The Weinstein Co today announced itself as a player in the European TV arena with news it would act as production partner on the BBC’s War And Peace event series. The project is the latest to join the trend of large-scale co-productions with European elements and established U.S. pedigrees that arguably kicked off with Tom Fontana’s Borgia. TWC’s move is an even clearer signal that lines are blurring in the scripted TV world. To name just a few of the big-scale projects in the current bent is a laundry list of who’s who on the landscape: Crossing Lines from Ed Bernero and Studiocanal-owned Tandem Communications; Tandem and Lionsgate TV’s Sex, Lies And Handwriting; Daniel Cerone’s Canadian crime import Motive; HBO Asia’s Serangoon Road; Gaumont International TV’s King David from Wolfgang Petersen, Monsieur De Paris from Tony Gilroy and Barbarella with Nicolas Winding Refn; and Fox International Channels’ adaptation of Keshet’s Shkufim with Peter Landesman writing. Meanwhile, Core Media also has a scripted production venture with veteran Canadian producer Noreen Halpern’s Halfire Entertainment banner and a 3-for-1 agreement with NBC which banks on co-productions. Some of the above already had a presence at April’s MipTV market and some are more recent. But for sure, all are being talked about here at Mipcom. READ MORE »
The BBC is going all out for Doctor Who‘s 50th birthday, unveiling a list of programs to mark the occasion and revealing the poster that goes with November 23rd BBC One special, The Day Of The Doctor. The 75-minute movie will star exiting Time Lord Matt Smith, as well as Doctor Who No. 10 David Tennant, along with John Hurt, Jenna Coleman and Billie Piper. It’s also airing in the U.S. on BBC America that same night. The special is written by Doctor Who showrunner Steven Moffat. Mark Gatiss, his collaborator on Who — and Sherlock — has penned a separate film, An Adventure In Space And Time, which stars David Bradley as William Hartnell, who played the first Doctor in 1963. Brian Cox, Jessica Raine and Sacha Dhawan also feature. That special will air on BBC Two which is also playing host to a one-hour look at the science behind the show, as well as an examination of the Time Lord’s cultural significance in Me, You And Doctor Who. BBC Three is running a countdown to the top Doctor Who monster of all time and, for folks less familiar with the show, will air Doctor Who: The Ultimate Guide. Over on BBC Four, the first four episodes of the original series will be shown in a restored format.
Former BBC director-general, and current CEO of The New York Times Company, Mark Thompson, was grilled by British MPs today over severance packages paid out to senior execs towards the end of his time at the public broadcaster. The BBC is being scrutinized for making £25M in exit payments, some said to be in excess of contractual obligations. Public accounts committee chairwoman Margaret Hodge contended that today’s hearing was not to “bash the BBC,” rather it was designed to “get to the truth.” By the end, she had called the session “a grossly unedifying occasion.”
Thompson was among seven witnesses providing testimony to the committee today, along with BBC Trust chairman Chris Patten. Patten had earlier said he was unaware of some of the payments and that he was “shocked and dismayed” that a £1M payment to Thompson’s former deputy director general Mark Byford in 2010/2011 exceeded his contractual entitlement. Thompson has maintained that the Trust had been kept well-informed. He said his mandate at the time of the Byford payment was to reduce the corporation’s payroll from the top. He characterized it as “value for money” and said he had been under “ferocious pressure” to cut costs. “I do not think we lost the plot, I do think we had done several important things to begin to control payments,” he said, noting that steps taken during his tenure led to a cost-savings at the BBC of £35M. The matter is of some concern to the British public given that it funds the broadcaster via a license fee of £145.50 per year.
Global Showbiz Briefs: Tom Hollander Plays Dylan Thomas; Turkey’s ‘The End’ Sells To Russia; Pathé’s ‘Pride’; More
Tom Hollander Stars As Dylan Thomas In Andrew Davies Drama
Tom Hollander (Rev, Any Human Heart) will play Dylan Thomas in the one-off drama A Poet In New York by Andrew Davies’ (Mr Selfridge). Modern Television is producing for the BBC to mark 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. Essie Davis, Ewen Bremner and Phoebe Fox also star. Shooting is underway, with the drama due to air on BBC One Wales and BBC Two next year.
Luther creator Neil Cross confirmed prequel movie plans for the BBC series starring Idris Elba, saying he’d finish a screenplay and hopes to film next year. The film will follow Luther’s early career when he is still married to Zoe; the film’s final scene is the opening scene of the TV series first season, Cross said at the Edinburgh TV Festival, according to multiple press reports. “Idris is a brilliant leading man, and we’ve hoped to turn Luther into a movie for a long time,” Cross said.
Related: WME Signs Idris Elba
Elba is on board to play John Luther, as are Warren Brown, Indira Varma and Steve Mackintosh. Cross said he went with a prequel, rather than a follow-up to the series, so he could bring back popular supporting characters — including some who let’s say maybe don’t fare so well in the final season. Ruth Wilson’s Alice Morgan character, who doesn’t fit in, chronologically, with the prequel plans, is being mulled as a spinoff series, Cross told Variety last year.
The British Film Insitute has begun handing out certifications to animated and high-end TV projects which will allow them to gain access to the UK’s lucrative new 25% production tax breaks. Among the first to receive certificates are …
4TH UPDATE: The international media mob holed up in front of London’s St. Mary’s Hospital no longer has to wait for the birth of the Royal Baby. It’s a boy and even the most hardened reporter and photographer and camera operator cheered the news as loudly as groups of UK greeters. ”How rare is it for the global media to have a story this positive to report,” CNN said on air. Right now ABC, NBC, CNN, FNC, Sky, BBC World, CNN International, France 24 but not Al Jazeera are reporting live from the UK and awaiting the baby’s name after the Royal Proclamation was placed on the special Buckingham Palace easel. “Right now there’s just not that much to photograph,” one of the Fox News anchors admitted to viewers. There will be the customary celebratory gun salutes in Green Park and at the Tower of London, providing fodder for global TV coverage. According to TVNewser, the Royal press release went out at 12:31 PM PT with Max Foster reporting on CNN, Amy Kellogg on Fox News and Jim Macedaon on MSNBC. NBC News and ABC News both produced special reports. Brian Williams anchored on NBC, with Natalie Morales at St. Mary’s and Keir Simmons at Buckingham Palace. David Muir anchored on ABC, with Amy Robach at St. Mary’s and Barbara Walters with Dr. Jennifer Ashton contributing from the New York studio.
BBC Trust chairman Chris Patten quoted Charles Dickens today in reflecting on the corporation’s last year: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” he said. Patten made the remark in presenting the BBC’s …
Audiences Fail To Embrace BBC In 3D
The BBC is suspending 3D programming after a lackluster response from viewers who found it “quite hassly,” BBC head of 3D Kim Shillinglaw said. A two-year 3D trial period started in 2011 and included the Olympics but only half of the 1.5M Britons with 3D-enabled sets watched the games that way. The Doctor Who 50th anniversary special will be one of the last programs aired in 3D in November. Shillinglaw said the broadcaster will “see what happens when the recession ends and there may be more take up of sets, but I think the BBC will be having a wait-and-see. It’s the right time for a good old pause.” ESPN in June said it was scrapping its 3D channel.
Global Showbiz Briefs: Murderous Coloring Book Yanked; China’s Pop Culture Snobs; Canal Plus Series Lineup Set; More
Coloring Book Based On Horror Movies Yanked In UK After Marketing Gaffe
UK retailer Tesco has pulled a horror-movie-themed coloring book from its website after it was mistakenly marketed to children ages 5 to 8. The book, Colour Me Good Arrggghhhh!! includes images from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, Clive Barker’s Hellraiser, Steven Spielberg’s Jaws and Adrian Lyne’s Fatal Attraction. According to the BBC, Tesco said the book had been placed in the wrong category when listed on its website by a third-party seller. Author, artist and publisher Mel Elliott said the book is indeed meant for an adult audience of “playful grown-ups.”
Brit TV Dramas Drive ‘Snobbish Pop-Cultural Hierarchy’ In China
British dramas such as Downton Abbey and Sherlock are big hits at home and abroad, but in China they’re also part of what the Wall Street Journal calls “an increasingly snobbish pop-cultural hierarchy.” Described by local media as a “disdain chain,” it works like this: British drama fans look down on folks who prefer U.S. shows, and they in turn look down on Korean soap fans. The lowest of the low in the disdain chain are fans of domestic dramas. The taste for high-end British fare like Downton and Sherlock is a growing phenomenon. Entgroup compiled levels of discussion on different social media sites to find that British dramas are catching on with the wealthy youth and account for upwards of 9% of foreign TV discussion. Also notable, more than half of those who follow British dramas on social media sites have at least a bachelor’s degree, Entgroup found. Hit Brit shows like Downton are expected to have 160M online followers in the next two to three years. Sohu.com, Youku Tudou and Tencent all have dedicated online channels for British dramas and the Journal says the latter two are competing to sign exclusive deals with distributors like BBC Worldwide and Fremantle Media to stream the shows.
British households with a television are required to pay an annual fee of £145.50 ($228) which goes towards funding public broadcaster the BBC. But more than 400,000 Britons were caught watching TV in the UK without having paid for a license in 2012, BBC News said today. Folks who believe they are exempt can make a “no license fee needed” claim to watchdog TV Licensing, with such valid reasons as having no TV set, if a TV is only used to watch DVDs or if catch-up services only are being accessed. Being caught without a valid license is a criminal offense and can come with a fine of up to £1,000, but even TV Licensing has kept a sense of humor about the recent revelations. Below are some of its favorite 2012 excuses from people caught without a permit:
- “Why would I need a TV Licence for a TV I stole? Nobody knows I’ve got it”
- “I had not paid as I received a lethal injection”
- “Apparently my dog, which is a corgi, was related to the Queen’s dog so I didn’t think I needed a TV Licence”
A State Council decision on whether to grant a temporary injunction freezing the order to shutter Greek state broadcaster ERT is expected this afternoon, the Kathimerini website reports. The news comes as broadcast chiefs from around Europe have called on Greek authorities to reopen ERT after the government ordered it to cease operations on Tuesday. Over 50 public media CEOs, directors general and presidents including the BBC’s Tony Hall and leaders of Danish broadcaster DR, France’s France Télévisions, Germany’s ARD and ZDF, Italy’s RAI and Spain’s RTVE, have condemned ERT’s closure as “undemocratic and unprofessional.” (The station’s news channel NET was back on air for satellite subscribers late on Thursday, however, as the European Broadcasting Union implemented a workaround to take the feed from a Thessaloniki studio and retransmit it via the EBU’s Athens earth station.)
Meanwhile, Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has taken a step towards quelling the situation by inviting two left-wing junior coalition parties opposed to the shutdown to talks next Monday, Reuters reports. A compromise may emerge, but a government official told the news agency that Samaras is not expected to reverse his decision to launch a leaner state broadcaster in late summer. A source also told Reuters that cash-strapped Athens was under pressure to show EU and IMF inspectors that it had a plan to fire 2,000 public employees, and ERT was the only option available.
The BBC is in hot water again, this time over the handling of the Digital Media Initiative, a project to digitize archive content and make it easily accessible to production staff. The project was cancelled last month, but had already cost the broadcaster and taxpayers nearly £100M. Now, the Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) contends that it was misled over the status of the initiative during evidence given in 2011 by the BBC and its then-director general Mark Thompson. At the time, Thompson – who is now CEO of the New York Times Company – told the Committee, “There are many programs that are already being made with DMI, and some have gone to air and are going to air with DMI already working.” But at a hearing yesterday, Committee chair Margaret Hodge said, “We were told that there were bits of this system that were working, that you were using them. That wasn’t true. That just wasn’t true.” She has summoned Thompson to answer questions at a July hearing, The Guardian reports.
In a statement, Thompson said, “When I appeared in front of the PAC… I answered all of the questions from Committee members honestly and in good faith. I did so on the basis of information provided to me at the time by the BBC executives responsible for delivering the project.” Thompson has had a hard time leaving the BBC behind. Just as he was starting his New York Times Co. job in November, he was the subject of scrutiny from the flagship paper, and the British media, over the Jimmy Savile/Newsnight saga and was also interviewed for an inquiry into the scandal which erupted just after he left the broadcaster.