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EMMYS: 2011 Drama Series Overview

This year’s Emmy race for Outstanding Drama Series will continue cable’s dominance in this most prestigious category. Cable claimed 10 of the 13 nomination spots over the past two years, and 13 of 19 since 2008. By contrast, cable earned a mere nine nods combined in the seven years between 2001 and 2007 when the networks still ruled. The shift from broadcast is so extreme in 2011 that CBS’ The Good Wife is considered the only network series with a solid shot to earn its second nomination in as many years. (Though not in that league, NBC/DirecTV’s Friday Night Lights, NBC’s Parenthood, and CBS’ Blue Bloods deserve consideration while ABC has entered a rebuilding phase.) The sad reality is that the broadcast networks, which just signed a new eight-year deal with the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences to carry the Emmys, are facing a possible first-ever shutout from the top drama series category. That’s because of the continuing strength and ambition of programming on cable — in particular, HBO in a return to form, and AMC still on a roll.

HBO’s Prohibition-era hourlong Boardwalk Empire drew the most critical attention this Emmy season because of its pedigreed producer team, headed by the legendary Martin Scorsese and creator/showrunner Terence Winter, a Sopranos alum. How interesting that the pay channel’s expensive serial will compete against another period drama from that other Sopranos alum Matt Weiner. AMC’s first acclaimed original series, Mad Men, has won this category three years running and is bidding this year to be the first series to win four in a row since NBC’s The West Wing (2000- 2003). Though the frontrunner, Mad Men could be hurt by a long hiatus.

AMC has seized the mantle from HBO as TV’s preeminent quality-drama purveyor with a pair of newcomers that could crack the series field this year: the zombie-themed hour The Walking Dead, and the dark murder mystery The Killing. Even though two-time category nominee Breaking Bad is not eligible for 2011, AMC could still land three nods, becoming the first network in 10 years to do so in this category, after NBC scored the hat trick in 2001 with The West Wing, ER, and Law & Order. No cable network has ever managed the feat to date.

And then there’s Showtime, whose Dexter is in the running for its fourth consecutive Outstanding Drama nomination, along with first-season Shameless. FX is pushing its increasingly buzzed-about Western, Justified and, to a lesser extent, Sons Of Anarchy. TNT wants attention for The Closer, Men Of A Certain Age, and Southland. USA is pressing Covert Affairs and White Collar. Here’s our assessment of the chances for this year’s drama series in alphabetical order: Read More »

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UTA Signs ‘Spartacus: Gods Of Arena’ Star

Nellie Andreeva

Dustin Clare, who plays the lead in Starz’s Spartacus: Gods of the Arena, has signed with UTA. This is the first U.S. representation for the Australian actor, who continues to be represented by RGM in his native country. In Gods of the Arena, prequel to hit series Spartacus: Blood and Sand, Clare plays the central character Gannicus, the second gladiator to become Champion of Capua. The limited series premiered last month to strong ratings. Clare recently completed Fred Schepisi’s feature The Eye of the Storm. He has appeared on such Australian series as Underbelly and McLeod’s Daughters.

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Big Debut For Starz’s ‘Spartacus’ Prequel

Nellie Andreeva

It looks like with Spartacus, Starz not only has a breakout series on its hands but also a solid franchise. On Friday night, the premiere episode of Spartacus: Gods of the Arena, a prequel to Spartacus: Blood and Sand, drew some 1.1 million viewers for its debut 10 PM airing, 66% higher than the original series’ premiere a year ago, and 1.9 million viewers combined for the 10 PM and 11 PM runs, 77% above the debut of the mothership series. However, Gods of the Arena couldn’t break the ratings records set during the first season of Spartacus: Blood and Sand, which is slated to begin production on its long-delayed Season 2 with a new actor, Liam McIntyre, replacing ailing Andy Whitfield.

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‘Spartacus’ Star Andy Whitfield’s Cancer Is Back: Won’t Return Next Season To Series

Nellie Andreeva

This shocking news that he needs aggressive treatment for a recurrence of cancer was made public today by Starz cable network and the Spartacus: Blood and Sand star himself, Andy Whitfield. He was first diagnosed with treatable Stage 1 non-Hodgkin lymphoma in early March. But recently the actor had been in remission and training hard for Season 2. He even attended the Spartacus panel at Comic-Con where he said he felt “better than ever”. His first diagnosis put production on hold for the next season while he underwent treatment. He was given a clean bill of health in May. To bridge the two seasons of Spartacus, Starz greenlighted the prequel Spartacus: Gods of the Arena, which is now filming in New Zealand and will premiere in January as planned. However, the future of the mothership series is unclear. Production on the second season was supposed to start soon.

Here is the network’s statement:

Andy Whitfield, star of Starz’s “Spartacus: Blood and Sand,” has been advised by his doctors to immediately resume aggressive treatment for a recurrence of cancer, as a result of which he will not be returning for the series’ second season, which was tentatively set to air in September 2011.

“It’s with a deep sense of disappointment that I must step aside from such an exceptional project as Spartacus and all the wonderful people involved. It seems that it is time for myself

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Trio Cast In Starz’s ‘Spartacus’ Prequel

Nellie Andreeva

dustin_clareDustin Clare, a virtual unknown in the U.S., but a popular TV actor in his native Australia, has landed the lead in Spartacus: Gods of the Arena, Starz’s six-part prequel to hit series Spartacus: Blood and Sand. Jaime Murray and Marisa Ramirez are set to co-star in the prequel, which focuses on the House of Batiatus in its pre-Spartacus days and chronicles the rise of Gannicus (Clare), the first gladiator to become Champion of marisa_ramirezjaime-murrayCapua. Returning to reprise their roles from Spartacus: Blood and Sand are Lucy Lawless (Lucretia), John Hannah (Batiatus), Peter Mensah (Oenomaus) and Manu Bennett (Crixus). Murray, repped by Gersh and Luber Rocklin, will play Gaia, Lucretia’s (Lawless) friend and a Capua social climber. Ramirez will play a beautiful slave girl with complicated relationships. Spartacus: Blood and Sand star Andy Whitfield will appear briefly in the prequel, which is slated to begin production in August in New Zealand for a January premiere on Starz. Whitfield, who plays the title character of Spartacus, will then rejoin the show in season two, which is set to begin production later this year. Whitfield, Lawless, Hannah, Spartacus: Blood and Sand co-star Viva Bianca and executive producer/head writer Steven S. DeKnight will be on hand for the series’ panel at Comic-Con on July 23.

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