Tag Archives: Misfits

True crime tops TV trends

Sarah Paulson, Cuba Gooding Jr and John Travolta in American Crime Story: The People vs OJ Simpson
Sarah Paulson, Cuba Gooding Jr and John Travolta in American Crime Story: The People vs OJ Simpson

There’s a new trend in US TV and it’s called true crime. Cutting across the drama and documentary genres, it’s a category of shows that seeks to shine a light on the workings of the US justice system (usually by giving examples of its failings and weaknesses).

The most high-profile examples to date are Fox’s sophisticated drama series American Crime Story: The People vs OJ Simpson and Netflix’s documentary series Making a Murderer. But more are on the way.

This week, for example, it was revealed that CBS is developing its own true-crime unscripted series, centring on the 1996 murder of six-year-old beauty pageant star JonBenet Ramsey. Also coming up soon is Guilt, a drama series greenlit by Freeform (previously known as ABC Family).

Guilt, which debuts on June 13, is about a young American woman in London who becomes the prime suspect in the savage murder of her roommate. Loosely based on the famous Amanda Knox case, success for this show would undoubtedly keep the true crime bandwagon rolling.

Freeform has actually been making a lot of trade headlines this week as a result of its Upfronts. One of its most interesting announcements is that it is making a local version of Misfits, the UK drama that aired on E4 from 2009 to 2013. Created by Howard Overman, the show focuses on a group of young offenders who develop superpowers after being exposed to an electrical storm. The new series comes from executive producers Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, who previously developed Gossip Girl.

The original UK version of Misfits, which aired on E4
The original UK version of Misfits, which aired on E4

Other dramas coming through on Freeform include The Deep, Hunted and Lore, a sci-fi drama about the lone survivor of an ancient race of paranormal beings who is abducted and forced to put his extraordinary abilities to work for the government.

For 2017 there is Beyond, a one-hour drama about a young man who wakes up from a coma after 12 years and discovers new abilities that propel him into the middle of a dangerous conspiracy. Also of note, given the current trend towards series with a transgender theme, is New People. Executive produced by Joel Silver and writer/director Don Roos, in association with Lionsgate, this drama-comedy focuses on a middle class family who adopted identical twin boys at birth. One is all boy, one grew up trans.

Another trend gathering pace is that of dramas that explore the nefarious world of high finance. Recent examples that deal with this subject head-on or tangentially include Showtime series Billions, Sky/Canal+ show The Last Panthers and DR’s Follow the Money. Now, Zodiak Rights and Arise Pictures have joined forces on The Cleaners, a 10-part series about international money laundering.

Described as Casino Royale meets Wall Street, the drama revolves around CIA operatives working with illegal money launderers in the Middle East to achieve regime change. Coproduction partners already on board include Spain’s Arcadia Motion Pictures and the UK’s Propulsion Pictures. “This new drama could not be more topical after the recent leak of the Panama papers, highlighting how and where heads of state hide their money around the world,” said Caroline Torrance, head of scripted at Zodiak Rights.

Grimm has been given a sixth season
Grimm has been given a sixth season

In May last year, we looked at the success of NBC’s supernatural crime drama Grimm and the reasons it had been renewed for a fifth season. This week, NBC announced a sixth season of the show. NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke said of the team behind the show: “They have created a whole new world of creatures and have a truly devoted fan base. We can’t wait to see what comes next.”

Season five of Grimm finished in April, with its ratings actually on an upward trajectory. The 4.5 million viewers it attracted to the 16th and final episode was the highest of the entire series. The show is also very strong in time-shifting, almost doubling its audience in terms of Live+7-day ratings.

Elsewhere, CBS has renewed NCIS: Los Angeles for an eighth season, while Fox has awarded renewals to two of its new dramas, Rosewood and Lucifer. Both have performed above Fox’s scripted average for the season without really setting the schedule on fire. Nevertheless, Fox Entertainment president David Madden said: “We knew we had something special with Lucifer, from the engaging performances of Tom Ellis, Lauren German and the rest of the cast, to Len Wiseman’s visually stunning look of the show.”

As for Rosewood, Madden said creator Todd Harthan “has put a fresh, playful spin on the procedural format, infusing it with wit and warmth, while Morris Chestnut, Jaina Lee Ortiz and the show’s supporting cast have turned in fantastic performances. We look forward to standout sophomore seasons from both series.”

Lucifer has also been renewed
Lucifer has also been renewed

Outside the US, Nordic broadcaster C More Entertainment, which owns networks including TV4 Sweden, has started production on a thriller about a bank robber who moves to Thailand to start a new life. Called Farang, the series was created by Malin Lagerlöf and Stefan Thunberg, and will premiere on C More in Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland next year before later airing on TV4.

Bo Thörnwall, director of programmes at C More, said: “Announcing new local content is always a pleasure, since our strong Swedish offer makes us unique in the market.” Josefine Tengblad, head of drama at TV4 and C More, added that the show “will be a gut-wrenching thriller – a drama about the emotional, fragile connection between a father and the daughter he abandoned.”

The show is part of a concerted drive by C More/TV4 into the drama business. Other titles on their slate include Gåsmamman, a thriller that was doing the rounds at MipTV last week, Beck and upcoming crime drama Missing.

In other international news, UK indie Mam Tor Productions has joined with Escapade Media on the upcoming Australian drama series Art of Killing. The six-part psychological thriller is adapted from the novel A Dark Place to Die by Ed Chatterton. The scriptwriters include Paul Duane, Rob Cawley and Sarah Smith. Commenting on the partnership, Escapade Media MD Natalie Lawley said: “In the growing world of international coproductions, it’s imperative to have a producer who can drive the project to distinction, especially in face of the strong competition. Tally’s work is proof of this and she is a perfect fit for this project.”

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Finding the right fit

Howard Overman
Howard Overman

Howard Overman is one of the UK’s leading screenwriters, with recent credits including BBC1’s Atlantis and E4 cult hit Misfits.

It has taken him around 10 years of perfecting his craft to reach the front rank of the profession, although his entry to the industry didn’t necessarily hint at his future success.

“I was doing a job I hated,” he recalls, “something in marketing. So I decided to go and do a course at college. I chose screenwriting, but I might just as easily have chosen cookery classes. I was just looking for a new direction and that’s what was on offer.”

Soon after, he entered an ITV screenwriting competition, which resulted in him being given the chance to write an episode of Clocking Off for Red Production Company’s Nicola Shindler.

“It wasn’t used because the show finished. But that episode was passed around and got me my first television writing jobs,” he says.

Starting in 2005, Overman has written for shows such as Hustle, New Tricks, Moving Wallpaper, Hotel Babylon and Spooks: Code 9. A major gearshift in his career came with BBC fantasy series Merlin, for which he wrote 11 episodes.

Misfits, the 'big turning point' in Overman's TV career
Misfits, the ‘big turning point’ in Overman’s TV career

“But the big turning point was definitely Misfits,” says Overman. “It won a Bafta in its first season and was well received in the US. I learnt so much about storyline, plotting – everything – as a result of running that show for five years.”

Apart from a few episodes, Overman wrote all of Misfits. He also created and co-wrote a pilot for a US version of the show. So does he prefer the European auteur approach to the US writers room model?

“They’re very different. In the US, they are working with bigger budgets and more episodes – whereas Misfits was only around six episodes per season. I’d probably give the writers room approach a try, but with Misfits I’m not sure it would have worked because it was such a genre mash-up, combining teen comedy, superheroes, horror, time travel and so on. Even with a traditional show, it’s tough to find other writers who can write your show in a way you are happy with. Everyone thinks they can write but it’s harder than you think.”

Alongside Misfits, Overman wrote comedy-drama police procedural Vexed (which didn’t do especially well) and Dirk Gently, a BBC4 adaptation of the novels by Douglas Adams.

Overman wrote 11 episodes of Merlin
Overman wrote 11 episodes of Merlin

However, the next big breakthrough came when he was handed the task of delivering a Saturday-evening hit for mainstream channel BBC1 (perhaps more of a reflection of his work on Merlin than Misfits). The result was Atlantis, a fantasy adventure created by Overman, Johnny Capps and Julian Murphy via their new production company Urban Myth Films.

The show ran for two seasons but was axed earlier this year having failed to really ignite the Saturday evening schedule. While some observers believe the BBC was premature in its decision to cancel the show, Overman is philosophical.

“Atlantis was a slightly troubled beast,” he explains. “We thought it would play in early evening but it went out at 21.30, where it didn’t really sit that comfortably. If we had known it was going into that slot we would have done it a bit differently.”

Post-Atlantis, Overman is currently developing a range of feature film and TV projects via Urban Myth. On the TV front, he says he is working on a dark comedy for ITV2 about a young man suffering from a terminal brain tumour. He is also writing a “Dickensian period piece” for the BBC about bare-knuckle boxing in the early 1800s.

BBC1's Atlantis
BBC1’s Atlantis

He says: “It’s set in Regency London and follows the experiences of a black fighter. It’s loosely based on a real-life fighter from the era called Tom Molineaux who was born into slavery in Virginia but came to Britain to fight successfully for years. Bare-knuckle fighting was hugely popular back then and could attract crowds of 15,000 or more.”

Looking back over his career, Overman believes his progression counters the notion that TV is an inherently nepotistic industry.

“I didn’t know anyone in the business when I started,” he adds. “I’ve always found it to be quite a pure industry in that respect. My experience is that producers don’t give a monkey’s where you’re from as long as your writing is good. This business is all about having the desire, ambition and drive to do it.”

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