Tag Archives: The Librarians

Netflix and Amazon blast into 2016

Mind Hunter is being adapted for TV

Just as the traditional TV business was winding down for the holiday season, the industry’s SVoD giants unveiled plans for a slate of new scripted shows.

Netflix, for example, is planning a new series called Mindhunter with director David Fincher. Based on the 1996 book Mind Hunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit, the series will be Fincher’s follow-up to House of Cards, the political series that put Netflix drama on the map.

House of Cards, meanwhile, will return for a fourth season on March 4.

Online rival Amazon also had big news concerning its origination plans. On the eve of the holiday season, it announced it was taking five primetime pilots to series – two one-hour dramas and three half-hour comedies.

The first of the new dramas is Good Girls Revolt, which follows a group of young female researchers working in a 1960s newsroom. A coproduction with TriStar Television, the show was inspired by Lynn Povich’s book The Good Girls Revolt and is written by Dana Calvo (Made in Jersey).

Good Girls Revolt
Amazon’s Good Girls Revolt, written by Made in Jersey’s Dana Calvo

The second of Amazon’s greenlit dramas is political thriller Patriot, which follows the adventures of intelligence officer John Tavner. Assigned with preventing Iran from going nuclear, Tavner assumes a perilous ‘non-official cover’ – that of a mid-level employee at an industrial piping firm. Patriot is being written and directed by Steven Conrad (known for The Secret Life of Walter Mitty).

In addition to its new commissions, Amazon also confirmed its renewal of a number of existing shows. These include the drama series Hand of God and The Man in the High Castle. According to Amazon, the latter (written by Frank Spotnitz) is the platform’s most-streamed original show yet.

All of this comes in addition to other Amazon projects such as a new series of crime drama Bosch and a previously announced David E Kelley drama called Trial, starring Billy Bob Thornton. In total, this means Amazon is doubling its slate of original primetime comedies and dramas from six to 12 as it begins 2016. On top of this, the streamer is also ratcheting up its commitment to children’s series.

The Man in the High Castle has performed strongly for Amazon
Frank Spotnitz’s The Man in the High Castle has performed strongly for Amazon

Outside these SVoD announcements, the holiday season has been quiet in terms of greenlights. However, there have been a few announcements of interest.

Among these is the news that US cable channel Syfy has ordered a second season of space drama The Expanse. Based on a bestselling book series, the show is set 200 years in the future and follows the case of a missing young woman that brings a detective and a rogue ship’s captain together in a race across the solar system that will expose the greatest conspiracy in human history.

The show has been getting solid but not spectacular ratings, attracting 1.6 million viewers per episode in live+3 ratings. However, Syfy clearly sees something worth supporting because it will also increase the number of episodes from 10 in season one to 13 in season two.

“The Expanse is firing on all cylinders creatively, building a passionate fanbase among viewers and critics alike, and delivering on Syfy’s promise of smart, provocative science-fiction entertainment,” said Dave Howe, president of Syfy and Chiller.

Syfy has greenlit a second season of The Expanse
Syfy has greenlit a second season of The Expanse

Still in the US, cable channel TNT has renewed its fantasy adventure The Librarians (a spin-off from the TV movie franchise of the same name) and crime dramas Murder In The First and Major Crimes. These will go into the 2016 line-up alongside previously renewed shows Rizzoli & Isles and The Last Ship and new arrivals Good Behavior, Animal Kingdom and The Alienist. The slate is designed to help TNT rebrand itself as an edgier network.

In the UK, public broadcaster BBC1 has announced a second season of Ordinary Lies, a Red Production Company drama that centres on a group of characters harbouring secrets. According to the BBC, the new series will centre on a different scenario and set of characters – reinforcing the current trend towards anthology series.

While the first season was set in a car showroom, the second will be based in the “HQ of a large, national sports goods company with an array of new, compelling and clandestine characters.” Season one performed well, bringing in an audience of around six million.

BBC is treading the anthology path with the second run of Ordinary Lies
BBC is treading the anthology path with the second run of Ordinary Lies

In other BBC news, the corporation has given a second season to Carnival’s historical drama The Last Kingdom but has cancelled cop show Cuffs after one season. The eight-part production attracted an audience of just over three million, which is not really strong enough to justify a renewal.

A BBC spokesman said: “We are very proud of Cuffs and would like to thank all those involved, but in order to create space for new shows and to keep increasing the range of BBC1 drama, the show will not be returning for a second season.” Almost exactly the same words were used to justify the axing of Atlantis and Our Zoo.

One of the more unusual media stories of the last few weeks was the news that Sky Arts in the UK is to make a one-off drama about a weird and wonderful road trip that pop icon Michael Jackson took with actors Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando in 2011. Entitled Elizabeth, Michael and Marlon, the show is being produced by Little Rock Pictures and will reportedly star Joseph Fiennes as Jackson, Stockard Channing as Taylor and Brian Cox as Brando.

The decision to cast a white actor (Fiennes) as a black icon (Jackson) is an unusual one – so it will be interesting to see what kind of reception his performance gets. It comes at a time when the British TV industry is receiving regular criticism for its failure to support ethnic minority talent in front of and behind the camera.

Ralph Fiennes is set to portray pop legend Michael Jackson
Ralph Fiennes is set to portray pop legend Michael Jackson in Elizabeth, Michael and Marlon

In Canada, commercial broadcaster CTV has announced that there will be a fifth season of its popular supernatural medical drama Saving Hope. The show also airs on US cable channel Ion Television and Australian entertainment channel SoHo.

Also on the distribution front, Japan’s Wowow has acquired exclusive broadcast rights to NBC series Blindspot from Warner Bros International Television Distribution. Other recent Wowow series acquisitions from the US include The Player and Zoo.

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Family affair: John Rogers on The Librarians

Showrunner John Rogers tells Michael Pickard why family-friendly fantasy drama The Librarians stands up against its bloodier rivals.

If Game of Thrones represents the brutal and bloody face of fantasy drama, The Librarians is firmly placed at the other end of the genre’s spectrum.

Based on a string of TV movies, the series focuses on an ancient organisation hidden beneath New York’s Metropolitan Public Library that is dedicated to protecting an unknowing world from the secret, magical reality hidden all around.

Showrunner John Rogers
Showrunner John Rogers rewrote two of the movies in the Librarian franchise

The group solves impossible mysteries, fights supernatural threats and recovers powerful artefacts, including the Ark of the Covenant, the Spear of Destiny and Excalibur.

The Librarians is produced for US cable channel TNT by Electric Entertainment. John Rogers, Dean Devlin, Marc Roskin and Noah Wyle are the exec producers.

“I always describe the show as a family fantasy adventure where smart people solve problems with their brains,” says Rogers, who is also the showrunner. “It’s a show people can watch with their kids, and we make a point that violence is always the last resort. It celebrates knowledge and learning. The addition of the fantastic, the magical and the mythic makes it even more fun.

“I’m a fan of Game of Thrones and the darker stuff. But if you just have a diet of nothing but that, you get bored. All we’re saying is you can have a different style of show that embraces fantasy, that embraces genre and doesn’t necessarily need to go down the dark and gritty route.”

Three films – The Librarian: Quest for the Spear in 2004, The Librarian: Return to King Solomon’s Mines in 2006 and 2008’s The Librarian: Curse of the Judas Chalice – were produced for TNT in which Wyle starred as the titular hero who protected a secret collection of artefacts.

In the subsequent spin-off, which debuted on TNT in 2014, Wyle’s Librarian was joined by four new characters who work for the library, played by Rebecca Romijn, Christian Kane, Lindy Booth and John Kim.

The Librarians returns for season two on November 1 and Rogers says the show will be bigger and better in terms of characters, plots and the effects on show throughout the 10-episode run.

“Last year was very much a welcome to this secret magical world,” he explains. “The second season asks how the characters live in it. How do they become the heroes this world needs them to be? We put the characters through their paces as they get more and more responsibility and they begin to lose the identities they assumed because they didn’t quite fit into the world in the first year.

Rogers says The Librarians ‘celebrates knowledge and learning’

“The effects, plot and story are also bigger this year. Last year we said magic was coming back, and it is now showing up in a way that can’t be ignored anymore. So the adventures get bigger, the stakes get higher and the mythical structure of the show expands. We begin the show learning the library is not the only magical place out there and they’re not the only magical organisation. There are other traditions, other power groups and other magic users, and we start to meet them this year.”

Rogers is best known for fellow TNT series Leverage, which he created with Chris Downey. The show, which ran for five seasons until 2012, followed a team brought together to fight government and corporate injustices. He is also an executive producer on NBC’s Las Vegas-set crime drama The Player, which stars Wesley Snipes.

But having rewritten the first and third Librarian movies, Rogers was asked to develop a TV show around the franchise, and to do so he brought together a “really eclectic, weird staff” to help develop its fantastical storylines.

The team includes writers who have medieval literature and history degrees, a biochemist, a romance novelist and a history expert, while Rogers himself has a physics degree.

“You put together the most eclectic crew you can and then tell the most interesting stories,” he says. “We throw ideas on the wall and then we just play with it. What would be the twist that makes us happy? What would surprise us? We like to tell stories from a viewer-friendly point of view.”

But doesn’t the use of magic offer an easy solution to any sticky situation in which the characters might find themselves? Rogers compares The Librarians to the recently cancelled CBS series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, in which “you can identify every killer because of something or other. Most of the audience has no idea how that tech works – it’s effectively magic,” he says.

“We make a joke on the show at one point that magic doesn’t make sense. If it did, it would be science. All shows have problems now with magical technology but our magic has a very specific set of rules. It’s not really, ‘Are you going to solve this problem?’ It’s about how it’s going to change the character when they solve the problem, and the character’s sacrifice in order to solve the problem. That’s the more interesting story.”

Noah Wyle reprises his role from the Librarian TV movies and also exec produces
Noah Wyle reprises his role from the Librarian TV movies and also exec produces

Rogers also has experience writing for the big screen, having worked on Transformers, Catwoman and science-fiction adventure The Core. And while the changing economics of the movie business have made it much harder to make anything in between the extremes of a big-budget blockbuster or a small independent production, Rogers says there is plenty to like about working in television.

“It takes a long time to get a film off the ground and there are a few things that are very attractive about television – you can tell longform stories, you can spend a hundred hours with these characters and take them on a full emotional journey and work in partnership with the actors over several years,” he says.

“And we make it. We write stuff and it shows up the next day. Sometimes we write something and it airs the next day, never mind shooting the next day. You feel like you’re not just collecting script fees and waiting for your movie to get made three years from now. You’re actually making the product and seeing your vision on the screen and getting it out to the audience.”

With The Librarians heading into its second season, Rogers says the show can run for as long as TNT wants it on the air: “I always say it’s five (seasons) and out, but you want to tell a complete story. Shows can drift when they don’t have a specific end date or end goal. The Librarians tells the story of how the world changes as magic starts to creep back into it and the adventures of these people who are in charge of handling that. We may get to the end of the story and decide we want to tell a slightly different version of it, but it’s an interesting story, there are great characters and it can run for as long as they’ll let us stay on.

“When we started The Librarians, we knew what the last scene of season five was. Where we go from there – and hopefully we get to do more seasons than that – I don’t know.”

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