Tag Archives: Devious Maids

The importance of being early

ABC’s early pickups show its new entertainment president is keen to keep its hit shows on top form by giving their creative teams as much time as possible to prepare for next season. Michael Pickard reports.

She’s been in the job little more than two weeks – but the new entertainment president at US network ABC is wasting no time making her mark.

Channing Dungey
Channing Dungey

Two months before advertising executives gather in New York to hear the Upfront presentations for the 2016/17 season, Channing Dungey has given them a big insight into what they can expect to see on the Alphabet’s schedule next season with a host of renewals across the television spectrum.

Long-running reality veterans The Bachelor and Dancing with the Stars will be back for seasons 21 and 23 respectively, while there’s also good news for fans of comedies Black-ish, The Goldbergs, The Middle and Modern Family, among others.

On the drama side, ABC has picked up six series – including three from the Shonda Rhimes stable. Grey’s Anatomy will return this fall for its 13th run, How to Get Away With Murder will be back for season three and political drama Scandal gets a sixth outing.

Elsewhere, there were renewals for Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D (season four), fantasy Once Upon a Time (season six) and a second season order for one of the new breakout shows of the year, FBI thriller Quantico (pictured top), which stars Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra.

Fans of Castle, American Crime, Marvel’s Agent Carter and music drama Nashville, however, are still in the dark about whether their shows will be back next year, while freshman series Wicked City and Blood and Oil have already been cancelled.

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D
Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D is set to enter its fourth run on ABC

Some of those series left in limbo may find time is running out, with 11 drama pilots in contention for series orders next season. One of these is Conviction, which stars Hayley Atwell as the daughter of a former president who is blackmailed into joining LA’s new Conviction Integrity Unit – which examines whether the wrong person may have been convicted of a crime. Atwell, of course, is the star of Agent Carter so it seems unlikely she will appear in both shows unless Conviction receives a smaller episode order to allow her to continue in the Marvel series.

The possible cancellation of one Marvel series seems all the more likely considering another ABC pilot in contention – Marvel’s Most Wanted, a spin-off from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D that stars Adrianne Palicki.

Room also needs to be found in the schedule for Designated Survivor, which was ordered straight to series, bypassing the traditional pilot process. The show stars Kiefer Sutherland as a low-level US cabinet member who becomes president when a catastrophic attack during the State of the Union kills everyone above him in the line of succession.

Speaking about her early renewals, which numbered 15 in total, Dungey said: “We’re very proud of our strong roster of performers, and we’re excited about what they will bring us creatively next season.”

Scandal is headed for a sixth season
Scandal is headed for a sixth season

And as ABC’s drama development executive prior to her recent promotion, Dungey knows creativity is key.

While a new season order placed in May gives writers and producers just four months to get the opening episodes ready to air in time for the new season launch in September, any extra time they can get to plot story arcs, fine-tune scripts and enhance special effects can only be beneficial – particularly if they’re on board the network treadmill that will see them churn out as many as 24 episodes by the season end next May.

This is where the larger episode orders associated with the five US broadcast networks come into stark contrast with cable networks, which tend to lean towards 10 to 13 episodes per season – and give creatives as long as a year to film a show ahead of its debut.

Desperate Housewives creator Marc Cherry admitted as much when he spoke about starting work on his Lifetime drama Devious Maids back in 2012.

Housewives ran for eight seasons on ABC, before Cherry crafted an adaptation of Mexican telenovela Ellas Son la Alegría del Hogar, about four women who have ambitions and dreams of their own while working for the rich and famous in Beverly Hills. ABC ordered a pilot but ultimately passed on the project, which was then picked up by Lifetime and is now heading into its fourth season.

Devious Maids
Marc Cherry’s Devious Maids

Describing the benefits of working for a cable channel, he said: “Artistically, it gives you greater licence to do much more complicated storytelling and richer and deeper writing than you have time for on a network schedule.

“With the networks, from the time they pick up your show to the time you start shooting is approximately six weeks. That’s not a lot of time to plan what you’re going to be doing for 23 episodes, whereas I have four straight months of plotting before we start shooting. What the fans are going to see from me is the best writing I’ve ever done because I have time to plan things and talk about them and get to deeper places.”

With her background in drama development, Dungey knows this and it’s too her credit that she has given these six dramas as much time as possible to prepare for the 2016/17 season.

Other networks have also given some early season orders, with CBS renewing NCIS and Fox planning more Empire. And like ABC, NBC has also gone big on early renewals for The Blacklist, Shades of Blue, Chicago PD, Law & Order: SVU, Chicago Med, Chicago Fire and Blindspot.

With networks under pressure to keep ratings high in the age of catch-up and increasing competition from both cable and OTT platforms like Netflix and Amazon, giving writers and producers more time to stay on top of their game and keep their series entertaining and engaging will benefit viewers and advertisers alike.

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Amazon ups the ante

Christina Ricci will play Zelda Fitzgerald (pictured) in Z
Christina Ricci will play Zelda Fitzgerald (pictured) in Z

After a strong showing at the Emmys, Amazon is in buoyant mood. It’s now hoping to keep up the momentum with six new drama and comedy pilots that will launch on Amazon Video later this year in the US, UK, Germany and Austria. As with previous pilots, Amazon will use audience feedback to decide whether to take any of the new scripted shows to series.

The pilots include Good Girls Revolt, a story set in 1969 that follows a group of young women seeking to be treated fairly and ultimately sparking changes that upend marriages, careers, love and friendships. Created and written by Dana Calvo, the show is based on landmark sexual discrimination cases chronicled in a book by Lynn Povich. Amazon is coproducing with Tristar TV.

Another female-protagonist drama is Z, a bio-series about Zelda Fitzgerald, wife of author F. Scott Fitzgerald. Written by Dawn Prestwich (The Killing), Z will star Christina Ricci as the beautiful and talented southern belle who became the original flapper and icon of the flamboyant Jazz Age in the 1920s. The story will follow Zelda’s social successes and her descent into mental illness.

Amazon will also reinforce the recent revival of the western genre with Edge, based on George G. Gilman’s best-selling book series of the same name. Set in 1868, the story centres on Josiah ‘Edge’ Hedges – a Union officer turned cowboy who prowls the post-Civil War American West doling out his own savage brand of justice. Edge was developed by Shane Black (Lethal Weapon, Iron Man 3) and Fred Dekker (Tales from the Crypt, Star Trek: Enterprise). The pair also wrote the screenplay.

Amazon has ordered a pilot based on George G. Gilman book series Edge
Amazon has ordered a pilot based on George G. Gilman book series Edge

The other three Amazon pilots are Highston, One Mississippi and Patriot, a political thriller about an intelligence officer assigned with preventing Iran from going nuclear. Patriot is written and directed by Steven Conrad (The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, The Weather Man), who executive produces alongside Gil Bellows, Glen Ficarra, Charlie Gogolak and John Requa.

Amazon Studios VP Roy Price said: “Our latest pilot season brings together diverse shows that we think customers will really enjoy. We have something for everyone in this season and I am excited to see which shows spark conversation among our customers and what they want to be made into series.”

Amazon’s continued drive into scripted TV was further reinforced this week with the acquisition of exclusive rights to USA Network’s critically acclaimed drama Mr Robot. The first series (10 episodes) of the show will be available to Amazon subscribers in the US, UK, Germany, Austria and Japan from spring 2016.

Meanwhile, reports have been bubbling under for a couple of weeks that Netflix might be about to commission Charlie Brooker to make some new episodes of his dystopian anthology series Black Mirror. This story has now been confirmed, with Netflix greenlighting 12 episodes. Brooker described the SVoD giant as “the most fitting platform imaginable” for the series, which until now has been produced for Channel 4 in the UK. Explaining the appeal, he said: “Netflix connects us with a global audience so that we can create bigger, stranger, more international and diverse stories than before, while maintaining that Black Mirror feel.”

Black Mirror's National Anthem episode made headlines in the UK last week due to allegations about prime minister David Cameron
Black Mirror’s National Anthem episode (pictured) made headlines in the UK last week following allegations about prime minister David Cameron

Netflix will premiere the show exclusively worldwide, except in the UK and Ireland where plans are still being determined. This hesitation over the UK is unlike Netflix, but is probably due to Channel 4’s involvement in the franchise to date. Possibly, Netflix and Brooker are looking for a way to include C4 in the deal so that it can benefit from the expansion of a show it helped to build.

Netflix VP of original content Cindy Holland said: “Charlie has created a one-of-a-kind series with an uncanny voice and prescient, darkly comedic vision. We’re tremendously proud to bring Black Mirror to our members as a Netflix original series.”

In terms of other renewals, there is good news for Mistresses, which has been awarded a fourth season by ABC. Another female ensemble series, Lifetime’s Devious Maids, is also returning for a fourth season next year. Announcing the recommission, Liz Gateley, EVP of programming for Lifetime, said: “Devious Maids is a steady hit that continues to deliver for us. It has found a loyal audience that is socially engaged with the show. The entire writing and production team worked hard to up the storytelling this year and the cast delivered great performances, so the show just gets better and better.”

Inspired by the hit telenovela, Ellas son… la alegría del hogar, Devious Maids is produced by ABC Studios. Last season it drove Lifetime to rank as the number-two cable network with scripted programming in the Monday 21.00-22.00 slot among women aged 25-54 and 18-49, while its August 24 season finale reached season highs among total viewers, adults aged 25-54 and women aged 25-54.

Devious Maids has been given a fourth run
Devious Maids has been given a fourth run on Lifetime

This week also saw an announcement by Italian public broadcaster Rai that it has commissioned an eight-part drama. Medici: Masters of Florence will chronicle the rise of the Medici family, with Richard Madden (Game of Thrones) playing Cosimo de’ Medici and Hoffman portraying family patriarch Giovanni de’ Medici.

The series, which will be produced by Lux Vide and Frank Spotnitz’s Big Light Productions, has been created by Spotnitz and Nicholas Meyer (The Seven-Per-Cent Solution), with Sergio Mimica-Gezzan (The Pillars of the Earth) directing. Germany’s Wild Bunch TV is a co-financier and will oversee international sales, starting at Mipcom next month.

Spotnitz, a US writer who has carved out a strong niche for himself writing European coproductions in English, called the tale of the Medicis a “powerful story that resonates even now.”

Medici: Masters of Florence is a major step forward for Rai at a time when Italian producers and broadcasters are starting to have a much bigger impact on the international drama market. RAI Fiction director Tinny Andreatta said the show “has great international appeal and we hope it will open up a new era of creative coproductions.”

Finally, Televisa USA, a subsidiary of Mexican media giant Televisa responsible for English-language programming, and Lantica Media have announced they are developing a new version of Gran Hotel, based on hit Spanish series from Bambu Producciones. The show will be shot at Lantica’s Pinewood Dominican Republic Studios and is based on an original script by Stephen Kronish (24, Kennedys).

The original Gran Hotel
The original Gran Hotel

The new version of the format, which is distributed internationally by Beta Film, will be set in 1950s Cuba. “It was a time when mobsters, politicians and celebrities flocked to Havana, the world’s most exotic and permissive playground,” said Chris Philip, head of production and distribution for Televisa USA. “Setting Gran Hotel in a sexy, sinful atmosphere offers up a rich fusion of glamour and intrigue deeply rooted in an exceptional murder-mystery format with a proven global footprint.

Antonio Gennari, CEO of Lantica Media, added: “Since the introduction of (a new) film law and incentives, the Dominican Republic has seen substantial growth in film and TV production. The country offers mesmerising scenery and world-class production capabilities that will serve as the ideal backdrop for Havana’s Gran Hotel.” As part of the announcement, Gennari said Lantica and Televisa USA were also planning other projects.

The original Gran Hotel aired for three seasons on Antena 3 in Spain. During its first season, it reached an 18.5% share of viewers in Spain and was also sold to broadcasters in France, the UK and Russia, as well as being reversioned in Italy.

Beta Film SVP Christian Gockel said: “Gran Hotel is one of Beta’s biggest sales hits and franchises of recent years, as proven currently on Rai’s primetime. As coproducers of the Italian adaptation, we are thrilled to see Gran Hotel opening its doors in Cuba’s 1950s.”

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