The U.S. and the rest of the world are in complete agreement this time, with NCIS, the most watched drama series in America, named the most watched drama series in the world for the past year at the 54th Monte-Carlo TV Festival. This is the first time as worldwide No.1 for the veteran drama. It extends CBS procedurals’ staggering dominance in the category, winning eight of the nine years the award has been around with CSI (five times), CSI: Miami (two times) and The Mentalist, with Fox’s medical drama House as the only other US drama to make the cut. Winner on the comedy side was ABC’s Modern Family, succeeding last year’s most popular half-hour, CBS’ The Big Bang Theory. Modern Family‘s Julie Bowen was named best comedy actress. Showtime/BBC’s Episodes won best European comedy series, while Norway’s Lilyhammer, which became Netflix’s first original series, won best international comedy series and best comedy actor, Steven Van Zandt. Israel’s Hostages, which was remade by CBS this past season, won best drama series and best drama actress (Ayelet Zurer). Another drama with an U.S. remake, Sweden’s The Bridge, got best European drama and best drama actor (Kim Bodnia).
EXCLUSIVE: One of the most hotly pursued actresses this past pilot season, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, has been tapped as one of the leads in Carlton Cuse’s 10-episode A&E Network drama series The Returned. Also cast in the adaptation of the acclaimed French series are Sandrine Holt (House Of Cards, Hostages) and Agnes Bruckner (24). Returned, from A+E Studios and FremantleMedia, focuses on a small town that is turned upside down when several local people who have been long presumed dead suddenly reappear, bringing with them both positive and detrimental consequences. Winstead plays Rowan, the girlfriend of late musician Simon (Mat Vairo) who had a very difficult time getting past his death 10 years ago and now will have to adjust to his return. Holt, repped by D2 Management and Innovative, plays Julie, a competent compassionate doctor who is struggling in her personal life. Bruckner, repped by APA and Radius, plays the sheriff’s chief deputy.
Miniseries are coming of age again, at least according to the Television Academy, whose Board of Governors voted this year to once again give it a category of its own. This has been done from time to time depending on the health and general welfare of the miniseries format. For example, in 2011, the TV Academy felt longform television was dying on the vine and that there was just not enough entries to meet its “Rule of 14” (the minimum number of possible contenders needed to trigger a category). The networks were downsizing the form and, outside of the BBC and HBO, there wasn’t a whole lot of interest. But now, minis are exploding again and a new golden age seems to be on the horizon.
With minis roaring back on their own—they are still combined with movies in the acting, writing and directing categories—what will the landscape look like when nominees are announced July 10?
Not a Shoo-In
Going into the competition, many pundits thought it was all wrapped up. HBO—which has had a streak of miniseries winners with John Adams, The Pacific, Band of Brothers and Angels in America—looked as though it had another slam dunk with its eight-part True Detective, starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson. It won near-unanimous raves and appeared unbeatable, particularly since, with the mini/movie split, it would not be competing with …
EXCLUSIVE: Emmett/Furla/Oasis Films has set Robert De Niro to star in Bus 757, a Stephen Sepher-scripted action thriller that Scott Mann (The Tournament) will direct. The film, which shoots in September in Baton Rouge, will be distributed by Grindstone/Lionsgate Films with Hannibal Classics’ Richard Rionda Del Castro and Patricia Eberle handling international sales. EFOF principals Randall Emmett and George Furla are producing and financing, and international financing on the $15 million film is being provided by Hannibal Classics and Michael Mendelsohn’s Union Patriot Capital.
Related: Cannes: Directors To Watch
Bus 757 centers on a casino card dealer who puts together a crew to simultaneously rob a bank and hijack a bus full of hostages to use as collateral. De Niro will play “The Pope”, a casino owner with illegitimate business practices whose assets are the targets of the heist. Now that he’s in place, casting will begin in earnest. Emmett, Furla, Sepher and Alexander Tabrizi are producing. Barry Brooker and Stan Wertlieb will be executive producers along with Daniel Grodnik, del Castro and Eberle and Tim Sullivan is co-producer. De Niro is represented by CAA, EFOF by WME. Mann is repped by Paradigm, Aperture Entertainment and Stone, Meyer.
TNT is tweaking its branding. After the cable network introduced its signature We Know Drama tagline in 2001 and shortened it to Drama. in 2008, it is now expanding it to TNT Drama. Boom. The brand update reflects TNT’s new direction, with more action-adventure, sci-fi/fantasy and mystery/suspense series alongside crime dramas or, as TNT programming chief Michael Wright put it, more “drama that thrills.” It will be unveiled at TNT and TBS’ upfront presentation today where TNT will tout its slate of new series The Last Ship, Legends, Murder In The First, Public Morals, Proof and The Librarians, a take on TNT’s Librarian original movie franchise. Its development slate includes projects (some previously announced) from Vince Vaughn, Greg Berlanti, Scott Winant, Donnie Wahlberg, Mark Gordon and Joe Carnahan, as well as a sequel to King’s 1980 bestseller Firestarter. TBS, which just picked up new half-hour series Angie Tribeca, Buzzy’s and Your Family Or Mine, is developing projects from Ed Helms and John Krasinski. Here are details about TNT and TBS’ development slates:
CBS 2014 Schedule: Monday Comedy Block Trimmed, ‘NCIS: New Orleans’ Gets Post-‘NCIS’ Slot, ‘NCIS: LA’ To Monday, ‘CSI’ To Sunday, ‘The Amazing Race’ To Friday
With only two new comedy series vs. six new dramas, CBS gave indications it may be retreating in comedy. It happened not on Thursday, where CBS expanded its comedy block to two hours last season, but on Monday, where the network’s traditional two-hour comedy block has been a 28-year-old tradition. A lot of veterans are on the move, including NCIS: Los Angeles, CSI and The Amazing Race. Here is the schedule, followed by analysis and descriptions of the new series:
CBS FALL 2014-2015 SCHEDULE
(New programs in UPPER CASE; all times ET/PT)
8 PM – The Big Bang Theory/2 Broke Girls
8:30 PM – Mom
9 PM – SCORPION
10 PM – NCIS: Los Angeles
8 PM – NCIS
9 PM – NCIS: NEW ORLEANS
10 PM – Person Of Interest
8 PM – Survivor
9 PM – Criminal Minds
10 PM – STALKER
8-11 PM ET – NFL THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL (Sept 11-Oct 23)
Beginning Oct 30:
8 PM – The Big Bang Theory
8:30 PM – The Millers
9 PM – Two And A Half Men
9:30 PM – THE MCCARTHYS
10 PM – Elementary
8 PM – The Amazing Race
9 PM – Hawaii Five-0
10 PM – Blue Bloods
8 PM – Crimetime Saturday
9:00 PM – Crimetime Saturday
10 PM – 48 Hours
7 PM – 60 Minutes
8 PM – MADAM SECRETARY
9 PM – The Good Wife
10 PM – CSI/CSI: CYBER
I don’t want dampen the euphoria of the writers, producers and actors who just got their pilots picked up to series — big congrats to you all! — but let’s not forget the extremely high casualty rate of the broadcast business. As a somber reminder, here is a list of the series that got the axe this season, most in the span of the last few days. They will be missed… well, some of them.
Back in the Game
Once Upon a Time in Wonderland
Super Fun Night
The Crazy Ones
Friends with Better Lives
We Are Men
The X Factor
Growing Up Fisher
The Michael J. Fox Show
Sean Saves the World
Welcome to the Family
The Carrie Diaries
The Tomorrow People
CBS Cancels ‘The Crazy Ones’, ‘Friends With Better Lives’, ‘Bad Teacher’, ‘Intelligence’ & ‘Hostages’
After picking up five new drama series and two new comedy series yesterday — plus previously ordered straight-to-series Battle Creek — CBS proceeded with cancelling all of its freshman bubble shows. That includes fall comedy The Crazy Ones, which marked the TV return of Robin Williams; drama Hostages, and midseason entries Friends With Better Lives, Bad Teacher and Intelligence. That means that the only freshman CBS series to make it to Season 2 are comedies The Millers and Mom. Meanwhile, the only returning series still on the bubble, veteran The Mentalist, has been renewed.
The demise of Intelligence and the long-forgotten Hostages was fully expected as neither made a mark in the Monday 10 PM time slot though there was some argument made about procedural Intelligence. Friends With Better Lives, which had been envisioned as a potential successor to How I Met Your Mother and launched behind the series finale of the long-running CBS comedy, had a shot at a renewal and had supporters at CBS. I hear producer 20th TV may shop it elsewhere. For Bad Teacher, the cancellation comes only three episodes into its run. The comedy, based on the hit movie, exceeded ratings expectations in its debut but dropped off in Episodes 2 and 3. Still, some thought CBS would wait until after the upfronts to make a decision on its future to give it more time.
There will be a happy ending for The Mentalist. After sitting heavily on the bubble for the first time, in grave danger of cancellation, the veteran drama has gotten a reprieve with an eleventh-hour renewal. CBS does not specify the size of the order but I hear it is likely for a 13-episode seventh and final season. That also would make sense given the enormous (for CBS standards) volume of new dramas that the network is adding with the pickup of six new series: NCIS: New Orleans, CSI: Cyber (likely one for fall one for midseason), Stalker, Scorpion, Madam Secretary and the straight-to-series Battle Creek.
The Mentalist creator Bruno Heller is segueing to his new Fox series Gotham, but I hear he will see his baby off, sharing co-showrunner duties with one of his lieutenants, Tom Szentgyorgyi. Simon Baker is set to return as he has one more year on his current contract. With the renewal of The Mentalist, CBS will be bringing back all 10 drama series that were on its fall schedule last season, plus 6 new ones vs 3 last season. Expect multiple split windows/limited runs and possibly dramas reclaiming a comedy hour.
CBS Picks Up ‘NCIS’ Spinoff, ‘Scorpion’, Kevin Williamson Drama, ‘Madam Secretary’, ‘The Odd Couple’, ‘The McCarthys’ To Series
CBS has made the bulk of its new series orders for next season with pickups for a whopping four dramas, NCIS: New Orleans, Madam Secretary, Stalker (formerly untitled Kevin Williamson) and Scorpion. They join previously ordered straight to series Battle Creek. On the comedy side the picks went to Matthew Perry’s The Odd Couple reboot, to be run by Bob Daily, who has closed a new deal with CBS Studios, and multi-generational family comedy The McCarthys.
Related: 2014 CBS Pilots
Besides the large number of dramas (CBS Corp. CEO Les Moonves had told investors the network would pick up two new hourlong series for next season), what’s remarkable about the list is the pilots that did not make it — most notably the planted CSI spinoff starring Patricia Arquette and the How I Met Your Mother spinoff How I Met Your Dad. I hear talks on the CSI spinoff, which would be a big moneymaker for CBS’ sibling CBS Studios, are ongoing and are expected to result in a pickup (UPDATE: CBS Picks Up ‘CSI: Cyber’ To Series). Things are more complicated with 20th Century Fox TV-produced How I Met Your Dad. Just as those false pickup rumors began circulating yesterday, we started to to hear that CBS may not go forward with the high-profile project. It is unclear yet if that is genuine disinterest in the show or a negotiating tactic to get a piece of it. CBS is known to drop bombs before, like last year’s pass on The Beverly Hills Cop pilot. And the network and HIMYD producer 20th TV had a rough negotiations for Friends With Better Lives last May. CBS owns or co-owns (with Sony TV) all newly picked up comedy series and all but one (Warner Bros. TV’s Stalker) drama. With Stalker, WBTV saw all seven of its drama pilots go to series. (Its eight one, which didn’t go, was a planted spinoff, Bloodlines, which aired as an episode of Supernatural.)
EXCLUSIVE: I have learned that Fox has opted not to pick up a second season of Almost Human. The futuristic drama starring Karl Urban and Michael Ealy got off to a sluggish start in November but held enough ground to at least earn renewal consideration, often finishing on par with its Monday companion (the already-renewed drama The Following). In fact, the March season (and series) finale of Almost Human logged a 1.5 rating in 18-49, matching the Live+Same Day rating for last night’s finale of The Following. (The Following is a bigger DVR draw). Almost Human‘s chances started to slip once Fox’s drama pilots started to come in. All three of them — Gotham, The Red Band Society and Empire – are considered strong contenders for a series pickup. That didn’t bode well for Almost Human. Also, it is produced by an outside studio, Warner Bros TV, which also has The Following and the sure-to-be-picked-up Batman prequel Gotham. Almost Human, about a cop (Urban) paired with a lifelike combat-model android (Ealy), comes from the Fringe team of JJ Abrams and J.H. Wyman. Elsewhere in Fox bubble land, the renewal chances for Seth MacFarlane-produced freshman comedy Dads appear to have gone up in the past few days.
Rhys Coiro (Hostages) and Joe Egender (Hunger) have landed lead roles in History’s miniseries Texas Rising (working title) from A+E Studios and ITV Studios America. Leslie Greif (Hatfields & McCoys) is exec producing the project, which will detail the Texas Revolution against Mexico and the rise of the legendary Texas Rangers. Coiro will play Vern Elwood opposite Bill Paxton, Ray Liotta, Brendan Fraser and Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Egender will play Beans Wilkins, a Ranger who is always hungry and looking for his next meal.
It is very difficult for showrunners to wrap production on a season without knowing if their series would get another season. Unfortunately, that is the nature of the network business, and about two dozen shows go though that every year. Here is a look at each network’s comedy and drama series in peril and their odds for survival.
With all the drama carnage at ABC this season (Lucky 7, Betrayal, Killer Women, Mind Games, The Assets), the network is pretty lean on the hourlong side, and all shows currently on the air have a good shot at coming back. That includes two freshman series, fall drama Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., despite slipping in the ratings, and midseason entry Resurrection. Of returning dramas, there is no doubt about renewals for Shonda Rhimes’ Grey’s Anatomy, especially with stars Ellen Pompeo and Patrick Dempsey signed on, and Scandal, as well as Castle and Once Upon A Time. While it was heavily on the bubble last season, country music drama Nashville appears in a stronger position this spring and looks likely to continue. And, despite its ratings erosion, Revenge remains a signature, upscale drama for ABC that the network also owns. Because of its heavy mythology with a revenge storyline that has been central to the show since the pilot, it is unlikely that ABC would abruptly end the series without giving it a final chapter to wrap things up.
Things are far murkier on the comedy side where there are three shoe-ins, anchors Modern Family and The Middle and freshman The Goldbergs. None of these hail from ABC’s sister studio, and building a steady comedy pipeline at ABC Studios has been important for the overall health of the company. There are three ABC Studios-produced comedy series on ABC at the moment, all on the bubble: freshmen Trophy Wife and Mixology and sophomore The Neighbors. The network will likely renew at least one comedy from its own studio. (Last year, it picked The Neighbors vs. 20th TV’s How To Live With Your Parents.) Of the three, Trophy Wife seems to have the biggest support and is the most promotable, with a star cast led by Malin Akerman and Bradley Whitford. But the name cast also makes Trophy Wife the most expensive, and its ratings are pretty soft. The Neighbors, which comes from prominent Disney writer Dan Fogelman, costs way less, and, while only doing so-so on Fridays, it could deliver something ABC Studios has not seen in a while: a third-year comedy. (Fogelman also has comedy pilot Galavant in the running at ABC.) Then there is Mixology, which has not done well behind Modern Family. It stands out with its unusual structure — set in a bar over the course of one night — it has quickly built a core fan base and has supporters at ABC. But relaunching a heavily serialized comedy in the fall four months after a brief midseason run would be a challenge and growing ratings for such a show with a continues storyline would be very difficult. ABC has a recent history of sticking with narrow, quirky relationship comedies like Happy Endings and Don’t Trust the B—- but all were eventually cancelled. 20th TV’s Last Man Standing starring Tim Allen is quietly wrapping its third season. It has done a decent job as a Friday 8 PM anchor and is ABC’s only multi-camera series. With several high-proile multi-camera pilots, the network could use Last Man Standing as a building block. (How about Allen paired with another comedy vet, Henry Winkler of The Winklers?).
Endemol Israel & Endemol North America Pact On Scripted TV; Gal Zaid Named Director Of Comedy & Drama
Independent TV and digital production company Endemol has tapped Gal Zaid as Director of Comedy and Drama of Endemol Israel as the division teams with Endemol North America to develop new original scripted TV, with an eye toward potential U.S. adaptations. Zaid (Prisoners Of War, Hostages) previously served as Director of Drama at Channel 10 and Keshet. He’ll oversee all scripted content for Endemol Israel, facilitate its partnership with Endemol’s LA branch, and work in tandem with Endemol U.S. Said CEO of Endemol Israel Elad Kuperman: “Gal is responsible for some of the most successful and exciting scripted series to come out of Israel and we are thrilled to have him join us in this key role.” Last week Endemol struck a first-look deal with London-based Origin Pictures and acquired UK production shingle Artists Studio as part of its drive for more original scripted TV. Upcoming Endemol Israel series include crowdfunding show Fundastic.
Sandrine Holt has locked a deal to join Paramount and Skydance’s reboot Terminator: Genesis, which stars Emilia Clarke as Sarah Connor, Jason Clarke as her son John Connor, Jai Courtney as Kyle Reese, and Arnold Schwarzenegger reprising his signature cyborg. The UK-born Holt would play Detective Cheung, who arrests Kyle and Sarah when they arrive in 2017. The time-travel saga is directed by Alan Taylor has a July 1, 2015 release set. Holt also just closed a deal to star opposite Norman Reedus and Djimon Hounsou in Air, the Automatik Entertainment pic, playing Abby, the wife of Cartwright (Hounsou). Holt played Gillian Cole, the work rival of Robin Wright’s Claire Underwood, in the first two seasons of Netflix’s House Of Cards. She also was cast in the ABC pilot Exposed, and was last on CBS’ Hostages. She is repped by Innovative and D2 Management.
Unlike other limited-run series this season like CBS’ Hostages and ABC’s Betrayal, which quietly finished their freshman runs with no hope of coming back, ABC is actually officially announcing that next week’s season finale of Once Upon A Time In Wonderland will be its series finale. The network’s most trusted utility player, Shark Tank, which was summoned in for repeat airings when The Assets and Lucky 7 were axed earlier this season, will air a special episode on April 10, after which repeats of Grey’s Anatomy will take over the Thursday 8 PM slot after that. Originally envisioned as a bridge between the fall and spring runs of mothership Once Upon A Time, Wonderland was instead fast-tracked for fall. That put additional pressure on the franchise creators to mount two complex, special effects-heavy productions simultaneously with little lead time — and possibly over-saturating the schedule with both series airing at the same time. (ABC brass have since admitted that that scheduling strategy was probably a mistake.) Wonderland opened with a disappointing 1.7 in adults 18-49 and quickly slipped below the 1.0 demo rating, most recently logging a 0.9 last night. It was originally eyed for an expanded limited run of as many as 17 episodes but, following its slow start, it ended up producing 13 episodes, all of which will have aired.
Nikita star Maggie Q is staying in the CBS/Warner Bros family with a lead role in CBS‘ untitled Kevin Williamson drama pilot. Maggie Q will play the female lead opposite Dylan McDermott in the project, from Warner Bros TV, the studio behind CW drama Nikita, which wrapped its run earlier this season. Written by Williamson and directed by Liz Friedlander, the psychological thriller revolves around two detectives, Beth (Maggie Q) and Jack (McDermott), who handle stalking incidents for the Threat Assessment Unit of the LAPD. Detective Beth Davis is the opinionated and obsessive, workaholic division captain of LAPD’s Threat Assessment Unit who also narrates the story.
Related: 2014 CBS Pilots