History‘s Vikings returned for its second season at 10 PM last night, capturing 3.6 million viewers — including 1.7 million adults 18-49, of whom 1.1 million were guys, and 1.8 million adults 25-54, of whom 1.2 million were men. Vikings’ first season launch had clocked a whopping 6.2 million viewers — 2.5 million adults 18-49 and 2.7 million adults 25-54 – but, as History points out, the lead-in for its series launch last year was rating behemoth The Bible. Armed with that Mark Burnett-produced miniseries as its lead-in, Vikings averaged 4.3 million total viewers, with 2 million 25-54 and 1.8 million 18-49 in its first season — a marauding success for History, with the historical drama emerging as the No. 1 new cable series of the year and scoring three Emmy noms.
The year 2013 was so jam-packed with TV controversies that, after Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson this month left A&E looking more or less like the spot marked with chalk where the accident had occurred, exhausted Reporters Who Cover Television slumped over in a surfeited sort of coma.
Here’s a look at some of the bigger dust-ups:
NBC has given a formal green light to 12-hour miniseries A.D., Mark Burnett and Roma Downey‘s follow-up to their highly rated miniseries The Bible that aired on History earlier this year. The project, produced by LightWorkers Media with Burnett, Downey and Richard Bedser serving as executive producers, is eyeing a premiere in spring 2015. “Last year when Mark Burnett was launching The Bible on cable, I told him, without hesitation, that if he wanted to tell more of the story, we’d love to do it at NBC,” said NBC chairman Robert Greenblatt. “We are firmly in the ‘event’ business and nothing has more event potential than A.D. as it continues immediately after the The Bible ended.” The order for A.D., which will be written by BAFTA nominee Simon Block (The Shooting Of Thomas Hurndall), comes a week after NBC greenlighted its first miniseries under the network’s current longfprm push – the four-hour Rosemary’s Baby. This also marks the second miniseries order for Burnett and Downey in the past week after CBS picked up The Dovekeepers, which also has religious overtones.
Mark Burnett and Roma Downey — the new It Couple of TV Miniseries/Event Series — have landed CBS‘ first announced project from its new limited series and event programming unit. And yes, it’s an historical series with religious overtones. The Dovekeepers is a four-hour miniseries based in Alice Hoffman’s historical novel about the Siege of Masada, and it will air on CBS in 2015. The mini will focus on “four extraordinary women whose lives intersect in a fight for survival at the siege of Masada,” the network said. Masada is the mountaintop fortress near the Dead Sea where the Romans found the last pocket of resistance after they conquered Jerusalem in 70 CE.
CBS, in its announcement, noted The Dovekeepers hails from the team behind the Emmy-nominated 10-hour miniseries The Bible, which scored big ratings for History in March, ranking as the top cable entertainment telecast of the year to date and helping make History the No. 1-ranked cable network for that month. The Bible opened with 13 million tuned in — which, CBS execs no doubt noted at the time, is about as many people as watched the opening of their Stephen King project Under The Dome (before factoring in DVR viewing on subsequent days) last summer. In its first week of home video release, The Bible was the top-selling miniseries of all time and the No. 1 ranked TV series on DVD and Blu-ray over the past five years — surpassing 1 million units sold in the past three months. It also spawned a feature film version to be released by Fox in February (check out that trailer here). In addition to its broadcast on CBS, The Dovekeepers will be distributed to countries around the world by CBS Studios International.
If we weren’t sure of the target audience for the Mark Burnett minseries-turned-movie Son Of God, today’s release date announcement comes complete with testimonials not from movie critics but from some of the nation’s most recognizable men of faith …
Ray Richmond contributes to Deadline’s TV coverage.
The movie/mini grouping is a diverse collection that has a bit of an apples-and-oranges feel. That’s certainly been the case since the TV Academy voted to combine the made-for-TV movie and miniseries categories into one two years ago. It resulted in wins for PBS’ Downton Abbey two years ago and the HBO docudrama Game Change in 2012. This time, only two actual movies made the nomination cut: The HBO biopics Behind The Candelabra and Phil Spector. The other four are miniseries, including FX’s American Horror Story: Asylum along with Sundance Channel’s Top Of The Lake, History’s entry The Bible and USA Network’s soapy Political Animals. The Liberace pic Candelabra has to be seen as the overwhelming favorite.
If any project stands a chance to derail Behind The Candelabra, it’s this one, due in large part to its graphic horror presentation, eye-popping effects and acting work that resulted in four performers getting nominated. People who work in television also tend to relate to tales of insane asylums.
There remains some question over whether American Horror Story should even be in this category, seeming more like a regular series than a true mini. And horror remains a niche that rarely wins a top prize.
Ray Richmond contributes to Deadline’s TV coverage
History‘s 10-part miniseries The Bible continues to be the gift that keeps on giving, landing three Emmy nominations this morning including one for Outstanding Miniseries or Movie (as well as for sound editing and sound mixing). The noms further burnished the credentials of the series’ married exec producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey and come at a time when the project has taken on a successful life of its own: Burnett sold a sequel this month to NBC (tentatively titled AD: Beyond The Bible) and has seen the original mini emulate the massive ratings success it had on History overseas (it bowed to huge ratings this week in Australia). The series was No. 1 in its time period for all of TV when it aired in March and averaged 11.4 million total viewers during its five-week run. At the end of June it passed the 1 million mark in DVD sales, making it one of the best-selling DVDs based on a TV series of all time.
Miniseries, the format long thought dead or dying, dominates the combined Outstanding Movie or Miniseries category on this morning’s Emmy nomination list. Basic cable shows from the likes of FX, History, USA and Sundance Channel are using “miniseries” projects to make a strong showing against the perennial strength of HBO, which scored big as usual with its one-off , movie star-laden films Behind The Candelabra and Phil Spector which received an impressive total of 26 nominations between them. There is also a particularly strong group of past Oscar winners competing for Emmy gold in this year’s group.
Related: EMMYS: 2013 Nominations By Series
But leading the pack again, with the same number of nominations — 17 — it received last year is FX’s franchise American Horror Story: Asylum. In fact Asylum leads ALL shows in any category. Although widely thought to have been launched as a regular series after its pilot was picked up on FX in the 2011-2012 season, creator Ryan Murphy successfully lobbied the TV Academy and got its board to approve its Miniseries designation. It gives the show — in which the cast changes characters and stories each season — a much better chance at Emmy success than it would have had competing in the super-competitive Drama Series category, where many thought it belonged (the vote was very close in approving this switch ). American Horror Story picked up two Emmys out of those 17 nods last year and obviously hopes to up the ante on the second go-round. This is obviously the “miniseries” that keeps on giving to FX, far outshadowing the network’s criminally under Emmy-appreciated series Justified, Sons Of Anarchy and critically acclaimed newbie The Americans just to name three. Sometimes the line between Miniseries and Drama Series is a thin one. Downton Abbey won the Movie/Mini category two years ago but now competes in Drama Series where it lost to Homeland last year.
UPDATE: 10:38 AM: NBC: turning to Christ to deliver it from its ratings hole. The network announced this morning it had bought the sequel to History’s hit miniseries The Bible from Mark Burnett — who also exec produces the broadcast network’s The Voice and Celebrity Apprentice. At the recent Produced By Conference, Burnett said he was working on a sequel to the 10-part miniseries that ranked as the top cable entertainment telecast of the year to date and helped make History the No. 1-ranked cable network for the month of March. “I could spend the next 10 years just distributing the Bible series” and the movie version he’s adapted, Burnett quipped happily at that confab. In this morning’s announcement, NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt said he followed closely the development of The Bible “and knew that the story was far from over after Christ’s Crucifixion. In fact, what happened in the aftermath — which is essentially the beginning of Christianity — is utterly fascinating.” Greenblatt said he’d told Burnett after seeing The Bible’s opening numbers that NBC was “on board with no hesitation for the follow-up miniseries.”
The Bible opened with 13 million tuned in — about as many people as watched the opening of CBS’ Stephen King project Under The Dome — before factoring in DVR viewing on subsequent days. For No. 1-rated CBS, that is a big number – for ratings-starved NBC, it’s manna from heaven. Only two shows on NBC clocked a bigger crowd than that during the recently concluded TV season: Sunday Night Football and both nights of The Voice. In its first week of home video release, The Bible was the top-selling miniseries of all time and the No. 1 ranked TV series on DVD and Blu-ray over the past five years — surpassing 1 million units sold in the past three months.
This might give a shot of confidence to all of those Biblical-themed features, from the Darren Aronofsky-directed Noah with Russell Crowe to the upcoming Fox film Exodus, with Ridley Scott directing and Christian Bale playing Moses. Beyond the high ratings received when Mark Burnett and Roma Downey’s The Bible ran on History Channel, the 10-parter has become the top-selling mini ever across Blu-ray, DVD and DigitalHD.
LOS ANGELES, CA, June 27, 2013 – THE BIBLE reached a new milestone today with 1 million units sold across Blu-ray, DVD and DigitalHD™. The epic 10-part miniseries from co-executive producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey continues to dominate records everywhere with its unprecedented sales performance. During its run, THE BIBLE propelled HISTORY® to number one in all of television from 8-10PM on Sunday nights with over 100 million viewers. THE BIBLE series will air internationally later this year, followed by its international home entertainment release.
There is probably no group of Emmy categories that has been more battered and bruised over the years than those of movies and miniseries. In addition to being combined into a single category in 2011, movies and miniseries almost lost their separate supporting categories earlier this year, but the TV Academy jettisoned the rule change before it ever went into effect. And some anti-movie/mini TV Academy execs have even proposed eliminating movie/minis from the Primetime Emmy telecast, creating a separate show that could be sold to HBO or another cable channel with a vested interest in the format. Nevertheless, the movie/mini category has seen both ratings and production increase in the last two years, which is fortunate for one simple reason: Movies and minis give the Emmy show true star power. Past winners include prestigious performers like Meryl Streep, Al Pacino, Jessica Lange and, last year, Kevin Costner and Julianne Moore. Plus, the contenders change every year, as opposed to regular programming categories like comedy and drama, which often honor the same shows and performers year after year. So now that movies and minis are back in full force, who are the likely frontrunners to triumph this year?
Related: EMMYS Q&A: Michael Douglas
Produced By Conference: Mark Burnett On ‘Bible’ Follow Up, Feature Version Of History Series Finished Editing
Mark Burnett is cooking up a sequel of a sort to The Bible series, but he’s keeping details of his next faith-based project to himself. “A lot of things have come our way since the Bible, that’s how the business works. Roma [Downey] and I will do a follow up to The Bible, no question to that, something big,” said Burnett today at the Produced By conference. No word if this next project on Christianity would be on the History Channel as The Bible was. The producer however did reveal that he has just finished editing a 2 hour and 15 minute feature version of the successful series focusing on the life of Jesus. He is now looking to sell it. “Just on the scripted side, I could spend the next 10 years just distributing the Bible series and the movie. I believe that in the next 15 years more people on the planet will have seen our Bible series that haven’t seen it,” added Burnett of the project he and wife Roma Downey produced with Hearst Entertainment & Syndication.
This year’s 65th Primetime Emmy Awards were supposed to introduce a smaller longform field after the Academy Of Television Arts & Sciences last year voted to consolidate the Best Lead and Supporting actor and actress categories for miniseries and TV movies, reducing the total number of longform acting categories from four to two starting with the 2013 Emmys. But tonight, the TV Academy Board voted to reverse the consolidation, reinstating the longform lead and supporting categories in this year’s competition. The TV Academy cited “the unanticipated resurgence of television miniseries and movies” for its decision to keep the existing number of longform categories. The backtracking is surprising since reducing the those categories was the first major Emmy rule change under TV Academy chairman Bruce Rosenblum.
The consolidation decision had been driven mainly by the dwindling pool of longform programming on TV, especially miniseries, which led to the merging of the best TV movie and miniseries categories in 2011 following two consecutive years of only two best miniseries nominees. But miniseries/limited series have enjoyed a resurgence in the past couple of years, ranking as the most watched cable entertainment telecasts of 2012 (History’s Hatfields & McCoys) and ever (2013 (History’s The Bible). The field also was joined by such hits as Downton Abbey, which started off in the longform category before moving to drama series, and FX’s anthology American Horror Story. And with Fox and FX making a major push in limited-event series, there will be even more contenders joining traditional longorm Emmy frontrunner HBO, which just saw its original movie Behind The Candelabra selected to compete for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. While the consolidation of the longform acting categories is being nixed, the best longform category (movie/miniseries) remains combined.