new audience with new Upper East Side high school kids under surveillance of Gossip Girl on social media. Sounds like it could work.
  • Delilah, a comedy pilot from Sharon Horgan (Divorce) starring Jessica Rothe (La La Land) about a woman rebuilding her life and finding the man who may or may not be her father. This is a US re-make of a British pilot script.
  • Dune: The Sisterhood is a spinoff of the forthcoming remake of Frank Herbert’s Dune which Denis Villenueve (Blade Runner 2049, Arrival) is directing.  This series is a companion story of sorts, focusing on the Bene Gesserit Order of Witches.  Villeneuve EPs and will direct the pilot episode.

  • Made For Love is an adaptation of the tragic-comic novel about divorce and revenge by Alissa Nutting. SJ Clarkson (Game of Thrones prequel) EPs and directs. Cristin Milioti (Black Mirror, Fargo) set to star.
  • Station Eleven is an adaptation of Emily St. John Mandel’s post-apocalyptic novel about survivors of a global flu epidemic who struggle to re-make their world. Patrick Somerville writes and EPs.
  • Tokyo Vice stars Ansel Elgort (The Fault in Our Stars) and Ken Watanabe and is adapted from a non-fiction account about life with the Tokyo Metropolitan Police. Interesting. Michael Mann (Miami Vice) set to direct.
  • The Flight Attendant is a one-hour thriller series EPd by Greg Berlanti with Kaley Cuoco (The Big Bang Theory, Harley Quinn) set to star. Project is an adaptation of the novel by Chris Bohjalian.
  • Love Life is an original half-hour romantic anthology produced by Paul Feig (Bridesmaids) with Anna Kendrick set to star in S1.
  • Circe is an adaptation of the truly wonderful Madeline Miller novel which centers on the Greek goddess, but it’s a modern take on the Greek Gods and their machinations in the lives of mortals from a decidedly feminist POV. Cool. This book has caught fire. I am 19th in line on the waiting list at my local library. Will report back. (I LOVED THIS BOOK SO MUCH THAT I READ IT TWICE.)  Amanda Silver and Rick Jaffa (Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Mulan) script and EP.  Eight episodes ordered.

  • Doctor Who is one of several well-known British series acquired from the BBC.  All 11 seasons will be available including the latest starring Jodie Whitaker. The deal also includes all episodes of the original The Office (starring Ricky Gervais) and Luther (starring Idris Elba).
  • Gremlins is an animated re-make of the Amblin film. Am thinking this is aimed at Kids.
  • Anna K A YA version of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, how uplifting! I can hear the pitch now: It’s Anna Karenina meets Euphoria. Everyone’s a depressed teenager. (In actuality, book is described as Gossip Girl meets 13 Reasons Why meets Crazy Rich Asians.) Put Pilot commitment is an adaptation of Jenny Lee’s upcoming YA novel. Scooter Braun (Justin Bieber’s manager) and EOne exec produce.
  • Over My Dead Body is an Elizabeth Banks-produced adaptation of a podcast that chronicles a couple’s courtship from NY Times engagement announcement through murder trial. Sounds great.
  • Crime Farm is a Nicole Kidman-produced psychosexual drama about a married couple whose lives are upended by their mutual career as investigators.
  • Practical Magic is a Warner Bros. film (synergy alert!) that has been eyed for TV for many many years without success. This go around, Melissa Rosenberg (Jessica Jones) gets a pilot order for her adaptation of Alice Hoffman’s novel, The Rules of Magic, which will be set in the ’60s in New York and center on a youthful family descended from witches.
  • Generation is EPd by Lena Dunham who oversees a 17-year-old writer telling stories about teenagers and the real stuff they endure. (My So-Called Life called and wants its logline back, Lena. Also, Euphoria on Line 2). Pilot order.
  • Red Bird Lane is a YA horror drama about people living in a haunted house. Pilot order.
  • Let Them All Talk is a Steven Soderbergh-directed film starring Meryl Streep and takes place aboard a cruise ship with Streep and friends. How did Diane Keaton miss this role? It’s a comedy. Not sure why HBO Max is in this business. Thoughts?
  • Ellen DeGeneres Projects are a slew of reality shows EPd by the daytime talk show host which include a home design show, a dating show, and an animated children’s show each garnering a straight-to-series order. Variety Has The Details.
  • The Ho’s is a warm-hearted, comedic docuseries inspired by the film Crazy Rich Asians chronicling the life of a prosperous Vietnamese family in Houston. Eight episodes ordered.
  • Untitled Monica Lewinsky Documentary explores public shaming via social media, and no one knows that better than America’s most infamous former White House intern.
  • The Shelley Society explores the life of author Mary Shelley, best known for Frankenstein, as she battles demons and monsters in this period horror drama that is described as a Victorian X-Files. Hmmm. Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa (Riverdale) EPs.
  • The Brides is another sexy horror soap from Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa exploring those beautiful yet treacherous brides of Dracula. This idea has been developed a lot over the years, so it will be interesting to see if it gets off the ground (or has teeth). Greg Bertlanti also EPs which should help tremendously.
  • Birth Wedding Funeral is a travel documentary series hosted by Lisa Ling that explores each milestone in different cultures. Sounds cool. I’m in.


N E X T    U P:

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About Surfing Hollywood

Steve La Rue is an internationally recognized leader in Film & Television with 20+ years experience as a Development Executive championing such series as Buffy The Vampire Slayer, The X-Files, The Simpsons, King of the Hill, Battlestar Galactica, and Farscape. He writes, blogs, and consults on All Things Entertainment from his home at the beach in Santa Monica, CA, where he balances his life by surfing every damn day.
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