Tag Archives: Prisoners of War

A matter of time

The Shannara Chronicles
A recent episode of The Shannara Chronicles’ saw its audience grow 164% after seven days

With so much time-shifted viewing taking place these days, you can understand why TV executives get frustrated when scripted shows are judged on the basis on their same-day audience.

Same-day ratings are a good indicator of a show’s social currency but have little value as the basis of a renewal decision.

This point is well illustrated by US cable data for the week of February 8 to 14, which makes it clear some shows are being saved up for later viewing.

A good example is MTV’s The Shannara Chronicles, which is expected to earn the greenlight for a second season soon. For the week in question, its same-day audience was 801,000. But after seven days this had risen 164% to 2.1 million.

Similarly impressive were USA Network’s Colony, which recorded a 129% rise from 1.07 million to 2.46 million; Showtime’s Billions, which rose 115% from 1.01 million to 2.17 million; American Crime Story: The People Vs OJ Simpson, up 112% from 3.88 million (same day) to 8.26 million (live+7); and USA Networks hit Suits, up 99% from 1.7 million to 3.4 million.

The one criticism you can make of seven-day ratings is that they suggest a lack of urgency on the part of the audience to watch a show. Compare the above results with The Walking Dead, for example, which recorded a 45% rise from 13.7 million to 19.98 million over the course of the first week. A key reason why the time-shifted viewing figure is lower here is that audiences can’t wait to discover who is next to succumb to the dreaded ‘walkers’ – and perhaps avoid dreaded spoilers. Still, the best advice is to avoid immediate judgement of a show.

NCIS continues to go from strength to strength on
NCIS continues to perform strongly for CBS

Elsewhere in the US, the big story of the week is that CBS has just renewed its hugely popular procedural NCIS for two more seasons (taking the show up to 15 seasons). Echoing the point made above, a salutary lesson from this show is that the first few seasons, while not bad, weren’t massive ratings winners. The show only really started to pick up momentum in season three and four before going into overdrive in season six.

These days NCIS continues to deliver huge ratings and has also spawned a spin-off – NCIS: New Orleans. Given that NBC is also having a lot of success with Dick Wolf’s Chicago procedurals, you can’t help thinking that US networks might start putting a bit more effort into finding the next big police/lawyer/hospital show.

One programme whose future is completely in the balance is The Mysteries of Laura, an NBC drama about a policewoman trying to juggle her home life with her work responsibilities. The show has just finished its second season with modest ratings and there is no word yet on whether it will be renewed by the network. The general consensus is that it could go either way.

Will The Mysteries of Laura get a renewal?
Will The Mysteries of Laura get a renewal?

There are two reasons why this matters. The first is that it is a female-led show, so renewal on modest ratings might give us a clue as to NBC’s intentions regarding gender-balance. The other is that the show is actually a format, based on a Spain’s Los Misterios de Laura (TVE 2009-2014).

European drama formats don’t often manage to survive for very long in the US so it would be nice to see this one get renewed. That might persuade other networks to keep the faith with format-based shows. Too many early cancellations of scripted formats isn’t great news for anyone trying to crack the US.

Still on the subject of international formats, one of the week’s big stories is that Indian entertainment channel Star Plus has ordered a local version of Keshet International (KI) format Prisoners of War (aka Hatufim), which was famously remade as Homeland in the US. The Indian version will be produced by Emmay Entertainment and directed by Nikkhil Advani, a Bollywood director whose credits include Kal Ho Na Ho, D-Day, Delhi Safari and Katti Batti.

Keshet International's Prisoners of War, which was remade as Homeland in the US
Keshet International’s Prisoners of War, which was remade as Homeland in the US

Created, written and directed by Gideon Raff, Prisoners of War follows two soldiers as they attempt to re-adjust to their lives after returning home from 17 years in captivity. Aside from the US deal, it has already been licensed for adaptation in South Korea (Star J Entertainment), Russia (Weit Media) and Turkey (Medyapim). In the context of India, you could easily imagine a plot involving soldiers who have been imprisoned in Pakistan.

KI distribution MD Keren Shahar said: “The versatility of the format is evident, since it has attracted a dedicated following anywhere it has aired in the world. Securing this deal with a highly esteemed partner is indicative of KI’s future ambitions in India.”

Still looking overseas, we’re now just a month away from MipTV. The international programme market, held in Cannes, has always played a big role in whether scripted shows manage to attract the attention of buyers. And now it is building on that position by increasing the number of drama screenings it hosts.

It's been a good week for Schitt's Creek
It’s been a good week for Schitt’s Creek

At this year’s MipTV, titles given screenings include Bodo (TVP Poland), Bordertown (Fox US), Ku’Damm 56 – Rebel With a Cause (ZDF Enterprises), Medici: Masters of Florence (Wild Bunch), Roots (A&E US), Section Zero (Studiocanal), The A Word (Keshet) and Victoria (ITV). A solid performance for any of these shows down in Cannes could provide a useful boost to their international sales prospects.

One other series that rates a mention is the Canadian half-hour comedy Schitt’s Creek, which has just been renewed for a third season by CBC Canada. The decision comes despite the fact that the second season is only four episodes in. More good news for Schitt’s Creek is that the third season has also been picked up by US cable network Pop (a JV between CBS and Lionsgate).

Pop is yet to air the second season of the show, which centres on a wealthy family that suddenly finds itself broke and forced to live in Schitt’s Creek, a small town they once bought as a joke. Eugene and Daniel Levy co-created and star in the comedy. The third season renewal will also be welcomed by ITV Studios Global Entertainment, which distributes.

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Sara Johnson

Sara Johnson is executive producer and head of coproductions, scripted, at Keshet International UK. Opting to give DQ a whopping 10 shows instead of the usual six, Sara adds Keshet titles Prisoners of War and The A Word to her ‘nostalgic’ list of top dramas.

My list is nostalgic, dominated by series from the beginning of my career and others that have, in recent years, managed to persuade me to come back repeatedly after my habitual ‘one-episode watch.’

Cracker unnerved me, opening my eyes to the possibilities of a returning series drama and how it could grab me week by week, stretching across my timeline as an English student considering a career in TV drama and a producer’s secretary who was newly on her way. Growing up in a BBC household, this was ITV showing all it had to offer and it opened my eyes to how to portray darkness without causing people to look away.

Our Friends In the North inspired me. Back in 1996, as a reader at the drama series department at the BBC, this show empowered me to pursue my ambition of being a script editor. I still remember how obsessed I was by the characters and how the names involved in its making became a beacon for me going forwards.

Cardiac Arrest gripped me. I loved the darkness and how very different this was from Casualty or any other medical series I had watched or worked on. I also liked that it wasn’t softened for our TV screens.

This Life hooked me. My friends and I would watch it religiously, with the characters and their lives echoing our own yet pushing boundaries that we would never dare to. I stayed with these characters across the series and felt both bereft and relieved when the last episode finally came.

Queer As Folk shocked me. I needed TV drama to do that for me at that time, and I loved how it showed my native Manchester in ways I’d never seen it before, throwing away the rule book on who and what could be seen on screen, and how it could be shown.

Pride and Prejudice romanced me, taking one of my favourite books that I had studied for both my GCSEs and my A-levels and bringing it to life on screen. Unlike many other programmes I was watching at the time, I could share this with my mum and aunties, and we all got to disappear into the world of Jane Austen together.

ERER was a series I followed weekly for its entire run. It took over from the Hill St Blues and St Elsewhere favourites of my childhood and continued my love of American TV drama formats. I watched it as a student, a secretary, a script editor, a commissioner and an exec producer; as a single woman, a married one and a mum. It crossed over my life and had George Clooney in it. Perfect TV.

mad-menMad Men is another show of which I’ve seen every episode and one of the first series, post kids, that became addictive viewing that my husband and I could enjoy together. It is still an appointment-to-view for us, even though other shows have found their way into our together TV time. The style and single vision behind the series carry us through some of the weaker episodes and seasons.

Sherlock delighted me because it found me slightly jaded, languishing in development hell. It made me smile, think and enjoy TV drama all over again. Stylish and modern but with traditional and expert storytelling, it caught a nerve and grabbed its audience with verve and confidence.

The-A-Word_KeshetHatufim (Prisoners of War)/The A Word (pictured) continue to inspire me. Both telling stories from another country, with nuances, characters and stories that belong to their own time and place, but also with huge global appeal, crossing borders and opening eyes. These series are impossible to choose between and are the reason I came to work in my current job. Written and directed by two very different genius talents, I could watch them again and again.

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