Masterpiece is re-teaming with ITV Studios to co-produce Breathless, the upcoming six-part drama about a group of doctors and nurses working in a London hospital in the 1960s. Jack Davenport leads an ensemble cast that includes Game Of Thrones‘ Iain Glen, Downton Abbey‘s Zoe Boyle and Natasha Little (Kidnap And Ransom). The series is set in a busy gynecology unit in 1961, a time when abortion was still illegal, the contraceptive pill only just available to married women and moral codes were shifting. Shooting started in April. No U.S. or UK air date has been set.
Global Showbiz Briefs: Keshet to Canada; Credit For Bona Film; NZ Lures Tourists With ‘Hobbit’; ‘Mr. Selfridge’ Selling; More
Keshet Int’l Invades Canada With Mark Rubenstein
Keshet International is moving into Canada via a joint venture with veteran TV executive Mark Rubinstein. Keshet Canada will bring Keshet’s scripted and unscripted formats to the Canadian market and will look to develop, produce and co-produce original content. Rubinstein is a former president and CEO of Insight Sports and COO of Alliance Atlantis Broadcasting. The venture will have the rights to over 50 Keshet International properties, to be produced in the territory under the Keshet Canada banner. Keshet, the company behind Prisoners Of War, the Israeli source of Homeland, has recently set up shop in Australia and the UK.
Bona Film Group Gets $34.2M Credit Line
China’s Bona Film Group, which part-owned by News Corp., has secured a $34.2M revolving credit line with China Minsheng Banking Corp. The facility will be for three years and will be used to help grow exhibition, production and distribution. News Corp. acquired a 19.9% equity stake in the Nasdaq-listed Bona in May 2012, and in October Fox International Productions and Bona entered a multi-picture co-producing pact for Chinese-language films. Bona this year released Wong Kar-wai’s The Grandmaster. Its upcoming titles include rom-com My Lucky Star with Zhang Ziyi and China’s first 3D disaster film, Inferno, produced by Oxide and Danny Pang. The company also plans to double its theater network to 40 owned-and-operated cinemas before 2015.
Continuing its overseas expansion, AMC/Sundance Channel Global has partnered with DirecTV to bring Sundance Channel to the increasingly coveted Latin American territories. Beginning in September, the deal marks the first time the channel will be available in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela. It will air 24/7 in Spanish. DirecTV will also start a separate Portuguese language channel in Brazil at a later date. Prior to the Sundance kick-off, DirecTV’s Latin American network OnDirecTV will exclusively launch Sundance original series Rectify along with Jeremy Piven-starrer Mr. Selfridge.
From Downton Abbey to Mr. Selfridge to Broadchurch, the UK’s ITV has been enjoying a successful run of original drama series. Looking to continue the trend, the network has just ordered a second four-part outing for Inspector Morse prequel Endeavour, starring Shaun Evans and Roger Allam. A feature-length first episode of the crime drama debuted on ITV in 2012 and was co-produced by Masterpiece in the U.S. The film was one of ITV’s highest performing dramas of the year. A first four-part series then aired in 2013 and consistently won its time slot for ITV, averaging 7M viewers and a 25% share. The new series will be a quartet of 120 minute films set in 1966. Evans plays a young Morse and Allam is Detective Inspector Fred Thursday. Russell Lewis writes the series and novelist Colin Dexter, who created Morse, is a consultant to producers Mammoth Screen. Lewis will also exec produce with Mammoth’s Michele Buck and Damien Timmer. Camille Gatin is producer with directors still to be named. Production stars in Oxford later this year.
Global Showbiz Briefs: Tom Hardy Hosts ‘Poaching Wars’; Big Bucks For Aussie Cricket; ITV Preps Singing Show; More
Tom Hardy To Host ITV’s ‘Poaching Wars’
Tom Hardy will host ITV documentary series Poaching Wars With Tom Hardy, a look at the wholesale wildlife poaching crisis in Africa. ITV says the actor conceived the proposition for the two one-hour films which are co-produced by Burning Bright Productions and Hardy’s Hardy, Son & Baker. Large-scale elephant and rhino slaughter are bringing both species to the brink of extinction across Africa and Hardy trekked across the continent to meet the farmers who have lost livestock to poachers and key figures from organizations which are fighting back. Hardy, Dean Baker and Clive Tulloh are exec producing. Ewen Thompson produces and directs.
Aussie Nets Pay $568M For Cricket Matches
Cricket may be something of a mystery to U.S. sports fans, but a new deal Down Under confirms its position as a top draw for Aussies. Cricket Australia has entered a $568M broadcast arrangement with Channels Nine and Ten to air all international games live and in full. Channel Nine will take rights for a further five years and has also agreed to a $60M joint venture to develop new digital products, including live streaming. Cricket will be the only major sport in Australia to stream matches live on PCs. Network Ten will air the domestic KFC Big Bash League matches as part of the deal. “The average annual value of …
2013-14 NBC New Series
About A Boy – Based on the best-selling Nick Hornby (“High Fidelity,” “An Education”) novel, writer Jason Katims (“Friday Night Lights,” “Parenthood”) and director Jon Favreau (“Iron Man,” “Revolution”) present a different kind of coming-of-age story. Will Freeman (David Walton, “Bent,” “Perfect Couples”) lives a charmed existence as the ultimate man-child. After writing a hit song, he was granted a life of free time, free love and freedom from financial woes. He’s single, unemployed and loving it. So imagine his surprise when Fiona (Minnie Driver, “Good Will Hunting,” “Barney’s Version”), a needy single mom and her oddly charming 11-year-old son, Marcus (Benjamin Stockham, “1600 Penn”), move in next door and disrupt his perfect world. When Marcus begins dropping by his home unannounced, Will’s not so sure about being a kid’s new best friend, until, of course, Will discovers that women find single dads irresistible. That changes everything and a deal is struck: Marcus will pretend to be Will’s son and, in return, Marcus is allowed to chill at Will’s house. Before he realizes it, Will starts to enjoy the visits and even finds himself looking out for the kid. In fact, this newfound friendship may very well teach him a thing or two that he never imagined possible — about himself and caring for others. Writer Jason Katims, director Jon Favreau, Tim Bevan (“Les Misérables,” “About a Boy”), Eric Fellner (“Les Misérables,” “About a Boy”), Liza Chasin (“Les Misérables,” “About …
NBC’s 2013-14 Schedule: ‘Revolution’ Moves To Wednesday, ‘Parenthood’ To Thursday, ‘Blacklist’ Gets Post ‘Voice’ Slot
Family comedies and action dramas dominate NBC‘s new series additions for next season. NBC is introducing six series in the fall — comedies Welcome to the Family, Sean Saves the World, and The Michael J. Fox Show; and dramas The Blacklist, Ironside and Dracula; with five more set for midseason– comedies The Family Guide and About A Boy, and dramas Believe, Crisis and Crossbones. (Dracula and Crossbones were carried over from last upfront/off-season). Not scheduled yet are newly picked up dramas Chicago PD and The Night Shift and comedy Undateable as well as last-minute renewal Community. On the returning series side, missing from the announcement are long-time reality staple Celebrity Apprentice and well reviewed freshman drama Hannibal as NBC is yet to make a pickup decision on both. Here is NBC’s fall and midseason schedules with analysis and new series descriptions underneath. As expected, the network is spreading its launches between the fall and spring, tied to its Winter Olympics coverage:
NBC FALL 2013-14 SCHEDULE
(New programs in UPPER CASE; all times ET)
8-10 p.m. – “The Voice”
10-11 p.m. – “THE BLACKLIST”
8-9 p.m. – “The Biggest Loser” (New Day and Time)
9-10 p.m. – “The Voice” (New time)
10-11 p.m. – “Chicago Fire” (New Day and Time)
8-9 p.m. – “Revolution” (New Day and Time)
9-10 p.m. – ”Law & Order: SVU”
10-11 p.m. – “IRONSIDE”
8-8:30 p.m. – “Parks and Recreation” (New time)
8:30-9 p.m. – “WELCOME TO THE FAMILY”
9-9:30 p.m. – “SEAN SAVES THE WORLD”
9:30-10 p.m. – “THE MICHAEL J. FOX SHOW”
10-11 p.m. – “Parenthood” (New Day and Time)
8-9 p.m. – “Dateline NBC”
9-10 p.m. – “Grimm”
10-11 p.m. – “DRACULA”
7:00-8:15 p.m. – “Football Night in America”
8:15-11:30 p.m. – “NBC Sunday Night Football”
‘Mr. Selfridge’ Adds Cast For Season Two
Clash Of The Titans actress Polly Walker and The Awakening‘s Cal Macaninch have joined the cast of season two of Mr. Selfridge. The ITV period drama that’s currently airing on PBS Masterpiece has just begun shooting the second season of 10 episodes in London and Kent. Jeremy Piven stars as Harry Selfridge, the American entrepreneur who revolutionized the way women shopped in early 1900s London. Also joining the cast are Killing Bono‘s Aidan McArdle and The Bible‘s Sean Teale. The first season was a ratings winner for ITV in the UK where it aired in the Downton Abbey Sunday night slot. The second season picks up in 1914 as Selfridge’s department store is celebrating its fifth anniversary. As talk of war intensifies, Harry prepares the staff for challenging times ahead. An airdate will be scheduled for next year in order to coincide with the centenary of WWI.
The BBC is marking a lot of anniversaries with its upcoming specials. Later this year, the broadcaster will celebrate 50 years of Doctor Who and will also remember The Great Train Robbery 50 years on with a serial starring Luke Evans. Mr. Selfridge creator Andrew Davies, who recently signed on to adapt Leo Tolstoy’s War And Peace for the BBC, has also just committed to A Poet In New York, a drama he’ll write about Dylan Thomas and his death in New York in 1953 at the age of 39. Broadcast is set for next year, the centenary of Thomas’ birth. The story kicks off with the Welsh poet’s arrival in Manhattan on his fatal visit and covers the last days of his life as well as his stormy relationship with wife Caitlin. Aisling Walsh will direct A Poet In New York. Shooting starts this summer. Modern TV is producing the movie for the BBC.
Hartswood Films, the production company behind Sherlock, is prepping new three-part drama The Guilty for the UK’s ITV. Episodes star Tamsin Greig plays a detective investigating the disappearance of a little boy in the story that’s set across two timelines, one in 2008 and the other in the present day. Mr. Selfridge’s Katherine Kelly and Darren Boyd, who starred in the British version of Spy, which ABC is remaking Stateside, play the parents of the missing child. Game Of Thrones alum Jamie Sives also stars. Sherlock’s Elaine Cameron is producing with Sherlock’s Beryl Vertue exec producing. Endeavour director Ed Bazalgette is helming from a script by Law & Order: UK’s Debbie O’Malley. Shooting runs through May. ITV is currently airing Broadchurch, another contemporary drama series about an investigation into the murder of a young boy, which BBC America will air later this year.
Ari Gold returns to U.S. TV screens on Sunday, sans BlackBerry and decked out in a three-piece suit — though it won’t be a Brioni. PBS/Masterpiece will debut department store period drama Mr. Selfridge at 9 PM with Jeremy Piven playing the real-life ‘Mile a Minute Harry Selfridge’, the impresario who changed the way women shopped in early 1900s London. Whether the show can take the U.S. by storm, à la PBS mega-hit Downton Abbey, will come to bear over the first series’ run of 10 episodes. But as much as “period drama” has become a sort of blanket term, there are stark differences to the two shows. Both air in the UK on ITV, and The Guardian compared Selfridge to Downton upon its January UK debut, saying, “You can sit back and relax and not expect anyone to die suddenly without warning — only a minor altercation in the ladies glove department.”
Selfridge is an in-house ITV Studios production that garnered strong ratings from the outset in the UK, averaging over 8M viewers during its run from January through March. (It also beat the BAFTA Awards on February 10 despite the kudocast grabbing its highest numbers in a decade.) Downton Abbey, for its third season, had consolidated ratings averaging 11.9M.
The series is set in Selfridge’s department store, the shopping mecca that American entrepreneur Harry Selfridge built in 1909 and which still stands today on Oxford Street. The cast of characters includes shopgirls, socialites and a sexy (male) French window-dresser. At a screening of the first episode late last year, Piven said playing Selfridge was like “artistic sorbet.” At a TCA panel in January, he said he felt no competition pressure with Downton. “I feel like I willed this job to happen because I was such a fan of that show… I think there’s a great deal of camaraderie there.” It will be interesting to see the response given how strongly U.S. viewers equate the actor to his multiple Emmy-winning role in Entourage. Reviews in the UK, where it’s safe to say audiences are less familiar with “hugging it out”, have been largely positive apart from a few claims of hammy acting. The Guardian called it “polished, lavish, enjoyable period stuff” and of the series finale, The Arts Desk wrote: “Mr. Selfridge has had periodically decent thesping and plenty of visual glamour, but frocks alone do not a drama make.”
With filming underway on the third season of Sherlock, the BBC has added British TV veteran Amanda Abbington to the cast. The role has yet to be identified, but I’ve confirmed she will “significantly impact” the lives of Martin Freeman‘s John Watson and Benedict Cumberbatch‘s Sherlock Holmes and could appear in more than one of the three feature-length episodes. (Abbington is also Freeman’s longtime real-life partner, and showrunner Steven Moffat last year said that one of the key words for this season would be “wedding”…) Abbington also stars in ITV’s Jeremy Piven period series Mr. Selfridge which makes its Stateside debut Sunday on PBS. In related news, Sherlock co-creator and co-star Mark Gatiss recently revealed that the title of the first Season 3 episode will be The Empty Hearse, which is believed to be based on Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventure Of The Empty House, one of 13 stories in the Return Of Sherlock Holmes cycle. Holmes was last seen stepping off the side of a building in Season 2 finale, The Reichenbach Fall. Sherlock last aired in the UK in January 2012 and in the U.S. on PBS last May. The new trilogy is expected this winter.
Andrew Davies has written screen versions of everything from the original House Of Cards to Pride And Prejudice, Sense & Sensibility, Bleak House, Brideshead Revisited and Bridget Jones. He’s now adding the tome of tomes to that list. The BBC has announced Davies will pen a six-part serialized version of Leo Tolstoy’s epic War And Peace to air on BBC One in 2015. The event drama hails from Doctor Who producer BBC Cymru Wales and it’s likely a U.S. partner will board the project in due course.
Tolstoy’s War And Peace begins in 1805 Russia and centers on five aristocratic families set against the backdrop of the reign of Alexander I, the lingering effects of his grandmother Catherine The Great’s rule and the events surrounding Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812. Davies today called the book, “A thrilling, funny and heartbreaking story of love, war and family life. The characters are so natural and human and easy to identify with and Natasha Rostova just beats Lizzy Bennet as the most lovable heroine in literature.” He is reportedly hoping to cast an unknown in the lead role of Natasha and two more established actors as the male leads Pierre and Andrei. Davies is currently at work on Jeremy Piven series Mr. Selfridge, the period drama he created (adapted from the book Shopping, Seduction And Mr Selfridge) which airs on BBC rival ITV. That show …
Dracula has found his Van Helsing. Thomas Kretschmann (Wanted), who will play the famous vampire hunter, and Oliver Jackson-Cohen (Mr. Selfridge) have been cast in the upcoming NBC/Sky Living HD 10-episode drama series Dracula starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers.
Related: PILOT SEASON: The Year Of Dracula
Diane Haithman is contributing to Deadline’s TCA coverage.
Today’s TCA panel on PBS’ new Masterpiece Classic series Mr. Selfridge — a period drama starring Jeremy Piven as real-life department store entrepreneur Harry Gordon Selfridge — was haunted by the ghost of Downton Abbey. On March 31, the new drama will join the megahit Downton on Sunday nights, so it is not surprising that Masterpiece executive producer Rebecca Eaton announced at the top of the session that the premiere of Mr. Selfridge on Britain’s ITV a couple of weeks ago rated higher that the premiere of “that other show.”
Creator Andrew Davies said on the panel that no decision has been made on a second season but “I’ve already written the first [episodes] of Season 2. We should hear very soon. We’ve done such good numbers in the UK; I’m very confident.” He said that in his mind, he’s up for four seasons: “Are you up for it, Jeremy?” he joked. Replied Piven: “I certainly hope I have the job, yeah. To be replaced at this point would be very disappointing. And confusing. It could be like Darrin on Bewitched, I guess.”
During the panel that featured Piven, Davies and co-stars Zoe Tapper and Frances O’Connor., Eaton stressed the differences between Selfridge (based on the nonfiction book by Lindy Woodhead) and Downton. She said that while both shows have “gorgeous people, money, life and death, seduction,” this story is based on reality. Plus she said, the department store world is a different “precinct beside the country house and the house in town. I don’t know why it hasn’t been done before.”
Related: TV Trailer: ‘Mr. Selfridge’
After the panel, she acknowledged that Masterpiece would love to repeat Downton’s success with a similar show. “We’re adding another member. It’s always risky and I think its inevitable that you want to do more of what works,” she said. “So when there is a hit show like Downton, I think there’s an enormous urge to capitalize on the attention it brings Masterpiece and to build on the audience that we’ve attracted, this seemed like kind of a perfect fit. But you have to vary it. It’s not another country house.”
China’s 2012 Box Office Up 30% To $2.74B
China’s State Administration of Radio, Film and Television has released updated box office figures for 2012 with sales hitting $2.74B for a 30.18% increase over last year. SARFT said the nation produced 893 total films last year including 745 features and 33 animated pictures, the Xinhua news agency reported. On its way to an estimated 16,000 screens by 2015, the country is adding 10.5 screens a day. As noted last week, however, those screens are increasingly drawing crowds for foreign films which have eaten into the local share. Imports took $1.4B in box office for 51.54% of the market in 2012. Still, homegrown hit Lost In Thailand recently became the highest-grossing Chinese film of all time with nearly $190M in less than a month of release.
ITV just released a trailer for the upcoming drama series Mr. Selfridge starring Jeremy Piven. In July, Masterpiece/WGBH joined ITV Studios as co-producer on the series, which will air in the U.S. under PBS’ Masterpiece banner. Piven stars as the flamboyant American entrepreneur and UK department store founder Harry Gordon Selfridge, who changed the way British women shopped in the early 20th century. The 10-part series is created by Andrew Davies and executive produced by Kate Lewis for ITV Studios and Rebecca Eaton for Masterpiece.
Downton Abbey‘s UK broadcaster ITV reported its interim results today with the group’s external revenue up 4% to £1.57B ($2.49B). Non-net advertising revenue was up 15% to £730M ($1.16B), driven by production arm ITV Studios, maker of such programs as Hell’s Kitchen and the upcoming Mr. Selfridge with Jeremy Piven. ITV Studios is expected to turn a profit of over £100M ($158.7M) for the year “and the number of new commissions and recommissions already secured for 2013 gives us confidence that there will continue to be good underlying growth in the Studios business,” boss Adam Crozier noted.
Continuing its five-year transformation plan, the company says total cost savings this year will be about £30M ($47.6M), or £10M ($15.87M) ahead of target. The advertising market has been “broadly flat,” Crozier said.
Seven Group Still Undecided On News Corp.’ $2B Offer For Consolidated Media
In June, News Corp. launched a $2.1B bid for Consolidated Media Holdings, a 25% owner of pay-TV platform Foxtel and 50% owner of the Fox Sports channels, but Seven Group Holdings still hasn’t decided whether to sell its 25.3% stake in CMH. During an earnings report today, Seven Group chief executive Peter Gammell said News has yet to make a formal proposal and there would be no response until then. Gammell said the Seven Group’s request to the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission to review whether it could buy the balance of the shares in CMH did not mean the company would make a counter-offer, only that it wanted to know whether such a transaction would be approved. The ACCC will announce its decision on September 13. James Packer, who owns 50% of CMH, has said he will accept News’ bid in the absence of a higher offer. Seven Group reported today its net profit for fiscal 2012 more than doubled to $165.9M on revenues of $4.46B. But it wrote down by $483.5M the value of its investment in Seven West Media which owns the Seven Network, Pacific Magazines and West Australian Newspapers. The group also announced Ryan Stokes, son of the company’s chairman Kerry Stokes, has been appointed COO. – Don Groves