When eccentric Dutch billionaire entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp unveiled his plan to put together a group that would be trained and sent on a one-way trip to Mars to establish the first human colony, it was hailed as a concept for the ultimate reality series. That has now become a reality. In a competitive situation, Lionsgate TV has teamed with Lansdorp’s Mars One for an unscripted TV series that will chronicle the mission. The untitled project, in the red-hot social experiment genre, will be shopped to networks shortly.
Mars One calls for new groups of four to be sent to Mars every two years, beginning no later than 2024. Announced last year, the scientific project already has received almost 300,000 applications from all all over the world, which are being whittled down. Lionsgate TV is expected to start its own casting search, with the two selection processes ultimately merged.
For the next several years, the series would be covering the different stages of preparation for the mission, starting with participant selection and the finalists — called candidates — undergoing an 8-year training protocol. The series’ cast will evolve as candidates in the mission drop out and new ones are brought in. “This is a social experiment that focuses on the people that would sign for something like this — they have to agree to participate and be willing to go on a one-way mission, knowing that if you go, you can never come back,” said Roy Bank, who is producing the project as part of his overall deal with Lionsgate TV.
The participant search is complex because the mission would require a lot more than astronaut skills. “They’re colonizing Mars and starting a new society, so this group needs to possess a wide variety of skills — from medical to engineering to social as they are going to live with each other.” The last part will be tested with the candidates on Earth as they are sequestered in a Biosphere-type isolated environment for an extended period of time to find the right mix. Adding another layer to the dynamic within the group is male-female interaction. “They will serve as a microcosm of a larger society, so it is not only about how they get along but also how they procreate; they have to create new life so the society grows,” Bank said. He called the show “a true social experiment.” Most series in the so-called social experiment genre — like Survivor, on which Bank worked, and Big Brother – are a mix of a social experiment and a game show, with contestants moved away from society for a limited period of time and competing for a cash prize. In Mars One, “the commitment is so much greater and much longer than TV season(s) would last; even before they would ever be put on a rocket, they need to be willing go for a longer period of time if not forever. Nobody knows if they will pull it off.” The last part leads us to one of the most controversial aspects of Mars One: “What makes it such fascinating social experiment the ethics of it,” Bank said. “Would a show like this be involved in promoting a suicide mission?” Read More »
Lionsgate TV has put in development a drama series based on Nick Bilton’s bestselling book Hatching Twitter: A True Story Of Money, Power, Friendship, And Betrayal, with former executive and now Lionsgate-based producer Allison Shearmur attached to executive produce. Bilton, a columnist and reporter for the New York Times, will write the script and serve as producer. Hatching Twitter gives behind-the-scenes account of the creation of the service by four friends and its evolution into a social media phenomenon. “Twitter has transformed almost every aspect of our lives from politics to business to friendship, and I can’t think of a more compelling story to adapt for television right now,” said Lionsgate’s Kevin Beggs. “Nick’s book has all the elements of a great drama with its complex characters, high-stakes power struggles and betrayed friendships.” Read More »
Kevin Beggs is staying put at Lionsgate with a new long-term agreement and a title bump from president to chairman of the Lionsgate Television Group, the company announced today at Lionsgate’s annual shareholders meeting in Toronto. The move is a recognition of the growth Lionsgate’s TV business has experienced over the past decade. Since Beggs joined the company in 1998, he guided the television division from $8 million in revenue in 2000 to nearly $400 million last year. The company started in cable, becoming one of the first studios to produce original series for AMC, the Emmy-winning Mad Men, and Showtime, Weeds and then Nurse Jackie. Lionsgate has since expanded into broadcast where it co-produces ABC’s returning drama Nashville and continues to support emerging platforms, most recently Netflix with breakout Orange Is The New Black and WGN America with upcoming drama series Manhattan. The 2006 acquisition of Debmar-Mercury gave Lionsgate a foothold in first-run syndication and distribution and an entry into the 10-90 model that has yielded a slew of comedy series, most recently Anger Management and the upcoming George Lopez and Martin Lawrence-Kelsey Grammer sitcoms on FX. Lionsgate’s television roster now encompass 30 series on 20 different networks. As chairman, Beggs will continue to oversee development and production of all scripted and non-scripted programming for broadcast, cable and digital platforms worldwide, and he will continue to report to Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer. “Kevin epitomizes the entrepreneurial leadership, innovative thinking and creative vision that have shaped the consistent and successful evolution of our television business,” said Feltheimer. Read More »
Hulu has given 10-episode series order to Deadbeat, a subversive half-hour comedy from co-creators Cody Heller and Brett Konner (Wilfred), Lionsgate TV and Brad Pitt‘s Plan B Entertainment. Deadbeat, the first co-production between Hulu and Lionsgate, will debut next year. It centers on a hapless but gifted male medium who helps New York’s ghosts settle their unfinished business. Troy Miller (Flight Of The Conchords) will direct and executive produce all episodes of the series through his banner Dakota Pictures. Plan B’s Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner and Sarah Esberg will produce. Production is slated to begin this fall. Deadbeat will be distributed on Hulu and Hulu Plus in the U.S. in 2014; Lionsgate will distribute internationally.
EXCLUSIVE: Lionsgate is partnering with Munich-based producer and distributor of event series Tandem Communications, a Studiocanal company, with a co-venture agreement to develop and produce one-hour drama series. The first series in development under the pact is crime drama Sex, Lies And Handwriting. The project, which Lionsgate and Tandem will co-produce with Lionsgate’s Canadian joint venture partner Sea To Sky Entertainment, is intended to follow the straight-to-series model Tandem employed for its first drama series, Crossing Lines. While pursuing straight-to-series projects as international co-productions would be an important part of the new co-venture’s business, the partners also are expected to tweak some aspects of Tandem’s existing approach. For instance, Tandem, producer of The Pillars Of The Earth and its follow-up World Without End, finances its drama and event series (mostly though international pre-sales) and completes the projects before taking the finished product to the U.S., most recently selling Crossing Lines to NBC. Drawing on Lionsgate’s strengths and U.S. relationships, the co-venture is expected to bring in an American network earlier in the process for more simultaneous sales in the U.S., Europe and possibly Canada as is the plan for Sex, Lies And Handwriting because of Sea To Sky’s involvement. Lionsgate and Tandem also may explore doing projects through the traditional U.S. development process that goes through a pilot stage. Read More »
NBC has bought Pariah, a drama project from Lionsgate Television and Kelsey Grammer’s Grammnet Prods. Written by Kevin Fox (The Negotiator, Law & Order: SVU), the police procedural features characters inspired by the economic theory ‘Freakonomics’ made popular by authors/economists Steven Levitt & Stephen Dubner. In Pariah, the Mayor of San Diego appoints a rogue academic with no law enforcement background to run a task force using Freakonomics-inspired alternative methods of policing. This causes an uproar within the police department as the morally conflicted, conspiracy-minded academic solves crimes by conducting his controversial experiments on citizens of the city. Grammer and Grammnet’s Stella Stolper and Brian Sher will executive produce, with Levitt and Dubner attached as producers. The project extends Grammnet’s relationship with Lionsgate — the two companies also co-produce the Grammer-starring Starz drama Boss. Grammnet, whose head of development Brian Taylor has spearheaded Pariah, and Levitt & Dubner are repped by WME. Fox is with Gersh.
EXCLUSIVE: Jason Blum’s Blumhouse Prods., which made its first foray into television with the ABC midseaosn drama The River, is putting down TV roots with its first television deal, a first-look pact with Lionsgate TV. Under the deal, Blumhouse will develop and produce series projects for both broadcast and cable. The company has enlisted the help of veteran producer/TV executive Gerard Bocaccio, who will join Blumhouse as a consultant overseeing TV development. Blum is already in business with Lionsgate on the feature side — Blumhouse is also producing the upcoming Lionsgate/Summit release Sinister. “Jason has had great success in recognizing and developing the kind of daring and distinctive material that defines and drives the Lionsgate brand,” said Lionsgate TV Group president Kevin Beggs. “He’s one of the most dynamic and prolific producers in the business and we’re excited to be working with him.”
Blumhouse has built its business on micro-budgeted movies developed and produced for mainstream distribution as exemplified by the company’s blockbuster Paranormal Activity franchise. The first Paranormal Activity film was made for $15,000 and went on to gross $183 million worldwide. Blum did it with another successful genre movie, last year’s Insidious, and in November, along with producer Paul Brooks, he signed a first-look distribution deal with Universal for low-budget genre films, which has the first movie already in production, Vigilandia starring Ethan Hawke. Blum hopes to figure out a lower-cost model for television too. “Our first-look TV deal … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: I hear longtime John Wells Prods. executive Chris Selak is going to Lionsgate TV to take over the top development position vacated by Barbara Wall. Wall stepped down in May as EVP Television at Lionsgate where she served as head of development and current programming. (She is stay on as a producer until her contract expires in the fall.) Lionsgate brass did an extensive executive search before deciding to go with Selak. Selak most recently served as SVP at John Wells Prods. She previously worked at Mandalay TV.
EXCLUSIVE: After exploring pot-dealing in suburbia in its dark comedy Weeds, Lionsgate Television is taking on another suburban taboo in a new reality series. Certain to create controversy, Bedroom Community revolves around a group of swingers — suburban couples who swap partners. Lionsgate shot a presentation for the project, which is now being shopped to cable networks. Bedroom Community is one of the first projects shepherded by reality producer Eli Frankel, who in March signed a two-year deal with Lionsgate. “The world of swingers is mythologized in American pop culture, but very few people outside of it have seen it,” Frankel said. And many would be surprised looking in, he said. “What we have seen on shows about swingers are primarily older hippies, fringe people who are a little bit dirty. What we found are elite groups of people in upscale communities who are good-looking and have money and access. That glossy version is much more interesting to watch.” Read More »
Deadline told you about the Kelsey Grammer Starz series Boss last fall, and now the network has confirmed everything, with Gus Van Sant set to make his TV directing debut. Not included in the release is that Troy Garity will join the series for a key story arc as a newspaper reporter. Here’s the release:
Beverly Hills, Calif. – April 20, 2011 – Production begins April 27 in Chicago on “Boss,” an original dramatic series from STARZ and Lionsgate Television, starring TV icon Kelsey Grammer and with its first episode directed by acclaimed filmmaker Gus Van Sant in his TV helming debut. Over its eight-episode season, the show centers on the Machiavellian machinations of a fictional Chicago mayor with a dark secret and is set to premiere exclusively on STARZ in October 2011.
Joining Grammer, who will be making his first dramatic TV series debut as Chicago Mayor Tom Kane, in the main cast on “Boss” are Connie Nielsen (Gladiator, The Devil’s Advocate) as his wife Meredith, a formidable Chicago power in her own right; Jeff Hephner (“The O.C.,” “Hellcats,” “Easy Money”) as ambitious young politician Alex Zajac; Hannah Ware (Cop Out) as the Kanes’ estranged daughter Emma; and Kathleen Robertson (“Girls Club,” “Beverly Hills, 90210,” Hollywoodland) as Mayor Kane’s supremely organized aide Kitty O’Neil.
“Boss” was created by Farhad Safinia (Apocalypto), who is also an executive producer on the series, along with Grammer, Van Sant, Brian Sher, Stella Stolper,
… Read More »
Negotiations between Mad Men creator/executive producer Matt Weiner and AMC and Lionsgate Television seemed close enough to expect the cable network’s signature show to lock a fifth season in time for AMC’s April upfront meetings with advertisers.
But, with just few deal points outstanding in the proposed blockbuster deal — which would pay Weiner close to $30 million over three years — word is that talks are suddenly on the rocks. Though Weiner is poised to become the highest-paid showrunner on basic cable, we hear that he is objecting to three things AMC/Lionsgate are asking for: integrating product placement into the series, cutting 2 minutes from each episode’s running time in favor of more commercials and eliminating/reducing two regular cast members to save money. Weiner is resisting all of the above. “This is their storied franchise, and they want it shorter and cheaper, with fewer actors and more product integration,” an insider said. “The negotiations are about to collapse as a result.” Reps for Lionsgate and AMC claim negotiations with Weiner’s reps continue. The delay in closing a new deal with Weiner has already pushed the scheduled production start on Season 5 and will lead to the Emmy-winning period drama missing its target summer premiere date.
Weiner was in a similar standoff with AMC over extra 2 minutes of commercial load on the show 2 years ago. Ultimately, the two … Read More »