Tag Archives: Courtney Kemp Agboh

Black writing talent thriving in US

Black screenwriters are rarer than unicorns in European TV drama, but there is a growing number of talented black writers making their mark in US broadcasting and streaming. This week, we look at some of the best-known names and rising stars in the hope it might inspire the European business to embrace ethnic diversity. Take note of how many of this clever bunch also happen to be women – and how many black writers are involved in hits.

latoya-morganLaToya Morgan is in the news this week after signing a two-year deal with cable network AMC. Morgan has recently finished writing for the Revolutionary War drama Turn: Washington’s Spies and will now join the team on AMC’s Into the Badlands. She will also be given the chance to develop new TV projects. She also previously worked on the Shameless writing team at Showtime.

Courtney-Kemp-Agboh[2]Courtney Kemp Agboh recently told DQ that she started her career as a comedy writer and “sucked.” Fortunately, she reinvented herself as a drama writer and has gone on to have great success with Starz series Power, which tells the story of a club owner who also runs a huge drug network. Prior to her success with Power, Kemp Agboh worked on The Good Wife.

tylerperryTyler Perry is good at most things in the media business. As a TV writer, he is best known as the creator of The Haves and the Have Nots, one of the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN)’s top-performing dramas. Perry has an ongoing deal with OWN that has seen him produce a number of scripted series include If Loving You Is Wrong and Love Thy Neighbour.

kenyabarrisKenya Barris is best known as the creator of ABC’s acclaimed comedy Black-ish, which includes Michelle Obama among its fans. This funny series focuses on the challenges faced by a successful black ad agency exec as he tries to keep hold of his heritage while assimilating with the bourgeois, mainly white community he now lives in. A third season was ordered by ABC on March 3 this year.

Lee_Daniels_2013Lee Daniels shot to the front rank of screenwriters thanks to Fox hit Empire, co-created with Danny Strong. After the success of Empire, Daniels started working on another music-based scripted show with Tom Donaghy. Called Star, the series is about three girls who form a band, and charts their rise to the top. Like Empire, Star is for Fox, with which Daniels has an overall deal.

aishamuharrarAisha Muharrar, a Harvard graduate, made a name for herself as part of the team on NBC’s Parks & Recreation, having previously worked on comedy series Sit Down Shut Up. Muharrar is now reported to be working with Parks & Rec star Amy Poehler on a new comedy for NBC about a young agnostic woman who inherits a church and its strong-willed community.

john-ridleyJohn Ridley is best-known as the Oscar-winning screenwriter of 12 Years a Slave, but he is now having a big impact in TV. Having set up the successful ABC series American Crime, he is in the process of bringing crime series Presence to the screen for ABC. He is also working on Guerrilla, a six-part limited series for Showtime and Sky Atlantic that stars Idris Elba and Freida Pinto.

Janine-Sherman-BarroisJanine Sherman Barrois was a key member of the team on CBS’s long-running crime drama Criminal Minds until she signed a deal with Warner Bros Television to create and develop new drama series. Prior to all this, she worked on The Jamie Foxx Show, The PJs and Third Watch. Sherman Barrois is also active advocate of increased industry diversity.

MishaGreenMisha Green has previously worked on Kurt Sutter’s Sons of Anarchy for FX, Syfy thriller Helix (cancelled last year after two seasons) and popular NBC drama Heroes. But her big breakthrough has come as creator (with Joe Pokaski) and executive producer of WGN’s Civil War drama Underground – which tells the story of slaves escaping to freedom via the underground railroad.

shondarhimesShonda Rhimes is one of the top drama showrunners in the business, but as well as being an amazing talent in her own right, she’s also bringing through new black talent such as Zoanne Clack (see below), Raamla Mohamed and Zahir McGhee. In terms of her own credentials, Rhimes has created or overseen several hits for ABC including Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder.

zoanneclackZoanne Clack was a doctor before she got into the TV business. Her medical background helped her secure a role working on Grey’s Anatomy, though now she has more than demonstrated her creative skills as a writer and story editor. The most recent news about Clack was that she is working on a new series for ABC about a US Army Medevac team based in the Iraqi city of Baghdad.

justinsimien_1331505284_46Justin Simien is a rising star who made the acclaimed film Dear White People. Netflix recently ordered a 10-part adaptation of the film, to be produced by Lionsgate. Due to land on Netflix in 2017, the series version of Dear White People tells the story of a group of students of colour at a fictional Ivy League university dominated by white students.

ClementVirgoClement Virgo is actually Canadian, but gets in here because of his impact on the North American TV business. Following his adaptation of Lawrence Hill’s The Book of Negroes, he is currently working with Hill again on The Illegal. This is the story of Keita Ali, a young marathon runner who flees his repressive native home and finds himself in a community of undocumented refugees living in a wealthy country. Virgo is also exec producing OWN’s Greenleaf.

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Music shows strike a chord with networks

As a childhood fan of The Monkees, I can vouch for the fact that TV series about the music business are nothing new. But there’s no question that the current success of Fox US’s hip-hop drama Empire has inspired an unprecedented array of music-related scripted shows. So this week’s column takes a look at the writers who are riding the crest of this compositional wave.

Star: After the success of Empire, the show’s co-creator Lee Daniels is planning another music-based scripted show. Working alongside Tom Donaghy, he is making Star, a series about three girls who form a band and their rise to the top. Like Empire, Star is for Fox, at which Daniels has an overall deal. Daniels is good at doing diversity. His band will comprise one white girl, one black girl and one mixed-race girl (half white/half black). There is also a transgender black/Latino central character called Cotton. Donaghy, meanwhile, is a playwright who is also known for having worked on The Mentalist and for creating ABC’s The Whole Truth.

Vinyl

Vinyl has just started airing on HBO (February 14) to pretty good reviews. Based on an idea by Mick Jagger and Martin Scorsese, it tells the story of Richie Finestra, a record executive in the 1970s, played by Bobby Cannavale. The story credit goes to Jagger, Scorsese, Rich Cohen and Terence Winter, who also wrote the screenplay with George Mastras. As you’d expect with a project of this calibre, the writers are TV royalty. Winter, for example, was creator, writer, and executive producer of Boardwalk Empire, having previously worked on The Sopranos and written The Wolf of Wall Street. Mastras worked on all five seasons of AMC’s Breaking Bad and is also the author of a novel, Fidali’s Way. There are already reports that Winter wants to do a second season.

The Breaks has just been greenlit as a series by Viacom pay TV channel VH1, having debuted strongly as a TV movie in January. Based on the Dan Charnas book The Big Payback, it’s a history of the hip-hop business. The series story is being developed by Charnas and Seith Mann, with the latter writing, directing and executive producing. Mann’s credits include The Wire, The Walking Dead and Homeland. The story follows three young friends seeking to establish themselves as hip-hop artists in New York City in 1990.

Vital Signs is the new series Apple is reported to be making with rap legend and Beats Music co-founder Andre Young, better known as Dr Dre. The show will be a semi-autobiographical “dark drama.” Apple and Dr Dre have not yet commented on the nascent project, which means it is too early to know who will write it. One option might be Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff, the Oscar-nominated duo who wrote the screenplay for NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton – though both are embroiled in other projects. Berloff, for example, is writing Sleepless Night, a movie starring Jamie Foxx, whike Herman has been working on the Scarlett Johansson movie Ghost in the Shell.

Roadies

Roadies is a comedy from Showtime that, as its name suggests, goes backstage with a group of roadies. Directed by Cameron Crowe, the show will give an insider’s look at “the reckless, romantic, funny and often poignant lives of a committed group of roadies who live for music and the de facto family they’ve formed along the way. The music-infused ensemble comedy series chronicles the rock world through the eyes of music’s unsung heroes.” Crowe is a writer/director, mainly known for films such as Jerry Maguire and We Bought a Zoo. Less well known is the fact that he’s a huge music aficionado. After leaving college, Crowe worked for Rolling Stone, where he interviewed the likes of Dylan, Bowie and Clapton. His second film, Almost Famous, was about a teen music journalist who goes on the road with a band in the early 1970s.

New Edition project: Viacom-owned BET is making a miniseries based on the 1980s R&B heartthrobs New Edition – marking the network’s first scripted music-focused TV movie. A three-parter, the show has the backing of five of the band’s members, but not the most famous of the group, Bobby Brown. The film will chronicle New Edition’s beginnings in Boston’s Orchard Park Projects to success with tracks like Candy Girl and Cool It Now. The script is being written by Abdul Williams, who previously wrote the movie Lottery Ticket (which included Ice Cube in the cast).

Nashville

Nashville deserves a mention, even though it predates Empire by a few years. Now up to its fourth season, the show centres on the rivalry between country queen Rayna James and rising star Juliette Barnes. The show was created by Callie Khouri, who won an Academy Award in 1992 for the Thelma & Louise screenplay. Until Nashville, she mostly worked in movies, writing films such as Something to Talk About, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood and Mad Money. For season four, Khouri stepped back from writing but has directed some episodes. Writing was shared among a team of 10 writers, with the opening episode penned by Meredith Lavender and Marcie Ulin. The final episode, which will air this spring, is set to be written by Taylor Hamra, who was also involved in the recent TNT reboot of oil-industry soap Dallas.

The Get Down, which we discussed in a recent column, is a Baz Luhrmann music-driven drama that focuses on 1970s New York City: “broken down and beaten up, violent, cash strapped – dying.” It’s for Netflix, which says the six-part series is “a mythic saga of how New York at the brink of bankruptcy gave birth to hip hop, punk and disco – told through the lives and music of the South Bronx kids who changed the city, and the world… forever.” This is similar terrain to Vinyl, so it will be interesting to see how it pans out in comparison. Luhrmann’s creative team includes Oscar-winning designer Catherine Martin, hip-hop historian and writer Nelson George and writer Stephen Adly Guirgis. To date, Guirgis is best known as a playwright, having won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for drama for Between Riverside and Crazy. However, he does have a few screenwriting credits to his name, including an episode of NYPD Blue from 2002 and a couple of short-lived dramas called Big Apple (CBS) and UC: Undercover (NBC). He is also an actor, appearing in movies such as Birdman.

Stop! In the Name of Love is a four-part miniseries for the BBC that will incorporate numerous Motown songs (a la Mamma Mia). The UK drama follows six smart thirtysomething women as they deal with love, friendship, success and failure. The show is a joint venture between Tony Jordan (Dickensian, Life on Mars), Duncan Kenworthy (Notting Hill, Four Weddings and a Funeral), Antenna Group MD and former president of NBCUniversal International Peter Smith, and music consultant and former chairman of Universal Music UK John Kennedy. Jordan, who is writing the series, says it will “offer something completely different from any other show on television. The music of Motown is iconic and mirrors the rich gamut of human emotion and experience as well as exploring universal themes that all cultures and ages can relate to. The musical arrangements and cutting-edge choreography will give us a uniquely modern take on a timeless genre of music.”

Mozart in the Jungle

Mozart in the Jungle is another show we’ve looked at recently following its Golden Globe triumph (Best Series – Music or Comedy). A quirky story of professional musicians working the New York concert circuit, Mozart is based on the memoir of an oboist called Blair Tindall. It was brought to the screen by a company called Picrow, with the pilot episode written by Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman and Alex Timbers. Once the show was commissioned as a 10-part series, a further eight people were credited with either writing scripts or providing stories. The most prominent names among these were John Strauss and Paul Weitz, the latter also directing a number of first season episodes. Season two, which was released on December 30 last year, involved some of the same writers but there were also five new additions – giving the show an ensemble feel both on and off the screen. Since we last wrote about the show, it has been give a third season.

Power isn’t quite a music series but it has strong music connections. Created and written by Courtney Kemp Agboh, the series follows James St. Patrick, nicknamed Ghost. Ghost is the owner of a popular New York nightclub – but also a major player in an illegal drug network. The show, which is produced by rapper Curtis ‘50 Cent’ Jackson has aired for two series on Starz and was recently renewed by the network for a third.

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Staying Power: Courtney Kemp Agboh

With a third season of her show Power confirmed and the ink still drying on her overall deal with Starz, Courtney Kemp Agboh tells DQ about her transformation from ‘failed’ comedy writer into one of drama’s big hitters.

For someone who started her television career writing for The Bernie Mac Show, Courtney Kemp Agboh (pictured above) is under no illusions about her power to make people laugh.

“I failed miserably,” she admits. “I was not funny. Comedy is not my thing. I sucked. I was terrible. I’m just not funny.”

But comedy’s loss has become television drama’s gain: the showrunner is currently winning critical and popular acclaim with hard-hitting Starz series Power.

Omari Hardwick as Power's main character, James ‘Ghost’ St Patrick
Omari Hardwick as Power’s main character, James ‘Ghost’ St Patrick

The debut episode of Power’s second season in June broke viewing records for the US premium cable network by attracting the largest ever audience for a Starz original drama season premiere episode (1.43 million). It also became the most watched episode ever for a Starz original drama across its opening weekend (3.62 million).

The impressive ratings opened a remarkable week for Agboh, who signed an exclusive overall deal with Starz just days after the network commissioned a 10-part third season of Power for 2016.

And there was more good news to come. Season two’s finale, which aired on August 15, set a Starz record for an episode premiere, drawing 2.39 million viewers (Live+3). This was also up 51% compared with the first run’s finale (1.59 million) and up 17% on the season two average (2.03 million)

Set between the glamorous New York club scene and the city’s brutal drug trade, Power tells the story of James ‘Ghost’ St Patrick (played by Omari Hardwick), who must juggle his life as a club boss with that as a major player in one of the city’s biggest illegal drug networks.

Kemp Agboh, who created the series, is an executive producer alongside Mark Canton, Randall Emmett and rapper Curtis ‘50 Cent’ Jackson. The show is produced by CBS Television Studios, Jackson’s G-Unit Film and Television, Kemp Agboh’s Mawuli Productions and Canton’s Atmosphere Television.

Kemp Agboh was first exposed to the television industry while working as a journalist. An article she wrote for GQ, titled How to Date a Black Woman, caught the attention of two comedy producers, but the project didn’t move any further. Undeterred, and now with a taste for the business, she wrote a script on-spec for The Bernie Mac Show, landing a writing job on the series in 2005.

“I was very fortunate,” she says. “I moved to LA with no car, no apartment and no job, but I had a husband who had a job in New York and an agent. I was very fortunate because I was able to go to interviews and meetings, and I got a job as a writer.

The Good Wife, which gave Kemp Agboh her first experience of running a writers room
The Good Wife, which gave Kemp Agboh her first experience of running a writers room

“I did all my assistant stuff and coffee-getting when I was working in magazines – I had that Devil Wears Prada experience – and because of that I had no attitude. I had been broken down in journalism. It really helped. Then I got in at Bernie Mac and failed miserably.”

With her comedy career put swiftly behind her, Kemp Agboh penned another spec script, this time for CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, which led to her joining the writing staff of In Justice, a short-lived police procedural run by married duo Robert and Michelle King. Credits followed on Fox drama Justice and ABC comedy-drama Eli Stone, among others, before Kemp Agboh was reunited with the Kings on CBS smash hit The Good Wife in 2011.

“That whole time I branded myself as a legal writer,” Kemp Agboh says. “I wrote legal drama for the most part. That helped me to continue to work. I worked every year and kept getting jobs. I was on The Good Wife for three seasons, and there I learned a lot about how to run a show.

“But I was always an action person, I was always someone who liked writing murders and death. The Good Wife isn’t an exceptionally violent show, so all this stuff was just busting out of me.”

It was when fellow Power exec producer Canton spoke to Jackson about doing a “hardcore, hard-hitting, music-driven show” that Kemp Agboh’s name was suggested, and after meeting Canton, she came up with the idea for the series.

She explains: “The main character became a mixture of 50 Cent’s upbringing – South Jamaica, dealing, and getting out of that life – and my father, who was not a criminal, but was a self-made man. He grew up with no money and made himself into this big advertising executive. It was a combo-platter of the two things.”

Kemp Agboh recalls pitching the series to Starz: “It was me and 50 and a ton of people, but I was the only one talking so it was quite scary. I don’t read a pitch; I only go in with cards with a few keywords on them. It’s a performance. You get passionate and excited about it and tell them the story. At the second meeting, 50 brought music so as I was pitching he was playing tracks from the show.”

Curtis ‘50 Cent’ Jackson (right) and Joseph Sikora in Power. Rapper Jackson is an executive producer on the series
Curtis ‘50 Cent’ Jackson (right) and Joseph Sikora in Power. Rapper Jackson is an executive producer on the series

Power launched in 2014, but despite the show now heading towards a third season, Kemp Agboh says she never anticipated its success. “I try to live my life one day at a time, so the whole process for me has been going in to pitch the show, they say yes; writing the pilot, they say yes; they want a second script… it’s just been piece by piece. As each episode was airing and the audience was growing, I was just trying to be present for its success at each moment and really trying to interact with the fans. I’m thrilled with the response, but I can’t say it’s what I expected. I had no expectation of it.”

What she did expect, however, was the stark difference between writing for a broadcast network such as CBS and a premium cable channel – the former reliant on advertisers and the latter free to flex its creative muscles with added sex and violence. Kemp Agboh says: “In the Power pilot, we start in a beautiful way. There are shots of the city, you see Ghost getting dressed, everything’s gorgeous and wonderful. Then within nine minutes you’re downstairs in the basement and someone’s getting shot in the forehead. That’s the kind of show it is.

“I wanted to show the audience that it’s never going to be what you expect. You are never going to be safe in this show – you can never relax. I’m always going to be pulling the carpet out from under you. I was trying to make a point about storytelling and what we can do on cable that you can’t do in broadcast, and how just because I came from that world, it doesn’t mean it’s the only writing I can do.

“Broadcast is way harder, and anyone who tells you different, I don’t know what they’re talking about. Twenty-two episodes with no real sex and no real violence – forget it. I have to do 10 episodes and I can go anywhere.”

Power marks the first time Kemp Agboh has brought a show to television, but it isn’t her first spell in charge of a writers room. That milestone came during her final year on The Good Wife, when she was able to apply the lessons she had learnt from mentors including the Kings, Jeff Melvoin (In Justice) and Greg Berlanti (Eli Stone).

“What I took from them was that there can be no sexism and no hierarchy in the room, and that the best idea can come from anybody. Those are my rules. I don’t care how many years you’ve been doing this, your idea could suck and a person who just walked into the room to deliver lunch could have the greatest idea of all.

“One of the things I stress is that I don’t pay writers to sit there. I don’t pay for their chair, I pay for their ideas, so I want them. I don’t care how bad they are, they don’t have to be edited. Say whatever. There’s no reprisal for a bad idea. When I interview people for writing jobs, I stress to them if there are areas they don’t like to discuss, such as sex, this is the wrong job for them, because we go there. I want people to have a good time at work.”

Together with Fox’s breakout drama Empire, Power is also notable for having a diverse cast, led by Hardwick, Jackson, Lela Loren, Naturi Naughton, Joseph Sikora and Sinqua Walls.

But Kemp Agboh says the show simply aims to reflect the modern world. “The world looks like Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder; the world does not look like Friends,” she explains. “And when people put shows on TV now where everyone is white, it looks funny. That’s not what the world is. That’s not what America is. Nowhere is it all one thing, and if you’re going to make TV that’s going to be successful now, it needs to represent what the world really looks like.

“At one point we talked about doing Power in LA, but LA is way more segregated than New York and I didn’t want to do that. I wanted New York to be represented in all of its diversity. People are realising they can make a lot of money by making TV shows that look like what the world really is. At the end of the day, it’s not about black, brown, white, yellow, red. It’s about green. So as long as these shows do well, there will be more of them.”

But while racial diversity may be improving, Kemp Agboh believes it is still difficult for female writers to breakthrough as showrunners. “I believe it’s harder. I have had fewer experiences where I was the only person of colour in the room and more experiences creatively where I was the only woman,” she reveals. “People ask about race and showrunning, but what I think we actually need to pay attention to is women as showrunners.

“Most of the people I’ve worked with coming up the ranks have been men with stay-at-home wives. Most of the high-level writers I’ve met have been men whose wives don’t work, and the idea of trying to run a show and be a mummy – it’s so complicated and challenging because it really is giving birth to two things.

“I’ve decided I’m not going to have any more children because Power is my second child. I can’t do everything. Some people can do more than that, but I think there’s absolutely a trend. The world is full of women, so women have good perspectives on things and can write really well. People are now saying that if Shonda Rhimes can make so many billions of dollars for a network, maybe I can take a shot on this other chick and she might be good too. And that is absolutely happening.”

With Power set for a third run next year, Kemp Agboh is in no doubt that television will continue to tell great stories – at the expense of cinema. “We’re at a really great point in television drama, as there are more places to put content,” she says. “But I would also say it’s because the movie business got so weird. They stopped making middle-of-the-road movies. It’s all about blockbusters now and these very tiny indies. There’s nothing in the middle, so those stories that might have been told as features 20 years ago aren’t being told that way now. Right now, television is where those great stories are being told.”

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The age of ‘sigh’-fi?

Big names including Bradley Cooper and Todd Phillips are on board the adaptation of Dan Simmons’ Hyperion
Big names including Bradley Cooper and Todd Phillips are on board the TV adaptation of Dan Simmons’ Hyperion

Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead, Spaced) recently lamented the number of sci-fi and superhero sagas that are appearing on television and in the movies. Speaking to The Radio Times, he said: “Obviously I’m a self-confessed fan of science fiction and genre cinema. But part of me looks at society as it is now and thinks we’ve been infantilised by our own taste. We’re all consuming very childish things – comic books, superheroes… Adults are watching this stuff, and taking it seriously.”

He has a point – particularly when you look at the factory-farm exploitation of the DC and Marvel mythologies by Warner Bros and Disney. But there is a flip side to sci-fi and fantasy – which is that it provides creatives with new ways to address important themes about the way humanity conducts itself. The best projects, many of which start in book form, are superb treatises on power, war, gender, immigration, the environment, medical ethics and the advance of AI. So many of the challenges and opportunities we are living through now were first identified and debated by the farsighted sci-fi writers of the last century.

US sci-fi channel Syfy has broadcast its fair share of tripe down the years, but more recently it has really been getting to grips with what the genre can offer at its best. This week, for example, it announced that it is teaming up with Bradley Cooper (American Sniper), Graham King (The Departed, Argo) and Todd Phillips (The Hangover, Old School) to develop Dan Simmons’ Hugo Award-winning best-selling novel Hyperion as an event series. As if that isn’t enough top talent to be getting on with, the screenplay will be written by Itamar Moses, best known for Boardwalk Empire.

Power creator Courtney Kemp Agboh
Power creator Courtney Kemp Agboh

Set on the eve of Armageddon with the galaxy at war, Hyperion is the story of seven pilgrims who set forth on a voyage to seek the answers to the unsolved riddles of their lives. A complex and intelligent work that employs a similar narrative structure to The Canterbury Tales, it’s a million miles from the kind of projects Pegg is concerned about. Commenting on the project, Syfy and Chiller president Dave Howe said: “Epitomising the gold standard of science-fiction story-telling, Hyperion tackles smart, provocative themes that help define Syfy’s development vision.”

Syfy isn’t completely free of the shackles of comic book tyranny (it recently greenlit David Goyer’s Superman prequel Krypton, for example), but there’s no questioning the channel’s ambition. Aside from Hyperion, recently announced projects include The Magicians, based on Lev Grossman’s best-selling books; a futuristic detective series called The Expanse; Childhood’s End, based on an Arthur C. Clarke’s 1953 classic about a peaceful alien invasion; and Brave New World, a series from Amblin Television based on Aldous Huxley’s superb novel. For Howe, the latter is another example of the way the channel is heading: “Brave New World is precisely the groundbreaking programming that is becoming the hallmark of Syfy. It is one of the most influential genre classics of all time. Its provocative vision of a future gone awry remains as powerful and as timeless as ever.”

The inclusion of Bradley Cooper in its roster of talent is, of course, a coup for Syfy. But it’s not the only example of Syfy’s ability to attract A-listers. In April, it greenlit Incorporated, a futuristic espionage thriller from Matt Damon and Ben Affleck’s Pearl Street Productions, CBS TV Studios and Universal Cable Productions.

Curtis '50 Cent' Jackson (right) exec produces and has a role in Power
Curtis ’50 Cent’ Jackson (right) exec produces and has a role in Power

Set in a future where companies have unlimited power, Incorporated tells the story of executive Ben Larson, forced to change his identity in order to infiltrate a cut-throat corporate world and save the woman he loves. In the process, he will take on the entire system – with deadly consequences. Syfy says the dystopian future of the show – created by David and Alex Pastor (Selfless, The Last Days) – reflects contemporary trends: the growing influence of corporations and private interests in Washington, the slow but steady dismantling of the public sector, and the accumulation of an amazing amount of wealth by an ever-shrinking minority. “It is an electrifying example of what science fiction does best,” says Howe, “holding a mirror to present realities and projecting forward to a recognisable future in which we face the impact and consequences of our actions.” And there won’t be a cape in sight.

Back in the here and now, Starz has just greenlit a third series of Power, the New York-based drama from Courtney Kemp Agboh that came with Curtis ‘50 Cent’ Jackson on board as an executive producer. Power is a crime drama set in two different worlds: the glamorous New York club scene and its brutal drug trade. With its predominantly black cast, it has been a revelation for Starz. The first episode of the second series, which aired on June 6, logged 1.43 million Live+SD viewers, the most ever for a Starz Original series season premiere. More than 3.62 million Live+SD viewers watched the episode over the initial weekend.

Episodes will return for a fifth run
Episodes will return for a fifth run

Kemp Agboh, who created the show, has much to celebrate this week. In addition to record ratings and a third season pick-up for Power, Starz has just signed her to an overall deal. Commenting, Starz MD Carmi Zlotnik said: “Courtney is a highly regarded showrunner whose creative vision brings viewers into the two worlds of Power. We are extremely pleased to continue our relationship with Courtney in the coming years.”

There was also good news for Matt LeBlanc this week, following Showtime’s decision to order a fifth season of Episodes, a scripted comedy starring the former Friends actor as a fictionalised version of himself. After a relatively low-key launch in 2011, the Hat Trick Productions show has emerged as one of best comedies of the last few years. Now up to 43 episodes in total, it has also sold well internationally for distributor Hat Trick International.

Finally, it seems Nordic, French and Israeli drama producers might have a new competitor. At the New Europe Market in Dubrovnik, FremantleMedia and Jadran Film Zagreb announced a strategic partnership to bring the literary works of one of Croatia’s most popular writers, Marija Jurić Zagorka, to global audiences.

Croatian author Marija Jurić Zagorka
Croatian author Marija Jurić Zagorka

Zagorka, who died in 1957, is one of the most read writers in Central and Eastern Europe, although her novels have never been translated into English. The partnership kicks off with a joint production of one of Zagorka’s most famous works: The Witch of Grich (Grička vještica), which has sold more than 10 million copies in Eastern Europe.

Set in the second half of the 18th century, it tells the story of a young countess called Nera, whose popularity among men causes envy among her female peers. When Nera tries to save a group of poor women from a witch-hunt, her rivals see this as an opportunity to accuse her of witchcraft. FremantleMedia and Jadran Film are also looking at developing titles such as Kneginja iz Petrinjske ulice, Gordana and Jadranka.

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