TV Surf Report: Branding in the Age of Streaming When Social Media Engagement Has Never Been More Important (Part 4 of 4)

STRANGER THINGS

Santa Monica, CA – A recent headline in Variety proclaimed that 22 million adults will cut the cord and get rid of their cable television subscription by the end of 2017. That’s a lot of lost revenue at $100/month/household.  Add to that lost revenue the number of consumers who are dubbed Cord Nevers, people who have never subscribed to cable.

Well, yikes! So, where will they go?

Answer: Streaming Services and Social Media Platforms. Even Networks know this as evidenced by CBS creating CBS All Access and launching Star Trek: Discovery there.

Studios are evolving as well as evidenced by Disney which is set to premiere its own Streaming Service in 2019 with New Star Wars Series As Its Center Piece

Let’s discuss, shall we? We are covering new ground here, as are these specific companies, so they are discovering their respective Brands as they find their unique super-hits and go from there, producing similar shows in order to capture a consistent audience base.  The one factor all share is Youth.

Baby Boomers, although they have money, are unlikely to Adapt in great numbers.

amazon-studios-2

  Streaming Services:

Amazon is an interesting case study in Branding. It can deliver Anything Anywhere Anytime within 24 hours or same day. That’s pretty much its current Brand. I think of it also as having a strong tie to Publishing, and its development relies heavily on IP (see below).

Notably, the company is spending $4.5 Billion in original content creation this year. A huge chunk will be devoted to its recent acquisition of the TV Rights to J.R. R. Tolkien’s The Lord of The Rings.

The New York Times Reviews Its Comedy Pilots

  • Signature Series: Transparent, Man in the High Castle, Catastrophe, Mozart in the Jungle
  • Demo: Everyone
  • Twitter: 2.69 million are talking about something they just bought!
  • Notable Development: A multi-season commitment to a prequel series adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings which reps a Huge financial risk should it fail. Rotten Tomatoes Predicts Possible Storylines for LOTR Series Amy Sherman-Palladino’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel has been ordered for two seasons based on its Pilot. Homecoming, an adaptation of a Podcast about government conspiracy with Julia Roberts set to star; Good Omens, a 6-episode hour-long comedy adaptation of the Terry Prachett/Neil Gaiman novel with Michael Sheen and David Tenant set to star; The Underground Railroad, a limited series from Oscar-winning director Barry Jenkins (Moonlight); Jack Ryan, an adaptation of Tom Clancy’s spy series with John Krasinski (The Office) set to star; a re-boot of Starsky & Hutch with director James Gunn (GOTG) executive producing; The Romanoffs from Matthew Weiner (Mad Men);  Agatha Christie Mysteries with BBC One; a continuation of Galaxy Quest (no original cast set yet); Mercury 13, a mini-series from Brad Whitford and Amy Pascal about 13 women behind space flight; Too Old to Die Young is a crime drama set in the underbelly of LA and stars Miles Teller and Jena Malone as assassins.

NETFLIX

Netflix is an international force to be reckoned with, but what is its Brand, and does it even need one? Am thinking it could be We Have Something For Everyone.

The company is spending $6 Billion in content creation, $100 million of which is going to uber producer Shonda Rhimes. In 2016, Netflix produced 46 original series.

  • Signature Series: House of Cards, Stranger Things, The Crown, Orange Is The New Black, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, The Defenders, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist; Black Mirror; The Punisher, Grace & Frankie, Fuller House; Alias Grace; Disjointed; Frontier; One Day at a Time
  • Demo: Everyone
  • Twitter: 3.77 million (strong)
  • Notable Development: A lot of Comedy Specials; multiple spin-offs of House of Cards (presumably without the recently fired Kevin Spacey); a re-boot or another installment (TBD) of Armisted Maupin’s Tales of the City; a re-boot of the campy ’60s family drama Lost in SpaceDanger, Will Robinson!; an adaptation of Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It (10 eps.); The Haunting of Hill House starring Timothy Hutton in the 10-episode adaptation; The Witcher adaptation which is like Buffy 2.0; Maniac, a comedy series starring Emma Stone, Jonah Hill and Sally Field; The Umbrella Academy, a new super hero show with Ellen Page set to star; The Good Cop with Tony Danza and Josh Groban; Huge in France, a comedy about a star comic who relocates to LA with his model son; Godless, a Western starring Michelle Dockery; Messiah, a 10-episode limited series from Roma Downey & Mark Burnett; a Sabrina the Teenage Witch horror spinoff from The CW’s Riverdale (20 episode order); Altered Carbon, a sci-fi series in the vein of Westworld meets BSG (premieres 02/18).

HANDMAIDS TALE

Hulu made big noise earlier this year when its original series adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale won the Emmy Award for Best Drama.

But what’s its Brand: Nostalgia?

Unlike Amazon and Netflix, Hulu does not have a global reach. However, it does have four parent companies: Fox, Disney, Universal and Warner Bros. The streaming service has committed $2.5 Billion for original content creation, per Variety

And, Hulu has a strategic partnership with Spotify aimed squarely at Students, a desirable demographic for advertisers. Lots of series to binge here (new and old until studios start pulling out their content to reserve for their own newly created streaming service a la Disney).

  • Signature Series: The Handmaid’s Tale, Shut Eye, The Mindy Project, Difficult People, Chance, Sarah Silverman Loves America
  • Demo: Everyone
  • Twitter: 516k
  • Notable Development: Marvel’s Runaways to premiere Nov. 21st; Future Man from Seth Rogen and starring Josh Hutcherson (The Hunger Games) as a Janitor By Day/Gamer Super Hero by Night; Castle Rock, an anthology series;expect lots of IP-centric development, titles people are already familiar with and presumably, once liked.

YOU TUBE LOGOYou Tube is owned by Google. Now, this is a Streaming Service to watch. Anyone else notice it sponsored The World Series? Very interesting.

As for its Brand, the company is evolving a brand from Your Video Here to something new, You Tube Red. Digital Influencers will be a large part of their programming.

The Hollywood Reporter Breaks It Down

  • Signature Series: Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken; 96 Hours With Katy Perry; Simply Complicated with Demi Lovato
  • Demo: 1.5 billion monthly viewers (yikes!) 18-34, youthful but edgy
  • Twitter: Um, who cares. (70.4 million!)
  • Notable Development includes a Karate Kid series in 2018. Original star Ralph Macchio returns for 10 episodes; a documentary from rapper Warren G; a continuation of the Step Up franchise; a musical comedy EPd by the Russo Bros. (Avengers: Infinity Wars); Impulse, a Doug Liman-produced drama based on the Jumper novels; Show Me More, a behind-the-scenes show with Ellen DeGeneres; Liza On Demand, an 8-episode half-hour comedy.

 

FRANCE-INTERNET-COMPANY-APPLE-LOGO

Apple is a Blue Chip Brand, and I would not bet against them, especially since the company is devoting $1 Billion in producing original content in the next year. Variety Projects Apple to Spend 4.2 Billion by 2022

  • Notable Development: A 10-episode re-boot of Steven Spielberg’s Amazing Stories with Bryan Fuller (American Gods, Hannibal) executive producing. Jennifer Aniston returns to television with Reese Witherspoon in a drama about TV’s morning shows. Jay Carson (House of Cards) scripts this project which has been ordered to series with a 2-season pickup of 10 episodes each. Impressive get. Witherspoon is all about Strategic Partnerships, so I expect this to be another Creative Win following the success of Big Little Lies on HBO in which she partnered with Nicole Kidman; a new Space Drama from Ron Moore (Outlander, BSG) wherein, the Space Race never ended.

Social Media:

FACEBOOK USERS

Facebook has a video hub, called, Facebook Watch, and the behemoth Social Network plans to spend over $1 Billion on Original Content in 2018 alone, per The Wrap

  • Signature Series: Humans of New York, Ball in the Family
  • Demo/Reach: 2 Billion monthly users, worldwide; 13-34 is their target audience of 75 million users, a stat that is up for debate since Users state their age which may or may not be truthful.
  • Notable Development: Jessica Alba and Mike Rowe are to star in original content. Bill Murray and Brian Doyle Murray are set to star in Extra Innings, a 10-episode series about Minor League Baseball.

Instagram A recent headline in Variety read that Instagram has over 500 million daily users and over 800 million monthly users. Wow. That’s a lot of eyeballs. Also the amount of videos uploaded has quadrupled in the last year.

Owned by Facebook, it’s only a matter of time before some form of Original Content gets produced and advertised on this social media platform.

SNAP CHAT LOGO

Snap Chat wants to turn your phone into a remote control for Television consumption. That said, the messaging service popular among younger users is not interested in creating long-form content, so don’t expect to watch an hour-long drama on Snap.  Videos will most likely be 3-5 minutes in length.

Make no mistake, though, Snap intends to be a Player. Snap has some work to do first, though. It’s not growing fast enough, and its design is troublesome for new Users: There’s An Overhaul In Snap’s Future

  • Signature Series: Supplemental content to existing series like The Voice and The Bachelor
  • Demo: 173 million daily users. They are young: 12-34.
  • Notable Development: Time Warner (one of several strategic partners) signed a deal to produce 10 new shows, per Variety

#RIPTWITTER

Twitter seems doomed, which is a shame because it’s so useful.

No one wants to buy my preferred social media platform. A certain POTUS likes it, too. Advertisers are there, but it cannot seem to turn a profit. Even expanding its Tweets from 140 characters to 280 seems like a Hail Mary attempt to innovate. However, the death knell is that Twitter has problems attracting new Users, especially young ones. Ouch.

Bloomberg News Breaks It Down – #RIP Twitter

 

N E X T   U P:

A Room With THE View at SMU

ATOP DALLAS HALL WITH DODIE

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TV Surf Report: Branding In Basic Cable Is A Lot Like Playing Monopoly, So Which Network is Boardwalk or Park Place?

AMERICAN CRIME STORY VERSACE

Santa Monica, CA — Branding in Basic Cable is as Easy as Playing Monopoly.  You know what you are going to get when you advertise on MTV (teens), Lifetime (women), BET (African Americans), Food Network (Foodies), and SyFy (fanboys).

However, other networks like AMC and FX are qualitatively far and above in terms of their original programming, but their Brands are not as easily definable. In some cases, a network has a great Brand, but weak programming and poor social engagement. In other cases, a network has great programming but not unifying Brand.

Basic Cable:

A Lot Like A Monopoly Board

PREACHER S3

AMC is riding high with the megahit, The Walking Dead.  It’s slogan, Something More, delivers on its programming. Yet, it is not easy to say what an AMC series is other than something out of the ordinary and possibly about Zombies.

  • Signature SeriesThe Walking Dead, Fear The Walking Dead, Preacher, The Son
  • Demo: 18-54;
  • Twitter: an impressive 694k. The Walking Dead has 1.61 million followers. Preacher has only 128k.
  • Notable DevelopmentDietland adaptation of Sarai Walker’s novel; an adaptation of John Le Carre’s novel, The Little Drummer Girl, from the Night Manager producing team and starring Alexander Skarsgard in a 6-episode miniseries.

AMERICANS THE CAST

FX is a creative destination for Hollywood producers because of its distinctive programming which includes The Americans, Atlanta, Fargo, American Horror Story, Archer, American Crime Story, and Feud.

It’s Branding slogan is Fearless, and FX certainly lives up to that goal.

  • Signature SeriesThe Americans, Atlanta, Fargo, American Horror Story
  • Demo: 18-54;
  • Twitter: a surprisingly weak 167k. AHS, though has 1.75 million followers. Fargo, though, only has 130k. And, The Americans has a mere 91k followers.
  • Notable Dev: Mayans, a spin-off of Sons of AnarchyAmerican Crime Story: The Murder of Gianna Versace, and Katrina.

PROJECT RUNWAY LOGO

Lifetime owns the Television for Women Brand, but is it delivering anything noteworthy other than multiple versions of the successful Project Runway franchise it nabbed years ago from Bravo?

  • Signature SeriesProject Runway, Women In Jeopardy MOWs
  • Demo: Women, 18-54
  • Twitter: 305k followers; Project Runway has only 334k followers. For such a strong Brand, there’s not a huge audience engagement for Lifetime series.
  • Notable DevelopmentFlint Water Crisis MOW should draw viewers, but what else is there to hang around to watch afterward? This is a network sound asleep at the wheel.

REAL HOUSEWIVES

Bravo is noteworthy in basic cable for its Watch What Happens reality series like the uber-successful Real Housewives franchise. Its Brand seems to be Anyone Can Be On Television.

  • Signature SeriesReal Housewives Of Every City; Top Chef; Flipping Out; Vanderpump Rules; Watch What Happens Live
  • Demo: Women, 18-54
  • Twitter: A surprising 1.09m followers. The audience is engaged.  Real Housewives of Orange County has 252k followers while Vanderpump has 129k followers.
  • Notable Development: Likely more of the same. Andy Cohen has been re-upped for three more years.

MAGICIANS CAST

SyFy uses the slogan It’s A Fan Thing, but its programming is narrow and geared towards Men (or is it?). Science Fiction is the most popular genre in the world, so why isn’t this cable network the most popular? B-Level Content. Poor Branding. No Buzz about its series. This network re-brands itself a lot. SyFy encompasses many sub-genres that this basic cable network does not serve well: Fantasy. Horror. Science Fiction. They own the Real Estate Brand, but other networks produce better Science Fiction content.

  • Signature Series is The Magicians. We’re Millenials With Magic Powers. Cult hit is The Expanse.
  • Demo: Men, Fanboys, 18-49
  • Twitter: Surprisingly weak 244k followers. The Magicians has a mere 52.9k while 32.9k followers. No Buzz.
  • Notable Development: Krypton, a prequel series to the Superman story. Tremors sequel remake starring Kevin Bacon. Adaptation of Night Flyers from George R. R. Martin.

CLOAK AND DAGGER

Freeform was once called ABC Family, but has since been re-branded. Why? What did ABC achieve by distancing itself from its cable channel other than not competing with Disney Channel?

  • Demo: focuses on Becomers, an audience demo of 12 – 25; this is Blue Chip for Advertisers
  • Signature Series: Pretty Little Liars and Shadow Hunters.
  • Strong Twitter numbers: 728k. Pretty Little Liars has a huge following of 4.48 million girls (and boys). That’s big. Shadowhunters has an impressive 1.31 million followers.
  • Notable Development: Cloak & Dagger, a mixed race Marvel pairing; and, sequel series to PLL where a Liar goes to college; and Siren, a YA-adaptation about young mermaids at war. Also, a college spinoff of Black-ish.

MTV LOGO

MTV used to stand for Music Television, now it’s mostly reality shows and reboots of  the popular Total Request Live. Make no mistake, though. MTV is an international brand with multiple channels in all languages.

  • Signature Series: Total Request Live, Scream, Road Rules, The Real World
  • Demo: 14-34
  • Twitter: 15.8 million followers
  • Notable DevelopmentThe Floribama Shore reality series. Sticking to its brand of youthful, reality series a la The Jersey Shore, etc. Amazingness, a reality variety talent competition show.

MISTER ROBOT

USA  The largest, most general audience of Basic Cable is in dire need of a Brand other than “Cable’s #1 Network.” Lots of series with single male leads.

  • Signature Series: Mr. Robot, Shooter
  • Demo: 18-54 males. USA needs women.
  • Twitter: 238k followers while Mr. Robot has 485k followers but Shooter lags with 29.5k followers. The audience is engaged about Rami Malek but not about Ryan Philippe.
  • Notable DevelopmentWild Cards, an adaptation of a George R.R. Martin novel; American Rust, an adaptation of Philip Meyer’s novel about a Pennsylvania town sheriff dealing with crime.

BEING MARY JANE

BET is a player in Cable because it delivers a target audience to advertisers: African Americans. Yet, there is real competition from OWN which is more urban and more diverse in its programming. Black Entertainment Television is part of the Viacom portfolio.

  • Signature Series: Being Mary Jane (which concludes in 2018)
  • Demo: 18-54 African Americans
  • Twitter: an impressive following of 2.09 million. Being Mary Jane has only 99.5k followers, though. Hmm.
  • Notable Development:

GREENLEAF POSTER.jpg

OWN is The Oprah Winfrey Network. Oprah is most definitely a Brand unto herself which stands for Smart, Successful, Entrepreneurial, Topical, and Spiritual. Bet on Oprah. And, Oprah is a star-maker (Dr. Phil, Dr. Oz, Iyanla Van Zant).

  • Signature Series: Queen Sugar, Greenleaf, Tyler Perry franchises, Super Soul Sunday
  • Demo: 18-54 African Americans, Women
  • Twitter: 911k followers. Super Soul Sunday has an impressive 573k followers while Queen Sugar has 61k followers, but Greenleaf has only 38.1k followers, though.
  • Notable Development: A podcast of Super Soul Sunday just hit the App Store.

DAILY SHOW

Comedy Central is also something of a Blue Chip piece of Real Estate in the Basic Cable Universe: You might not know its programming, but you know its star-making potential as evidenced by Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell, Samantha Bee, Amy Schumer, Key & Peele.

  • Signature Series: The Daily Show, Inside Amy Schumer, Drunk History
  • Demo: 18-54
  • Twitter: 1.56m;  The Daily Show has a whopping 7.08 million followers. This audience is engaged.
  • Notable Development:

HALLMARK XMAS

Hallmark Channel considers itself The Heart of TV with its wholesome series like Cedar Cove and its numerous lineup of Holiday Movies (33!). This growing cable channel is clearly focused on Middle America and Women. Its parent company, Hallmark, is also going after Romance in a big way as its publishing arm wants emerging novelists: Write For Hallmark and Get Adapted

  • Signature Series: The recently concluded Cedar Cove which is based on Debbie Macomber’s novels and its Holiday Movie franchise. Here’s the Schedule of Christmas Movies
  • Demo: Women, 18-54
  • Twitter: A scant 151k. Not much buzz. Still, Advertisers know what and who they are getting here.
  • Notable DevelopmentChristmas in the Villa. You guessed it: Holiday movie.

KARDASHIANS

E! brands itself as the Pop of Culture channel, but it might as well be Kardashian TV with its many incarnations of that reality series family, which celebrates its 200th Episode And A Look Back At That Sex Tape

  • Signature Series: Keeping Up With The Kardashians (just renewed for 3 years) and its spinoffs; The Royals
  • Demo: definitely Women, 18-49
  • Twitter: strong following of 3.86 million which demonstrates its buzzworthiness. Kardashians boasts 444k followers, while Kim K has 56.5 million followers (wonder how many are real!). The Royals commands 101k followers.
  • Notable Development: More reality shows and Kardashian spinoffs. Ugh.

 

N E X T   U P:

Streaming with Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and Apple TV.

HANDMAIDS TALE

 

 

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TV Surf Report: HBO Leads The Way In Branding in Premium Cable Where The Audience (But No Advertisers) Knows To Expect Quality

WESTWORLD HBO

Santa Monica, CA — Know Your Brand. Cable Television has an easier time staking its claim than Broadcast or Streaming: It’s Not TV. It’s HBO!

Premium Cable.

HBO is the gold standard in subscription-based Television, still riding high with Quality Series, Original Movies and Documentary Specials. You get what you pay for!

Game of Thrones. Veep. Big Little Lies. These series (drama, comedy, limited) continue to reinforce that Brand and make HBO a destination in Hollywood (and internationally) for Creatives. Westworld and Last Week With John Oliver make it relevant.  HBO is a major player in the Warner Bros. empire. No Advertisers, though! Yet, such a strong Brand. Interesting.

  • Signature SeriesGOT, Veep, Ballers, Real Time With Bill Maher, Last Week Tonight With John Oliver, Big Little Lies, True Detective
  • Twitter: 1.85 (strong) GOT has 6.74 million followers. People are engaged and talking about this series as compared to Westworld which has only 168k followers. Real Time has 124k, but John Oliver has 2.77m followers. Reese Witherspoon, however, has 2.04 million followers. She knows how to engage the audience.
  • Notable Development: Adaptation of Watchmen (the graphic novel not the film). Also, no less than five prequels to Game of Thrones! Mark Ruffalo stars in a limited series adaptation of Wally Lamb’s bestseller I Know This Much Is TrueFahrenheit 451 with Michael Shannon; Today Will Be Different adaptation starring Julia Roberts

Bloomberg Explores Life After Game of Thrones for HBO

BIG LITTLE LIES

Showtime has No Brand unless you count Pretty Good Shows That Aren’t That CoolSounding (with the Twin Peaks re-boot as a limited series being very much The Exception). Synergy works in Showtime’s favor, though. It’s the pay cable component of Viacom’s empire, and its sister companies are CBS and Paramount Television.

  • Signature Series: Twin Peaks, Shameless, Ray Donovan, Homeland, The Affair, Billions. Quality. But unlike HBO, these series do not have that water cooler quality to them (again with Twin Peaks as the exception).
  • Twitter: 273k (incredibly weak) Twin Peaks: The Return has a mere 74.7k followers while Homeland has 283k and Ray Donovan has 91.3k followers. Showtime has some work to do here.
  • Notable DevelopmentKing Killer Chronicles adaptation executive produced by Lin-Manuel Miranda; and likely, The Vampire Lestat adaptation (11 novels) from Anne Rice; Patrick Melrose adaptation starring Benedict Cumberbatch; Happy adaptation of the graphic novel with Chris Meloni attached to star; A sequel series to Lesbian drama The L Word; City on a Hill, a period Boston crime drama from Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, starring Kevin Bacon.

TWIN PEAKS DVD PROMO

Starz dubs itself Obsessable. That’s a good Branding place to start, and this channel is well on its way to deserving that Brand with international hits like Outlander, American Gods, Black Sails, and Power.

Add to that a strong mix of hit movies, a corporate partner in Lionsgate Studios, and Starz is creatively more interesting than Showtime right now (and a lot younger).

  • Signature SeriesOutlander, American Gods, Black Sails, Power
  • Twitter: 156k followers. Not bad. Outlander boasts 362k, and American Gods has 61.9k followers, but Power has 272k followers. Interesting. Starz needs to get more people talking about American Gods. Author Neil Gaiman has 2.66 million followers. Meanwhile, actor Sam Heughan (Outlander) has 391k followers. Very interesting.
  • Notable DevelopmentBlack Samurai adaptation starring Common and executive produced by Jerry Bruckheimer; Ascendant, the TV continuation of the Veronica Roth film series; The Rook from novelist Stephanie Meyer (Twilight); Uber Producer Jerry Bruckheimer EPs P-Town, an heroine epidemic drama with a Lesbian heroine. Bruckheimer also EPs Family Crimes, a hot spec script from David Ayer (Suicide Squad);

OUTLANDER

 

N E X T   U P:

Branding In Basic Cable. Lets Play Monopoly!

AMERICAN CRIME STORY VERSACE

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TV Surf Report: Branding In Television — Who’s Succeeding and Who’s Failing in 2017

STAR TREK DISCOVERY PHOTO.jpg

Santa Monica, CA — These days, it’s All About Your Brand. For Networks, this is a challenge to define itself to not only its audience, but also to advertisers seeking to reach a specific audience and to creatives who seek to do business with the network.

Also, are your viewers engaged on Social Media and talking about your series? That’s important in today’s crowded landscape:

Buzz. Word of Mouth. Free Advertising.

Some Networks, Cable Channels, and Streaming Services are better than others when it comes to Branding. There are brain trusts at each company desperately trying to solve this Marketing/Advertising Puzzle which sometimes seems more like the Riddle of the Sphinx:

Dear God, What’s Our Effing Brand?????

Here’s a look at The Players, Their Signature Series, Demos and level of Social Media Engagement:

  The Broadcast Networks

(ranked in order of Most Successful Brand):

  1. The CW
  2. CBS
  3. NBC
  4. FOX
  5. ABC

GOOD DOCTOR PHOTO

ABC boasts the top-rated new drama series of the season: The Good Doctor in addition to its diverse lineup of half-hour comedies (Black-ish, Fresh Off the Boat, Modern Family), reality programming (DWTS, Shark Tank) and its aging TGIT Shonda Rhimes franchise that includes veteran Grey’s Anatomy, the series finale season of Scandal, and How to Get Away With Murder.  What is its Brand though? Am guessing it’s We Love Diverse Family Programming!  Problematic because I am unsure.

  • Demo: 18–49
  • Social Engagement via Twitter: 456k (should be stronger). The Good Doctor has 34.6k followers while Grey’s Anatomy has 4.18 million!
  • Signature Series:  Modern Family, Grey’s Anatomy, Shark Tank
  • Notable Development: A reboot of American Idol looks solid, but a questionable re-boot of Roseanne evokes strong feelings of anxiety. Larry Wilmore has a  Super Hero Middle Eastern Family Comedy Mash Up , which seems to hit a lot of boxes, Brand-wise. We shall see! Meanwhile, Shonda Rhimes has a Firefighting spinoff of Grey’s Anatomy in production. She is very engaged on Social Media and is one of many Creators who live-tweet during episodes.

SHONDA SCREEN SHOT

YOUNG SHELDON

CBS markets itself as America’s Most Watched Network.  That’s a Brand, or is it? From shows like The Big Bang Theory to spinoff Sheldon, Mom, Criminal Minds, Madam Secretary, 60 Minutes, and Football, CBS has everyone covered. It’s demo audience is traditionally older-skewing so the challenge is to create programming that will draw in younger viewers. CBS’ audience is also more rural.

  • Demo: 18-Dead;
  • Signature Series:  The Big Bang Theory, 60 Minutes, Survivor
  • Social Engagement via Twitter: 940k. The Big Bang Theory 4.71m followers while 60 Minutes has only 926k. Star Trek: Discovery which airs on CBS All Access has a mere 73.1k followers.
  • Notable Development: A re-boot of Magnum, P.I. and a remake of L.A. Confidential

 

THIS IS US

NBC is desperately trying to reclaim its once uber-successful Must-See TV brand by taking a gamble by re-booting Will & Grace, once a Thursday night staple.  The gamble paid off, and now The Peacock has something else to sqawk about besides its Emmy nominated monster hit drama, This Is Us. Now, if it could only launch another successful comedy.

  • Demo: 18-49
  • Social Engagement via Twitter: 1.74 million; Interestingly, NBC has the largest following on Twitter among the Big Four (edging FOX and nearly double of CBS) This Is Us has 240k while The Voice boasts 5.2m followers.
  • Signature Series: The Voice, This Is Us, Saturday Night Live keep NBC relevant and popular amongst younger, urban viewers.
  • Notable Development: An ill-advised reboot of The Munsters and Miami Vice; and, a remake of Blue Crush, which could work. Girls Surf!

 

GIFTED THE XMEN SERIES ON FOX

FOX is a network that used to have an Edgy Brand (younger, raunchy comedies and young adult dramas that appealed to the 18-34 demo), but now it’s grown into an older netlet that’s happy with 18-49 aged viewers who have yet to tire of The Simpsons or The X-Files.  Throw in Empire for some diversity.  Fox still has a “We’re younger than The Big Three” kinda aura about it, but it’s not really true.  The Gifted is this season’s biggest gamble trying to ride the Marvel Studio and X-Men gravy train.

  • Demo: 18-49
  • Signature Series: The Simpsons, The X-Files, Empire
  • Social Engagement via Twitter: 1.23m; The Simpsons has 929k followers while The X-Files has only 276k. Meanwhile, Empire 1.48 million followers. Meanwhile, The Gifted has a mere 26.7k followers. Not a good sign.
  • Notable Development: The Passage adaptation; a reboot of Kung Fu and a remake of True Lies. Ho hum.

 

ARROW SOLO.jpg

The CW has The Flash, Arrow, Supergirl, DC’s Legends of Tomorrow.

Super Heroes. DC Comics.

This netlet very much has a Brand of Youth Appeal. Toss in Riverdale, Jane the Virgin, and My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and it’s clear The CW also has some Edge, as well. Supernatural has to end at some point. Dynasty looks like a big Miss, though. Advertisers know who they are pitching to, which is quite valuable, Brand-wise.

  • Demo: 12-34 male and female.
  • Social Engagement via Twitter: 857k (strong). The Flash boasts 1.64 million, Arrow has 2.11 million followers, and Riverdale has 660k.
  • Notable Development: Black Lightning, a black Super Hero series from DC. A re-boot of Roswell with a notable Immigration Theme; a Sabrina the Teenage Witch spinoff from RiverdaleThe Wayward Sisters, a spinoff from Supernatural; and, It’s The End of the World As We Know It adaptation with Rob Thomas (I-Zombie) exec producing. Alien Invasion Dramas, always worth a shot, yes? The CW Has Aliens On Its Mind

 

N E X T   U P:

Pay Cable and Basic Cable.

WESTWORLD HBO

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TV Surf Report: All Hail The Return of The Spinoff

YOUNG SHELDON

Santa Monica, CA — Blame uber-producer Norman Lear for TV’s current trend of taking a successful series and creating a spin-off of that show.  In the ’70s, Lear created All in the Family for CBS which successfully spun off Maude, Good Times, and The Jeffersons.

Spinoffs Work.

CBS has reached back into its ’70s playbook with the premieres of two big Spinoffs: The first, Young Sheldon, is a spin-off of The Big Bang Theory, the number one comedy on broadcast TV. Iain Armitage from Big Little Lies stars as the younger version of Jim Parsons, who serves as both narrator and EP. The network gave a full-season pickup to this spinoff after the first episode premiered to big numbers.

The second, Star Trek: Discovery, is of course the latest in a long line of spinoffs of NBC’s Star Trek which is produced for CBS All Access by Paramount TV, a sister company of CBS in the Viacom empire. Jason Isaacs and Michelle Yeoh lead a very diversely cast ensemble crew in this prequel series which hinges on battles with The Klingons.

STAR TREK DISCOVERY

Aside from the glut of DC spinoffs on The CW, here are some notable Spinoffs in development and/or production:

  • House of Cards at Netflix. Multiple spinoffs in the works as series concludes in 2018.
  • Sabrina, The Teenage Witch at The CW. A darker contemporary version from the Riverdale universe.
  • Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists at Freeform. A few Liars move on to a college town, continue to lie and continue to get caught up in murder.  I. Marlene King adapts Sara Shepard’s best-selling book and EPs. Sasha Pietese and Janel Parrish star.
  • Suits at USA.  Gina Torres’ lawyer character gets her own series set in Chicago.
  • How I Met Your Father at 20th (and presumably CBS). Spin-off of How I Met Your Mother which made a cool $1b for 21st Century Fox, so why not.
  • Supernatural at The CW. Now in its 12th season, the women of Supernatural get their own show, The Wayward Sisters, where naturally, they will battle monsters.

DAENERYS

  • Game of Thrones at HBO.  The pay cabler is developing no less than five spinoffs, prequels, successors of the mega-hit adaptation of George R.R. Martin’s Song of Fire & Ice series.  Max Borenstein (Kong: Skull Island) and Jane Goldman (Kingsman) are two of the scripters. Bryan Cogman, who has been with GOT since its beginning, pens #5 much to the delight of Martin. Bodes well for fans of Westeros. Brian Hegeland and Carly Wray are two others. Meanwhile, I am still waiting for Martin to finally publish Book 7, entitled, The Winds of Winter.
  • Mayans MC at FX.  Sons of Anarchy begets a new chapter.  I trust the creative brain trust at FX to get this right.
  • College-ish at Freeform. In another very synergistic move, ABC’s Black-ish spin-off is laid off at sister network, Freeform. Eldest daughter goes to college.  Sounds like A Different World, the collegiate spin-off from The Cosby Show. Could work…again.
  • Seattle Fire at ABC.  Shonda Rhimes spins off a firehouse drama from Grey’s Anatomy.  Series order. Stacy McKee scripts this ensemble drama. Gonna be hot.
  • The New Pope at HBO. Paolo Sorrentino begins a new chapter following the success of limited series The Young Pope starring Jude Law. One Pope too many?

YOUNG POPE

Am sure there are more Spinoffs to come.  Some will work. Some will fail. For every Young Sheldon, there’s always an After-MASH.

Hey, that’s Show Business.

N E X T   U P:

My 53,000-mile TuneUp. An Unaffordable Care Act.

DENTAL VISIT

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TV Surf Report: Ye, God(s) — Religion & Faith are Trending and Make For Topical, Compelling & Entertaining Storytelling

AMERICAN GODS DEATH SCENE EP 3

Santa Monica, CA — Anyone else notice that God is trending in TV right now? If you like a little Irreverence with your Reverence, then dear Reader, you are in Luck as series dealing with Religion, Faith, Mythology, and Historical Fiction are available for your viewing pleasure.

There are a lot of religious-themed shows across All Platforms (Pay Cable, Basic Cable, Broadcast, Streaming), and they encompass many Genres.

What’s the buzz, tell me what’s happening?

Religion, like Television, is a Worship Game:

Whomever Has The Most Followers … Wins.

That’s a butchered quote from a scene in S1 of American Gods, but hopefully, you get the point: God is Hot right now!

Starz’ glorious adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s brilliant novel enjoyed a stellar first season  and nabbed a coupla Emmy nominations (technical) along the way.  Full credit goes to Exec Producers Bryan Fuller and Michael Green for their super smart expansion of Gaiman’s meditation on Religious Darwinism and Cultural Worship.

Old Gods have awakened to the threat of New Gods in a fascinating battle played out across America via Social Media making for very Topical Television.

AMERICAN GODS THE JESUSES

A shout-out to my former boss (casting director) Margery Simkin for her stellar work:  Ricky Whittle, Bruce Langley, Yetide Badaki, Crispin Glover along with Bryan Fuller favorites Gillian Anderson (Hannibal) and Kristin Chenoweth (Pushing Daisies) make for a terrific cast.

American Gods may be one of the most diverse series on Television right now.  It’s a really wonderful intersection of Mythology and Religious Studies and perfect viewing for wannabe Seminarians like me.

YOUNG POPE

Meanwhile, The Young Pope has made a Believer out of me.  Just in the nick of time, too, as my Southern Baptist upbringing was in danger of wearing off completely.

HBO’s terrific limited run series demands a lot from the Viewer as Jude Law’s character questions God’s existence which I found to be very compelling Television:  Who better to have a Crisis of Faith than The Pope?!

Another Emmy contender here with Paolo Sorrentino’s original storytelling so wonderfully humanizing a world leader at a time when the World is questioning everything.  Just terrific.

And the supporting cast is just wonderful, both American and especially, the Italians. Silvio Orlando is my new favorite actor. Bravo to Diane Keaton, as well. Their characters pray for forgiveness for exercising their Free Will to take matters into their own hands (and presumably, out of God’s).

HBO plans a sequel, entitled, The New Pope. (Spoiler Alert!)

DOM COOPER AS PREACHER

And, Preacher on AMC is kicking butt in its second season.  This is so not Touched By An Angel, but that does not mean the storytelling is not equally as moving as the Roma Downey series.

(Speaking of Roma Downey, she and husband Mark Burnett have set up a limited series at Netflix, called, Messiah, with Michael Petroni (Chronicles of Narnia) scripting. )

Dominic Cooper is fantastic as a small-town Texas minister, the only person on the planet who can contain the God Force in this adaptation of a graphic novel. It’s very violent, but there is a cool twisted sense of humor to the violence reminiscent of Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill.

Another fantastic supporting cast here led by Graham McTavish (Outlander).

LEFTOVERS

HBO just concluded its fantastic religious-themed series, The Leftovers, which also takes place in a small Texas town (and is also an Adaptation). There is so much tension in this series that, at times, I found it difficult to watch, anticipating some horrible act about to happen. Justin Theroux stars as the town sheriff, a man who seemingly cannot die. He is surrounded by a town full of zealots awaiting the Rapture. A fascinating drama, to be sure. There is a lot to discuss here, theologically speaking. Paging a Theologian!

HANDMAIDS TALE

One of the most buzzed-about new series of 2017 is The Handmaid’s Tale, starring Emmy-winner Elizabeth Moss, in this chilling adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s brilliant novel about the Patriarchy denying women not only religious freedom but also controlling their reproductive rights.

This Emmy-winning drama series has become a cultural influencer and put Hulu front and center as a destination for Creatives in Hollywood.  The feature film starring Natasha Richardson seems all but forgotten.

Greenleaf is now in S3 on OWN. Craig Wright’s soapy drama, starring Lynn Whitfield, about a Southern mega-church and the behind-the-pulpit machinations demonstrates that God can handle just about any backdrop:  Science Fiction & Fantasy to Historical Fiction to Horror to Soap Opera.

GREENLEAF CAST

Outcast on Cinemax and Wynonna Earp on SyFy also dabble in Religion and Faith especially when it comes to Hell, always a popular fictional talking point for storytellers dating back to Dante.

I fully expect Showtime to tackle Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles which include popular books like The Vampire Lestat and Memnoch The Devil.  In the latter, Lestat travels to Hell in an adventure with The Devil.  Rice masterfully meditates on Christian mythology, but the content is too adult for broadcast television.

Premium pay cable (HBO, Starz, Cinemax) and Basic Cable (AMC, OWN, SyFy) and Streaming (Hulu) can handle complex ruminations on Religion, so why doesn’t Broadcast?

It’s been years since Touched By An Angel anchored Sunday nights on CBS.  Roma Downey has produced several Jesus-centric miniseries for NBC in the intervening years, and her production company (with husband Mark Burnett) has developed several pilots based on Biblical stories.

GOOD OMENS PHOTO

BBC One is adapting Sir Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman’s dark comic Good Omens which features David Tennant and Michael Sheen as an Angel and a Demon who share a flat in London.  Six episodes have been ordered.

ABC has the upcoming new drama series Kevin (Probably) Saves The World which stars Jason Ritter as a guy who is met by a messenger from God.  The writers behind Agent Carter present this fun take which feels Capra-esque.  Here is the Trailer for the Pilot

Meanwhile, CBS tries with By The Book, a comedy starring Ian Gomez, that used to be titled Living Biblically, about a guy living according to the rules of The Bible.  Johnny Galecki  (TBBT)  produces this adaptation of the popular book.

LUCIFER TOM ELLIS

Hold up, though! There’s The Exorcist and Lucifer on Fox.

One is a TV remake of a feature film, and the other is an adaptation of a DC Comic.

Horror and Comedic drama can take on God, too. Or rather, God transcends all Genres!

More importantly, they appeal to an international audience.  Religion and religious mythology play pivotal roles in both series where God is the unseen Antagonist, if you will.

Both series appeal to a that much desired demographic: Young Adults.

JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR

And come April 1, 2018 — look to NBC for a live musical update of Andrew Lloyd Webber & Tim Rice’s rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar.

My mind is clearer now…at last, all too well, I can see where we all soon will be.

Craig Zadan & Neil Meron produce along with Marc Platt (LaLa Land).  Event Programming is alive and well, and JCS: Live! is timed not un-coincidentally right before Easter. Last year, Fox broadcast Tyler Perry’s production of The Passion. Expect bigger ratings and an international audience plus DVD sales for JCS.

Full Disclosure:  I know this soundtrack by heart. The film was one of my most memorable movie-going experiences as a child. And, I may have acted in a production (or two).

Prepare Ye: It’s only a matter of time before someone reboots GODSPELL

Cue DishwallaAll Your Thoughts On God

And lastly, Whoopi Goldberg reunited the cast of Sister Act to celebrate its 25th Anniversary on The View.  Just watching these Nuns sing one song from that film make me feel a moment of Joy, and that’s missing from broadcast TV right now.  Heads Up, ABC and Disney: There is a TV remake ripe for the producing here: Whoopi Directs “I Will Follow Him”

 

N E X T   U P:

DENTAL VISIT

Unaffordable Care Acts.

 

 

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TV Surf Report: Creative Remakes And Nostalgic Reboots Continue To Trend In Hopes of Breaking Through The Clutter

STARSKY & HUTCH.jpg

Santa Monica, CA — Nostalgia. Escapism. Feel Good TV.

What’s Old Is New Again. And Again.

Hollywood wants to soothe The Viewer with Old Chestnuts, with new takes on familiar titles and with tales of the Future in which Mankind survives this century’s political turmoil and threat of nuclear war as well as Climate Change.

In the Age of Reality Stars As World Leaders, Hollywood thinks The Viewer needs to Escape (Lost in Space, anyone?) or to laugh (The Munsters, The Jetsons).

Broadcast, Cable and Streaming also have a marketing problem. Remakes and Reboots are one answer to the problem of breaking through the Glut of Programming and reaching The Viewer:

Consume This!

You Liked It Before Even Though You May Be Too Young To Remember It!

See Twin Peaks: The Return on Showtime.

Also, in the Age of Vertical Integration, Networks that are sister companies to Studios with vast Libraries of Content are financially bound to raid the pantry, as it were: Fargo, Hawaii Five-0, and Battlestar Galactica are good examples.

One problem I foresee is that Baby Boomers are the Programmers and are the only people who remember these titles, and yet, they are programming for Millennials, who do not know most of these series or films, returning yet again:

LA CONFIDENTIAL

  • Galaxy Quest at Amazon. Paul Scheer scripts this “continuation” of the feature. No original cast members set yet. Am surprised Paramount let this go to Amazon vs. its own emerging cable network.
  • Deadwood on HBO. Ian MacShane and Timothy Olyphant are set to return in HBO’s Western famous for its salty language.
  • The Twilight Zone at CBS All Access. Jordan Peele is set to revive the classic anthology series. This feels like a winning combination of Right Time for Right Show with the Right Writer. Looking forward.
  • Blue Crush at NBC. Hawaii. Surfing. Blue Skies.  Now, this is a remake I can fully support.  The 2002 John Stockwell film starring Kate Bosworth gets made over for TV.
  • Magnum, P.I. at CBS. Really? No one under the age of 50 knows this series, so why re-boot? Jeez, CBS! Pretty lame. Blue Skies. Hawaii. Replacement for the aging Hawaii Five-O re-boot, most likely.
  • Roswell at The CW.  Aliens Among Us in New Mexico: Now With Immigrants! Thanks, Amblin TV. Ugh. Possibly compatible with the Riverdale, I suppose. Ugh.
  • Amazing Stories at Apple TV.  Bryan Fuller (American Gods) and Amblin reboot Spielberg’s anthology series for a new player in Streaming.
  • Stargate: Origins at MGM Digital. Prequel series featuring 10-minute episodes. It’s a brand new world of programming out there!
  • Black Widows at ABC.  Leonardo DiCaprio EPs this US remake of a Finnish drama about three women in a mountain town, all of whom lose their husbands in a boating accident.  Drama and intrigue ensue.
  • First Wives Club at Paramount Network. The hit film gets re-made as a half-hour show about female friendship and revenge. Tracy Oliver, the screenwriter of Girls Trip, scripts. Let’s re-make every Bette Midler film, shall we?
  • Hocus Pocus at Disney Channel. Sorry, but the original stars (Midler, Najimy, Parker) and the director (Ortega) are not involved in this re-boot/re-make. This title has more steam as a Feature, I would think, but hey, it’s a new world out there.
  • Kung Fu at Fox. Gender flip lead character gets a pilot commitment with uber-producer Greg Berlanti showrunning. Not optimistic.
  • Get Christie Love at ABC. Vin Diesel godfathers this revival of a one-season detective show from the ’70s.
  • Underworld at TBD.  Len Wiseman’s successful film franchise about Vampires versus Werewolves moves to television after wearing out its welcome in The Movies.  20th Century Fox and Sony TV are targeting premium cable/digital to broadcast/stream.
  • Das Boot at Sky. The Wolfgang Peterson film gets re-imagined for television with the update starring Lizzy Caplan, Vincent Kartheiser, and James D’Arcy. No USA broadcast partner yet.
  • True Lies at Fox. Corporate Synergy is alive and well as the network remakes a popular title from the film studio library.  James Cameron is on board to EP.  I have a good feeling about this one. Right Film. Right Network. Right Timing.
  • L.A. Confidential at CBS. Curtis Hanson’s Oscar-winning period noir detective yarn gets a TV remake. Moody and female-centric. I have a good feeling about this one. Not the first try at adapting this book/film for TV.
  • Greatest American Hero at ABC. Gender flip. Pilot commitment.
  • Perry Mason at HBO. Robert Downey Jr. stars in this reboot of the classic legal drama which starred Raymond Burr. Rolin Jones (Weeds) and Ron Fitzgerald (Friday Night Lights) script. Am hoping Downey does away with his trademark snark.
  • Starsky & Hutch at Amazon. James Gunn (GOTG) can do pretty much whatever he wants in TV, so Sony is going with the flow and re-booting this buddy cop series from the ’70s and hopefully not the Ben Stiller/Owen Wilson feature.
  • Jumper at TBD. Actor Jamie Bell and writer Julian Simpson (Doctor Who) are looking to adapt this 2008 feature which co-starred Bell (and Hayden Christiansen) as teens who teleport and who are being pursued by malevolent folk intent on their  destruction. I liked the movie.  Good idea that’s perfect for The CW or Starz.  Lionsgate produces, so I’d bet on Starz. Film is an adaptation of a series of novels by Steven Gould. The third novel, Impulse, is in development at YouTube Red with Doug Liman attached to produce/direct.
  • Your Honor at TBD. This Israeli drama, about a judge involved in a hit and run, gets a US remake. Peter Moffat (The Night Of) and Robert & Michelle King (The Good Wife) exec produce. Expect premium cable or CBS All Access to be the buyer.
  • The Jetsons at ABC.  This seems like a Hail Mary! attempt as the network will ride the Nostalgia Wave by giving Robert Zemeckis a Pilot commitment to transform the well-loved animated classic into a live-action multi-camera sitcom.  Oy vey!
  • The Birds at BBC. I am looking forward to seeing what the Brits do with this Alfred Hitchcock horror classic film.

MUNSTERS

  • The Munsters at NBC. Oh, I don’t think this was the best of Ideas, Bob Greenblatt. No one under the age of 50 knows this title.  It is the definition of an old chestnut.
  • The Karate Kid at You Tube Red.  Ralph Macchio returns in this sequel series to the successful film franchise he and Pat Morita launched several decades ago!
  • Miami Vice at NBC.  Vin Diesel scores a big title with his overall deal with Universal, so expect NBC or USA to be the first stops for this re-boot.
  • The L Word at Showtime. Original cast members eyeing a return to a Sequel rather than a re-boot of the popular and groundbreaking Lesbian drama series.
  • Teen Wolf at MTV.  All new cast. All new wolves.
  • Tales of the City at Netflix.  Hey, this series re-boot also qualifies as an adaptation thanks to author Armisted Maupin’s newspaper columns and books, but more likely, it’s a re-boot of the successful miniseries that ran on PBS and later on Showtime.  Lead actors Laura Linney and Olympia Dukakis are back for more drama at 28 Barbary Lane. Update is contemporary, so I am guessing it’s Mrs. Madrigal’s swan song.
  • Tremors at SyFy. So much for re-branding. Kevin Bacon reprises his role from the 1990 cult favorite featuring giant Graboid worms out for blood! UCP and Blumhouse produce. Hope they make it fun and not take themselves seriously. Vincenzo Natali to direct. Molto Bene!
  • Herbie The Love Bug at Disney XD.  Okay, this could be fun.  Miss you, Dean Jones.  Michele Lee, are you in on it?
  • The Good Doctor  at ABC.  A re-make of a South Korean show brought to ABC Studios by Daniel Dae Kim (Hawaii Five-0).  Freddie Highmore (Bates Motel) stars as a brilliant young doctor with a handicap. Here’s the Preview Trailer
  • S.W.A. T.  at CBS. Shemar Moore stars in the TV version of the 2003 Neil Moritz film, which was a feature version of a ’70s TV series.  Justin Lin, Shawn Ryan EP with a hundred other guys, it seems. Just what audiences need:  Another cop show. Yawn.

SNOWPIERCER

  • Snowpiercer at TNT.  Daveed Diggs (Black-ish, Hamilton) to star. Scott Derrickson (Doctor Strange) directs the TV version of Boon Joon Ho’s futuristic film about a train filled with humanity’s survivors circling the globe. Josh Friedman (Sarah Conner Chronicles) is the showrunner. Pilot order. Sign me up!
  • Charmed at TBD. The CW developed a re-boot. Netflix may have it now. So far, this way-too-soon re-boot continues to be up in the air.  Oy! Thumbs down.  The creative auspices for The CW version are from Jane the Virgin, so we shall see if this moves forward off-cycle there or at Netflix.
  • What About Bob? at NBC. Gender flip. Sounds terrible. Yet it’s the familiar title that the network (and its studio, Universal) covet. Script order.
  • Dynasty at The CW. Grant Show (Melrose Place) is the new Blake Carrington. Krystle is Latina. Fallon is ….Fallon. Series order.
  • Lost in Space at Netflix.  Series order.  Danger, Will Robinson! Am hoping for a complete re-imagining of this beloved campy classic.
  • Will & Grace at NBC.  Now, NBC has a winner of an Event Series on its hands (or Peacock feathers, if you will) here.  I predict the 10+ episodes will premiere big and ratings will diminish considerably after that…just like the original series! Remarkably, NBC has ordered a S2.  The political humor will be quite timely. The gay jokes will be tiresome. More Grace, Less Will. Here’s the Teaser for the Re-Boot
  • The X-Files at Fox.  Mulder and Scully are coming back for 10 more episodes.  You’ll have to wait until 2018, though.  Meanwhile, check out Gillian Anderson in her fantastic turn as Media on Starz’ terrific American Gods which has been picked up for S2.  Great news for fans of the book.
  • Roseanne at ABC.  I have a very bad feeling about this one.  The entire cast is on board for a revival, though, even both Beckys.
  • She’s Gotta Have It at Netflix.  Spike Lee directs all 10 episodes of the contemporary update of his feature.
  • Xena: Warrior Princess at NBC. Now, this is truly a head-scratcher. The network has killed the script written by Javier Grillo-Marxuach and put aside rebooting this beloved action series.  One would think the Peacock would take advantage of the recent success of Wonder Woman and hop on the female action train while it’s in motion. They remain open to a new take, but this should be on the fast track.

LOST IN SPACE ROBINSONS

N E X T   U P:
My 53,000-mile Tune Up: An Unaffordable Care Act.

 

 

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TV Surf Report: Praise Be! Hollywood Continues to Adapt Books, Graphic Novels and Podcasts

AMERICAN GODS DJINN & SALIM

Santa Monica, CAOh, we never take the book, a high-profile literary agent told me recently in a meeting about shopping best-selling books and their prospective TV adaptations.

This year, Hulu hit a creative home run (and marketing tool for Social Protest) with its buzzyworthy adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, and Starz also clobbered it with Bryan Fuller and Michael Green’s breathtaking re-working of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods.

Television is where great books go to thrive.

HBO scored record ratings for its season premiere of its little-known and under-the-radar adaptation, Game of Thrones, however, the Emmys gave lots of Love to the pay cabler’s supposed limited series, Big Little Lies which is based on Liane Moriarty’s novel.

S2 of Big Little Lies starts production in 2018 even though a second book does not exist. That’s how well-received the limited series, starring Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman, was.  Who needs a second book? David. E. Kelley has written all seven episodes. Here’s a great Interview & Podcast with Reese Witherspoon from The Hollywood Reporter, wherein, the actor/producer details the script-to-screen process. More carpool!

HANDMAIDS TALE

Praise Be! Hollywood Producers, Development Executives and Agents are reading books, graphic novels and listening to podcasts in search of that fantastic Intellectual Property (IP) that can be adapted for Television.

AMC just ordered Dietland to series.  Starz has given the go-ahead to Rook from Stephanie Meyer Amazon has ordered two seasons of Homecoming with Julia Roberts.

Personal Anecdote Alert:  When I was VP, Development for SyFy, the cabler was interested in a sequel to its original miniseries Dune based on Frank Herbert’s first novel. I recall being in New York and buying the next two books in the prolific series and reading them very quickly, proclaiming them extremely worthy of a miniseries.

SyFy pushed the button based on my recommendation and a script was ordered. Important Note:  No one above me in SyFy’s executive ranks bothered to read the books. Try explaining the plot of Dune to a room full of business affairs executives! There’s this Planet…Spice…Giant Worms…Witches…Blue Eyes…House Atreides…

VAMPIRE CHRONICLES SAGA

I offer this story to illustrate a point: The folks at Paramount probably did not read all 11 Vampire Lestat novels by Anne Rice when it made that big option earlier this year. That’s not everyone’s job.  But, someone at Anonymous Content probably did, and that person is lucky because her books are wonderful.

Lots to read and to listen to while we wait for author George R. R. Martin to finally publish the next book in his Song of Ice and Fire series for GOT, entitled, The Winds of Winter.

Meanwhile, Anne Rice and Anonymous Content via Paramount are working on The Vampire Chronicles with no broadcaster announced yet. Showtime and BBC One would make a good fit, I think.

Rice, who is very active on Social Media, has been binge-watching Penny Dreadful, John Logan’s brilliant re-telling of horror classics that include Dracula, Frankenstein, The Bride, and Dorian Grey. Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley are not credited, however, with having their work adapted.  Such is Television and properties that exist in the public domain.

Hope the execs at Showtime follow Rice on Facebook. There is a synergistic fit here as Paramount, the studio producing The Vampire Chronicles, is a sister company within the Viacom empire.

BIG LITTLE LIES

Meanwhile, here’s a list of IP currently in either Development or Production.  This list is by no means a comprehensive one of everything out there, just what has caught my attention, so let me know if I have not included your favorite:

  • Welcome to Night Vale at FX. A fictitious radio show covering the supernatural news in the Southwest USA. The popular podcast gets adapted by Sony TV.
  • Wolverine: The Podcast via Stitcher. Now, this is interesting. Marvel Studios is launching a 10-episode podcast murder mystery with Logan as the primary suspect based on The Long Night storyline. Richard Armitage voices Logan.
  • Les Miserables at BBC. Victor Hugo’s novel about Jean Valjean, a man sent to prison for stealing a loaf of bread, gets adapted (again).
  • Catch-22 at Paramount Network (formerly Spike). George Clooney to star and to direct a 6-episode adaptation of Joseph Heller’s book.
  • Crimetown at FX. Another Podcast gets adapted. This one is from the creators of The Jinx. Organized crime and city corruption in Rhode Island take center stage.
  • Inside The Church of Chili’s at NBC.  Inspired by an article in GQ Magazine, this ensemble comedy centers on Super Trainers who travel across the country opening new franchises of a successful restaurant chain. Conde Nast partners with Sony TV.
  • The Lord of the Rings at Amazon. Warner Bros. TV is producing a prequel series adaptation of the J.R.R. Tolkien classic set in Middle Earth. Rotten Tomatoes Predicts Possible Storylines for LOTR Series  This high price-tag fantasy adventure has a multiple-season commitment.  To Gondor!
  • I Know This Much Is True at HBO.  Mark Ruffalo stars in and EPs this 8-hour miniseries adaptation of the Wally Lamb best-selling novel, playing dual roles (Loved It!).  Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine) writes and directs. High hopes for this one.
  • Nancy Drew at NBC.  The teenage sleuth and her best friend get an update (again) after CBS passed on a previous incarnation.  Ah, The Secret Is In The Clock!
  • The Name of the Rose at TBD.  John Turturro and Rupert Everett topline this 8-hour miniseries adaptation of the Umberto Eco best-selling novel.
  • Eligible at ABC. Modern version of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice finds prodigal daughter Liz Bennett returning home to a crazy household that includes her four younger sisters. Jennifer Levin & Sherry Cooper-Landsman script. I. Marlene King exec produces.
  • Happy at Showtime. Chris Meloni (L&O: SVU) stars in this adaptation of Grant Morrison and Darick Robertson’s graphic novel about a corrupt ex-cop turned hitman who has an imaginary blue-winged horse for a friend. Sounds wild.
  • Fahrenheit 451 at HBO. Ray Bradbury’s classic science fiction thriller gets remade with Michael Shannon, Michael B. Jordon, and Martin Donovan starring.
  • The Blinds at TBD. Neil Sternberg’s novel was just published August 1st and was scooped up by Sony TV three weeks later. Story centers on a Texas town, wherein, all the residents or either former criminals or victims of crimes. The Twist is everyone has had their memories erased and has a new chance to begin again. A Thriller.
  • The Haunting of Hill House at Netflix.  Timothy Hutton is to star for Paramount TV and Amblin in this adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s classic novel.  Ten episodes have been ordered straight to series. Mike Flanagan directs.
  • Black Samurai at STARZ. An update of Marc Olden’s novels and a 1977 film courtesy of Jerry Bruckheimer, this is an action-drama about an American soldier who trains with a Samurai master. Common stars and also EPs.
  • A Discovery of Witches at SKY.  Matthew Goode and Teresa Palmer topline this adaptation of Deborah Harkness’ All Souls Trilogy.  US Broadcast partner is TBD. It was only a matter of time before Witches got hot again! Oxford locations! I’m in.
  • Things You Should Already Know at CBS. Millennial dating ensemble comedy based on Ben Schwartz and Laura Moses’ book about disposable romance. Sounds a lot like Friends 2017. Will Ferrell exec produces through his Gary Sanchez production company.
  • The Valiant at The CW.  Female Celtic gladiator story based on novel by Lesley Livingston.  Sounds like young Xena to me.
  • Good Omens at Amazon. Limited series produced by BBC Studios based on the book by Neil Gaiman & Sir Terry Pratchett about the Earth’s final days. Hour-long comedy.
  • The Changling at Annapurna.  No buyer yet for a TV version of Victor LaValle’s novel about a newborn and his parents.
  • Ascendant at Starz.  Veronica Roth’s last entry in the popular YA Divergent series gets a TV adaptation following a lukewarm last feature film. Smart move.
  • Dietland at AMC. Marti Noxon’s adaptation of Sarai Walker’s novel has been ordered to series. Juliana Margulies set to star.
  • The Vampire Chronicles at TBD. Christopher Rice writes and EPs this series which seems destined for premium cable. Stay tuned. The Rices post the latest developments on this Vampire Chronicles Facebook Page
  • The Rook at Starz. Stephanie Meyer (Twilight) sold this project to the BBC last year, and now Lionsgate is on board to produce for Starz. Turnaround!
  • Homecoming at Amazon. Julia Roberts stars in this political thriller based on a podcast about government conspiracy. Two seasons ordered! Anonymous Content and Universal Cable produce. Sam Esmail (Mr. Robot) scripts.
  • Today Will Be Different at HBO. More Julia Roberts! JR is attached to star in this miniseries version of Maria Semple’s novel.
  • The Nix at HBO. Nathan Hill’s fun novel gets Meryl Streep as its matriarchal lead.
  • Watchmen at HBO. The graphic novel, not the film. Damon Lindelof (The Leftovers) picks up where Zack Snyder left off…well, not exactly.
  • Little Women at PBS/Masterpiece.  Angela Lansbury is the latest actor to portray Aunt March, so what’s not to like! Looks like a 3-parter.  Oh, Beth.
  • The Passage at Fox. Justin Cronin’s very dark alternate future where a vampiric plague has drastically changed the United States still haunts me.
  • The Underground Railroad at Amazon. Oscar-winner Barry Jenkins (Moonlight) adapts Colson Whitehead’s novel as a limited series.
  • The Alienist at TNT. Luke Evans stars in this adaptation of Caleb Carr’s novel. Now shooting in Budapest.
  • Tales of the City at Netflix.  Unclear if this latest adaptation is based on Armisted Maupin’s columns and books or the successful Showtime re-boot of the PBS Masterpiece original adaptation. Laura Linney and Olympia Dukakis are set to return to Barbary Lane in San Francisco.
  • The Witcher at Netflix. A group of young people hunt demons in this series based on Polish novelist Andrzej Sapkowski’s books.  Sean Daniel (The Mummy) produces.  Buffy 2.0 anyone?
  • Rise at NBC. Josh Radnor stars as an inspirational high school drama teacher in this network adaptation of Michael Sokolove’s story. Great auspices:  Hamilton!
  • Patrick Melrose at Showtime. Benedict Cumberbatch. Enough said. However, if you need more, there’s Hugo Weaving, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Blythe Danner starring in this 5-parter based on Edward St. Aubyn’s semi-autobiographical novels.
  • Jack Ryan at Amazon. Tom Clancy’s most famous hero returns, and John Krazinski plays him in what is sure to be a spy thriller.  Watch out, The Americans and Berlin Station, you have competition.
  • Wild Cards at USA.  Another lesser known novel by George R. R. Martin gets set up.
  • NightFlyers at SyFy.  George R. R. Martin could sell his grocery list at this point.
  • Agatha Christie Mysteries at BBC One and Amazon.  Ordeal By Innocence is the latest of these evergreen properties that are getting re-made following recent updates to And Then There Were None (which Lifetime broadcast) and Witness for the Prosecution (Acorn).

Not all adaptations work (i.e., Girl Boss on Netflix lasted just one season while Midnight, Texas on NBC looks like a dud), so why do the networks and streaming services still aggressively pursue IP?

The answer is that it is easier to commit financially to a well-known property with a built-in audience to which a studio and network can market their new show.  The Vampire Chronicles doesn’t even have a network attached yet, but the fans of Rice’s books are waiting with baited breath (and bared fang).

HBO is actively developing multiple prequels to Game of Thrones even though those books have not been written. The audience is that into Westeros and the World of Winterfell and direwolves and sand snakes. It’s the GOT Universe that sells.

OUTLANDER S3 SAM

Outlander on Starz is such a creative success and its international fan base is incredibly active promoting it on Social Media.  So much so that tourism for locations depicted in the series (both real and imagined) is booming in Scotland.  S3 premieres in September, and S4 has already been ordered.

Sherlock has been made, re-made, re-imagined so so many times. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is probably shouting from his grave If only I had maintained Intellectual Property Rights in perpetuity!

You can bet J.K. Rowling sure has. Tolkien did. So did Christie.

Lastly, here’s an author who so deserves some attention from Hollywood:  Octavia Butler. Look her up. So good.

(Post Script Note: Ava Duvernay just optioned Butler’s novel, Dawn, however, there is no buyer attached yet. Based on her Queen Sugar series, I expect OWN to be the broadcaster.)

N E X T   U P:

My 53,000-mile Tune Up. An Unaffordable Care Act.

DENTAL VISIT

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Style Surf Report: Wimbledon And Roger Federer Just Go Together Like Strawberries & Cream

FED IN BLUE WITH TROPHY AT HALLE

Santa Monica, CA — Who’s ready for Wimbledon, the granddaddy of tennis tournaments:  Roger Federer.  He’s reached the Final this year without dropping a set.  Wow!

Also, Me.  I love The Championships. I get up early, check the scores over Peets Coffee. Watch a match or two, then hit the surf.

Strawberries & Cream. Pimm’s Cups. Oreo McFlurrys. (Wait for it!)

The world’s most marketable sports star is once again on a roll having just won a premier grass-court tune-up tournament in Halle, Germany … for the 9th time in his career.

For 2017, Federer’s record is 30-2, winning four big titles (Aus Open, Indian Wells, Miami Open, and Halle).  He’s pocketed over $5m in prize money, and has well surpassed $100m in career prize money.

Were I a betting man, I would bet on Federer to win Wimbledon for the 8th time.  Initially, I was looking for either Rafael Nadal  or Andy Murray to be across the net in the final broadcast in the US on E S P N and Tennis Channel.  However, Nadal bowed out in the 4th Round, and Murray’s hip gave out in the QFs to Santa Monica’s Sam Querrey.

In fact, here are My Picks For Wimbledon courtesy of Tennis Channel’s Racquet Bracket online pool challenge.  As is tradition, my brother Will and I compete against one another for not only IntraFamily Eternal Glory but also for an Oreo McFlurry from McDonalds .  For the season, Will is up 2-0, so I am hoping for a win for Team Steve!

I did not pick Marin Cilic to reach the final, though.  Congrats, Will.

 

mcdonalds-Oreo-McFlurry

For Federer, he can add to his 18 grand slam titles and 1,100 match wins in addition to millions of Euros in not only prize money but also in endorsements, where he is The King.  He’s already among Forbes’ Magazine’s Highest Paid Athletes in the world, coming in at No. 4 with over $60m in 2017, most of which comes from lucrative endorsement deals.

For Nike, Wilson, etc., The Championships represents a two-week commercial to advertise the latest Federer gear: White Shirts, Shorts, Headbands, Pullovers, etc. And Wimbledon, would love to sell you that Commemorative Towel Federer uses to wipe the little bit of perspiration from his magnificently calm brow.

What other sports change their clothes as often, I ask you?  Baseball, Basketball, Football — it’s either Home or Away change of gear, yes?

Tennis is lucrative. Tennis is global. Tennis is branded out the wazoo! And Television is the mechanism to market all the clothes, racquets and gear to a worldwide audience.

FED IN WHITE AT WIMBY

In January, Federer won his fifth  wearing a Black & White Nike shirt and Black Nike Shorts.  For the North American hard court swing, Federer switched to a Green version of the Henley shirt, which was a best-seller.

For the fashionable Federer fan around the world, one shirt is simply not enough. Point. Click. Purchase.  In 48 hours, you can be decked out in Roger’s championship clothes.

Remarkably, Federer won the Sunshine Double hoisting the trophy at both Indian Wells (d. Wawrinka) and Miami (d. Nadal)… at the advanced age of 35.

You can bet Nike had a clay-court ensemble ready to debut in April, however, Federer skipped the entire Spring season (Monte Carlo, Madrid, Rome, Roland Garros) to rest up for the grass.  He debuted a new blue ensemble in Stuttgart and Halle.

Predictably, I want that shirt, those shorts, those socks and those shoes.  And I can have them too, but it’s gonna cost me.  Ah, the Power of Television, of Subliminal Marketing!

FED GRASS COURT WARBDROBE

During the 11-month Tennis Season, surfaces change from Hardcourt to Clay to Grass then back to Hardcourt then to Indoor Carpet. So, your Shoes change with the surface, as well.  On Clay, ya gotta slide. On grass, you need not to slip. On hardcourts, you need shoes that breathe.

So, here’s the rundown on Federer Wear, courtesy of Tennis Warehouse.  It’s not inexpensive, but the good news is that Shipping will be free if ya go for the entire Fed Kit.  Just look out for the price-tag for his Rolex watch, though. Yikes!

Tennis Warehouse – Wimbledon White Collection:

  • $249.00  RACKET:  Wilson Pro Staff RF97 Autograph (No Strings or stencil)
  • $140.00  SHOES:  Nike Zoom Vapor 9.5 Flyknit
  • $100.00  SHIRT:  Nike Henley (Gotta be All White for Wimbledon!)
  • $  28.00  HAT:  RF Classic
  • $  85.00  SHORTS:  Nike Men’s Summer Flex Ace7
  • $  17.00  HEADBAND:  Nike
  • $  12.00  WRISTBAND (x2): Nike
  • $150.00  JACKET: Nike Men’s Spring Premier RF N98 (It rains in London!)
  • $  25.00  T-SHIRT:  Nike
  • $  13.50  SOCKS: Nike (3-pak!)
  • $150.00  RACKET BAG:  Nike
  • $9,100.00 WATCH: Rolex Oyster Perpetual Datejust II or the BATMAN GMT (optional as Federer doesn’t wear it during the match, only afterward during trophy presentations)

Sub-total (excluding Rolex):  $1,000 to dress for success.

WIMBY WHITES

 

If Federer’s gear is too pricey for ya, I do have a terrific alternative:  Check out Athletes Collective a Toronto-based company that has some very cool shirts and shorts that work well on and off the court. It’s unbranded, high quality apparel:  Perfect for someone such as myself, who plays 1-2/week on public courts using one racquet and one can of balls with no coach or paparazzi in sight.

I need one good shirt and one good pair of shorts.  These fit the bill nicely.

ATHLETES COLLECTIVE WEAR

STEVE SELFIE IN ATHL COLL

N E X T   U P:

Subliminal Marketing in Blog Posts: Too Much or Too Little?

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TV Surf Report: Live from Beautiful Downtown Burbank, Surf’s Up at ScriptFest 2017

SELFIE WITH WHITNEY DAVIS    BOB SCHULTZ

Santa Monica, CA — Emerging Writers from all over the world converge on beautiful downtown Burbank each year in June for LA’s premiere screenwriting conference, Script Fest, aka, The Pitch Fest.

And I was there.

To consult. To brainstorm. To participate in a panel discussion imparting words of filmmaking wisdom.

Surfing Hollywood Goes to Burbank!

The highlight, of course, is meeting these writers, all eager to hone their pitches to prospective managers and agents, to get feedback on their ideas from production companies, and to learn about the Business of Show from folks like Me:

A theatre producer from Atlanta. A Canadian Jack Of All Trades from Alberta. A writer from Dallas. A psychic from Denver. A musician from Albuquerque.

I sat down with writers and asked So where are you from?  What are you here to do? Who do want to meet? What’s your Story?  And we go from there… The best advice I can give these writers is to pitch their idea back to them using a lot fewer words.  This interchange helps them hone their concept and focus on what their story means to them.  It’s a lot of fun.

Steven James, a best-selling novelist from Eastern Tennessee, moderated a lunchtime Panel Discussion, entitled, Words of Filmmaking Wisdom, which featured screenwriters Chad Hayes & Carey Hayes  (New Mutants, San Andreas, The Conjuring), development guru Danny Manus, and Yours Truly.

The best feedback I received from this panel was from a writer who pulled me aside to whisper, You spoke the least yet said the most.

Fantastic. And much appreciated.

The conversation included lively discussions about Creating Characters, Engaging The Reader, and Pitching Your Story.

Do characters reveal themselves or do they change, and which is most important in a screenplay? Prioritizing one over the other seems silly as it depends on your Story.

Take The X-Files for example: Over the course of 9 seasons plus last year’s re-boot, Mulder’s character is revealed while Scully changes from skeptic to less skeptical. They are the Holmes & Watson of government conspiracy stories.

And then there are the Trends not to chase: Super Heroes. Adaptations. True Crime.

STEVEN JAMES

Meanwhile, Steven James can plot a murder mystery and not know who the killer is until he gets to the end of the story, which amazed everyone in the room and on the panel. Such a revelation just goes to show you that not all writers think alike nor do they need to think alike, follow the same rules of Structure, etc.  But Structure is there for a reason, as Danny Manus wisely illustrated with his knowledge of having read and given notes on 3,000+ scripts.

The Hayes Bros. encouraged the assembled writers not to be afraid to break some rules, to have the courage of their convictions, and to know the difference between a Sales Draft (which they call their Flower Draft) and a Shooting Script.

I really enjoyed hearing about how they write as a team (holidays are work days) and how they write action sequences which are intended to put the reader in the car as it flips and crashes down a mountain.  Terrific stuff. Flowery.

HAYES BROS.

Writer Cons like Script Fest are valuable tools for an emerging writer looking to make connections, to hone your ideas, and best of all, to find your Tribe.

A tip of the hat to event producers Signe Olynyk and Bob Schultz who really know how to make a good event great.  Well done.

 

N E X T   U P:

Roger Federer Dresses For Success At Wimbledon

FED IN BLUE WITH TROPHY AT HALLE

 

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