Tag Archives: Good Witch

Roots revival starts strongly

Roots' first episode drew more than five million viewers
Roots’ debut drew more than five million viewers

When US network ABC broadcast its adaptation of Alex Haley’s Roots in 1977, it attracted a staggering audience of 28.8 million. This achievement was made all the more impressive by the fact that the network had no real confidence that a show about slavery would rate well.

A+E Networks never stood a chance of matching that figure with its updated version of the miniseries, but it will be delighted with the audience it achieved on Monday night. All told, 5.3 million tuned in to premiere of the eight-part drama, which aired across four sister channels – A&E, History, Lifetime and LMN. That figure is the best same-day debut for a miniseries since 2013’s Bonnie & Clyde.

Whether Roots can sustain that level of performance remains to be seen. An IMDb score of 7.1 suggests that the audience is either lukewarm about the show or polarised. The possibility of a polarised audience raised its head when rapper Snoop Dogg took to social media to complain about the number of black-focused films and TV shows that tackle slavery. “When are you going to make a series about the success black folks is having?” he wrote.

UnREAL has been given a third season before its second has begun

The show’s producer, Will Packer, rejected the criticism. In an interview, he said: “I don’t think we should get too comfortable as a country, as a society or as a race of people. I think this is a story that’s important enough that it should be told in repeated ways.”

The good news for Packer and A&E is that critics are on their side. Giving the show four stars, The Daily Telegraph applauded the “towering performance” of Malachi Kirby in the role of Kunta Kinte, while The Wrap called it “an enormously gripping experience” that is “spectacularly shot” and “exceptionally well acted.”

A&E can also take comfort from the fact that international broadcasters have bought into Roots in a big way. A&E Studios International has sold the show to broadcasters in more than 50 territories, including SBS in Australia, TVNZ in New Zealand, Thai PBS in Thailand, D’Live in South Korea, Atresmedia in Spain, HBO Europe, RTL in the Netherlands and Crave in Canada.

Good Witch
Good Witch is Hallmark’s top-performing drama

Another positive story for the A+E family has been Lifetime’s satirical drama UnREAL, co-created by Marti Noxon and Sarah Gertrude Shapiro. The show didn’t have an especially strong debut but a shrewd piece of online streaming during the first half of season one helped it find its audience. You can see this in the numbers. Having drifted from 815,000 at launch to 550,000 for episode four, it then bounced backed to around 810,000 for episode five, also boosting its appeal to 18- to 49-year-olds. Subsequently it managed to bring in around 700,000 per episode.

Season two is about to air, but such is Lifetime’s confidence in UnREAL that it has just announced a third series of 10 episodes in 2017. A big part of the show’s appeal to Lifetime is that it is helping to bring down the average viewer age of the network – with a median age of 43.

Commenting on the commission, Liz Gateley, executive VP and head of programming for Lifetime, said, “UnREAL is that rare series that redefines a network. It not only reflects culture, but pushes culture forward by creating television’s first female antihero. The overwhelming fan and critical reaction set the bar incredibly high, but the writers and executive producing team, coupled with the outstanding performances by Shiri Appleby and Constance Zimmer, have taken the second season to even greater creative heights. We are thrilled about the new ground we will break with season three.” An added bonus is that the show is produced by A+E Studios.

Versailles’ UK debut, on BBC2, did well

Another leading female-skewing network, Hallmark, has also just announced plans to renew one of its key series. The show is Good Witch, which comes to the end of season two on June 19. Having established itself as Hallmark’s top drama with an audience of around 2-2.5 million per episode, Good Witch has now been given a third season by the channel. Set in the small community of Middleton, Good Witch tells the story of a good-hearted enchantress and her teenage daughter who shares her powers.

Elsewhere, Fear The Walking Dead seems to have fallen into a nice stable pattern for AMC. Now in the middle of its second season, it attracts between 4.4 million and 4.5 million an episode on its first showing. This then rises by a couple of million when Live + 3-day viewing is tallied up. Clearly these figures aren’t in the same league as The Walking Dead, but there isn’t a cable channel in the US that wouldn’t want to attract this magnitude of audience.

Finally, Canal+’s lavish period drama Versailles launched on BBC2 in the UK this week on the back of plenty of hype in the media. Having been described as a “bonkbuster” by The Sun Newspaper and the “most explicit” drama ever by The Daily Express, it’s no real surprise that the show attracted a healthy 1.8 million viewers. The acid test, of course, will be how the show settles once the audience has satisfied its curiosity about the sex quotient…

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Tenney’s high hopes for Witch’s second spell

With the second season of Good Witch in production, executive producer Sue Tenney tells Michael Pickard how the Hallmark Channel series has grown from its TV movie origins.

Known for its extensive family movie slate, Hallmark Channel has been steadily building its slate of original series with shows including Cedar Cove, When Calls the Heart and Good Witch, which is now in production on its second season.

Spun off from the TV movie franchise of the same name, Good Witch stars Catherine Bell and Bailee Madison as mother and daughter Cassie and Grace, who share some enchanting powers.

From left: Good Witch stars James Denton, Catherine Bell and Bailee Madison
From left: Good Witch stars James Denton, Catherine Bell and Bailee Madison

And viewers will get a sneak peak of Good Witch when it returns to air with a Halloween special on October 24, before season two proper begins in 2016.

Executive producer Sue Tenney had just finished showrunning Cedar Cove, which stars Andie MacDowell in a series based on Debbie Macomber’s books, when she was asked to develop and showrun the first season of this new series.

“I was familiar with the movies, loved the characters and was excited about creating new characters and storylines for such a beloved franchise,” Tenney explains. “Catherine Bell was finally available, which was exciting to everyone. Then Hallmark Channel brought in the incredibly talented and handsome James Denton to play opposite Catherine (as her character’s new neighbour Sam) and the lovely Bailee to play Catherine’s daughter.”

Hallmark’s reputation for broad family entertainment means a fantasy comedy-drama such as Good Witch fits the bill perfectly, and Tenney says Bell in particular is a major draw.

“There are several reasons Good Witch is appealing to viewers. First and foremost is Catherine Bell. Viewers love her beauty, strength and wisdom. Only someone very special could embody such a perfect character as Cassie Nightingale. Catherine not only fills the role but her inner spark is what brings Cassie’s magic to life.

Tenney says viewers love the 'beauty, strength and wisdom' of Catherine Bell (pictured)
Tenney says viewers love the ‘beauty, strength and wisdom’ of Catherine Bell (pictured)

“Second, Good Witch is a family show portraying a family who like and respect each other. I think people like seeing positive images of family and community being represented on television. And third, people love watching Cassie and Sam’s developing friendship. Catherine and James have a wonderful chemistry and their relationship feels like real life.”

Television is no stranger to spin-offs, but how did Hallmark transform Good Witch from a TV movie franchise to an episodic series? Tenney says the films offered a great platform on which to build.

“But whenever you create a series based on movies or books, there is a lot that still needs to be built, such as additional characters and relationship dynamics, to give the series longevity,” she adds. “It was a challenge but when you love the world and the characters it’s a lot of fun to put together.”

One particular challenge was deciding when to set the series in terms of its characters’ lives. Another issue was the fact Chris Potter, who played Cassie’s husband in the seven films, was wrapped up in Canadian drama Heartland and wasn’t available to film the series. His character was subsequently killed off in the series opener, which debuted on Hallmark in February this year.

“The biggest challenge was that Chris was a very important character in the Good Witch world and we wanted to treat his absence with the weight it deserved,” says Tenney. “We started from that point and created Cassie’s journey going forward. The first season was about Cassie dealing with her loss while being a mother, business owner and a friend to her community. The second season is all about what happens next for Cassie.”

A Halloween special episode of Good Witch airs on October 24
A Halloween special episode of Good Witch airs on October 24

In the writers room, Tenney says there are two basic elements that must appear in every storyline: “We always start with how we can be true to the Good Witch franchise while telling stories the viewers haven’t seen before. The goal is always to take an interesting relationship or character story and infuse the right mix of mystery or magic to make it the perfect Good Witch story.”

But in the congested TV landscape, how can a show that avoids epic fantasy battles or brooding, flawed antiheroes stand out from the crowd?

“Good Witch is popular because it’s unique,” Tenney says. “The central family love each other and want to help each other. There is also Cassie’s wisdom. I feel like everyone can use a bit of inspiration in their lives.”

Season two promises plenty of surprises, Tenney adds, with several new relationships awaiting the characters. “We will be getting to know our characters in a deeper way. Several characters will have a visitor from their past who will impact their future. We believe we’ve created a very exciting season two.”

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