Tag Archives: Warner Bros

Warner’s DC Comics enjoys boom

Arrow
Arrow is now in its fifth season

A couple of months ago, we looked at the success Disney has had with its Marvel acquisition. So it seems only fair that we also shine a spotlight on DC Comics, a division of Warner Bros that has spawned dozens of films, scripted shows and animation series.

Characters from DC, formed in 1932, have formed the basis of hit TV series since the 1950s. After early outings for Superman and Batman, DC properties gave us iconic shows like Wonder Woman, Superboy, Lois & Clark and Smallville.

The latter ran for 10 seasons (2001-2011) and 218 episodes, first on The WB and then on its replacement network The CW (which is 50/50 owned by CBS and DC Comics owner Warner Bros).

While DC properties remain an important part of the feature-film landscape, it’s The CW that continues to provide the major platform for DC Comics’ success on the small screen.

A key landmark was the launch of Arrow in 2012. Adapted for the screen by Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim and Andrew Kreisberg, the show is one of The CW’s top performers and is currently in its fifth season, attracting just under two million viewers per episode.

The importance of Arrow goes beyond its ratings, however. On the one hand, it has encouraged The CW to back a number of DC-based franchises, with Berlanti and co in charge of the creative. On the other, it has persuaded some of the larger US networks to tap into the company’s pool of comic book IP.

Supergirl
Supergirl, starring Melissa Benoist, moved to The CW after starting life on CBS

Looking first at The CW, 2014 saw the launch of The Flash, which is part of the same mythological universe as Arrow (known to aficionados as the ‘Arrowverse’). Now in season three, The Flash is currently The CW’s top-rated show with around 2.8 million viewers per episode. And earlier this year, the network launched another spin-off based on the ‘Arrowverse’ pool of characters. Called DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, it is currently attracting a steady 1.8 million and has been renewed for a 17-episode second season.

In addition to the above shows, The CW is also home to Supergirl, a DC-based series that was originally aired on CBS but then shifted to The CW for season two when its ratings started to decline. In the less exposed world of The CW, the show has thrived and is now its second most popular series, averaging 2.6 million viewers.

The relationship with DC has also allowed The CW to segue into the ‘Zombieverse’ with iZombie. Loosely based on a comic book series that came out of DC’s Vertigo imprint, the show has a third season on the way and averages around 1.2 million viewers.

The rise of DC’s stock has also encouraged some of the Big Four US networks to sample the company’s wares. The stand out example of this is Fox’s Gotham, which delves into the backstory of the young Batman, focusing its energy primarily on Commissioner James Gordon and the origin stories of some of Batman’s most famous enemies. Now in its third season, the show is currently attracting an OK-but-not-amazing 3.4 million (down from four million in season two and six million in season one).

iZombie
iZombie averages 1.2 million viewers

Echoing its growing relationship with Disney’s Marvel, Fox has adapted a second DC property, Lucifer, based on a character that appeared in comic book series The Sandman (created by Neil Gaiman, Sam Kieth and Mike Dringenberg).

The show debuted last year and did well enough to get a second season. Currently averaging around 3.5 million viewers, the second run was extended to 22 episodes last month – though the jury is still out on whether it is doing well enough to secure a third outing.

Without being overly critical, there is a pattern with DC properties – they perform strongly on The CW but modestly on the Big Four. Gotham and Lucifer have done OK but not fantastically well, while Supergirl’s strong start dissipated quickly, hence its move to The CW. To this list should be added Constantine, which aired for a single season on NBC before being axed.

The main reason for this is The CW is a narrowly focused youth channel while the Big Four are mainstream, so are probably trying to reach an audience that is more ambivalent about superheroes and fantasy adventure series. Nevertheless, there are more planned DC shows in the pipeline for the Big Four.

NBC, for example, is developing a sitcom rooted in the DC universe. Called Powerless, the shows is “a workplace comedy set at one of the worst insurance companies in the US – with the twist being that it also takes place in the universe of DC Comics. The show is about the reality of working life for a normal, powerless person in a world of superheroes and villains.”

Gotham
Batman prequel series Gotham airs on Fox

Fox, meanwhile, is reported to be piloting a show based on Black Lightning, one of the first African American superheroes to appear in DC Comics. This is a welcome trend, echoing the recent Marvel/Netflix tie-in on the new Luke Cage series.

Of course, the fact that The CW does so well has not been lost on cable channels, which have a similar kind of niche profile. So we’re also starting to see more DC properties populate this part of the TV business. AMC, for example, is doing pretty well with Preacher, another idea from DC’s Vertigo imprint. The first season attracted around 1.68 million per episode and a recommission followed.

Other pilot orders include Scalped for WGN America and Krypton for Syfy (the latter set in the Superman universe). There are also reported to be several other titles in development including DMZ and Ronin for Syfy and Amped for USA Network. FX is also believed to be developing a series based on Y: The Last Man.

For those unfamiliar with the world of comic books, the DC/Vertigo dichotomy is interesting. While the former is home to mainstream franchises like Superman and Batman, the latter was specifically set up to publish more hard-hitting, adult-themed franchises. This is significant, because it opened up the range of opportunities for DC.

Supergirl, for example, might fit on CBS or The CW but would look tame on AMC. Preacher, by contrast, would not go down well with a more mainstream audience. That said, Constantine and Lucifer were both born into the Vertigo family, which shows that the Big Four networks have been exploring the potential to soften Vertigo shows for their demos.

Preacher has been given a second season on AMC
Preacher has been given a second season on AMC

It’s also worth noting that there have been other DC subsidiaries down the years that are still providing IP for film and TV. For example, DC acquired an imprint called WildStorm in 1999 and shut it down in 2010. During that time, WildStorm created Red, a franchise that was subsequently turned into two successful films. Recent reports suggest NBC is now planning a TV version.

One obvious final question, of course, is how DC-based shows fare internationally. Well, not too badly actually.

Gotham has been licensed to platforms including Globo Brazil, Pro7 Germany and Netflix in Poland, while Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow have both been acquired by Italia 1 among others.

Lucifer has also travelled well, to platforms such as Amazon UK and Viasat 3 in Hungary. On UK pay TV channel Sky1, latest ratings figures put The Flash, Arrow and Supergirl as the top three shows, underlining the global appeal of the dynamic DC business.

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DQ uncovers the hidden story of Farang

Red Arrow International is at Mipcom 2016 distributing action-packed Swedish thriller Farang. Producer Anna Wallmark Avelin and co-ordinator Frida Wallman reveal the hidden story behind the series.

Set in Thailand, Farang is a landmark new series about love, betrayal and the complicated ties that bind a father with his daughter.

Anna Wallmark Avelin
Anna Wallmark Avelin

The show features a stellar cast including Ola Rapace (Skyfall, Section Zero, Wallander, Together), Louise Nyvall (Girls Lost) and Yayaying Rhatha Phongam (Only God Forgives).

Former criminal Rickard (Rapace) has vanished. Fleeing Sweden and the old friends he has testified against, he abandons his name, his life and his family to start over in Thailand. Ten years later and still with a price on his head, Rickard knows that a return home would be a death sentence. And so he ekes out his existence as a small-time crook in the back alleys of Phuket. Life’s tough and dirty, but at least it won’t kill him. That’s the idea, anyway.

When his 15-year-old daughter Thyra comes looking for him, Rickard’s self-imposed exile in this gritty paradise is soon under threat. His attempts to push her away only drive her deeper into the dark underworld that Rickard knows only too well. After a momentary lapse in judgement, Rickard’s cover is blown and both he and his daughter find themselves in very real danger. Their only chance of survival is to strike back at those who are coming for them.

Frida Wallman
Frida Wallman

This story arc wasn’t always the path for Farang’s main character. Rickard was originally a policeman. He planned to start a new life in a Thai paradise, but throughout the development of the show, new angles began to develop and new people came along. So it all changed and he switched sides: from a cop to a criminal in the dark underbelly of paradise.

We found the most rewarding and yet challenging thing about the creative process in producing Farang was trying to keep a consistent voice and holding on to the uniqueness of the series through all of the different eyes and brains who have worked on the project over the years.

Another major change was that the eight-part series, produced by Warner Bros for CMore Entertainment and TV4 Sweden, shifted genre over the development period.

What initially started out as a light drama became a thrilling, edgy drama. Originally the show was about a policeman in paradise solving a minor criminal case, with tourists somehow involved in each episode, and with some added rom-com glitter.

Farang stars Ola Rapace
Farang stars Ola Rapace

We then felt we wanted to add a strong emotional theme to the series. We didn’t want the audience to know what was going to happen next – who would fool them, who would fall in love and who would be sacrificed.

So when this project and the scripts finally landed, it wasn’t so light anymore. We also needed time to tell the story in all its scope, so the thriller journey began and all of a sudden there was only one case left to solve over the whole season. We also found that it was far more exciting and complex if Rickard was a criminal with a hidden identity, on the other side of the law.

We then came to the visuals and the environment. The initial plan was to shoot the series on the sunny beaches of Thailand but, based on the above journey, we felt we had to move behind the postcard-worthy vistas. The new take on the story required something more.

Rapace
Rapace alongside Louise Nyvall, who plays his teenage daughter

We wanted to make a Scandi noir set in an exotic place to suit the story, but also to make it resonate with the themes, so all the reccies began to take place around corners, behind the glitzy hotels, away from the big streets. That’s how we built the universe of Farang.

The word ‘farang’ is used by Thais for people of European descent in Thailand, and usually denotes a foreigner. It sums up the feeling of unease and outsider-dom that pervades the series and Rickard’s psyche.

In terms of filming in Thailand, one small challenge was putting a very Scandinavian cast in a tropical location!

Ola Rapace’s character Rickard has been living in Thailand for 10 years and is consequently used to the warm climate. Rickard is comfortable walking around in jeans – even when the temperature reaches 45 degrees. Imagine the sweat on him after shooting 10 hours a day in jeans and boots for months in this heat! He lost one kilo a week.

Our lead actress, Louise Nyvall, who plays Rickard’s 15-year-old daughter Thyra, had similar difficulties. She arrives in Thailand in the first episode and then she has to stay pale throughout the whole series – a struggle when shooting for three months in sunny Thailand without getting any sunburn or a tan!

Ultimately we are hugely proud of the show and the journey it has taken to be what it is today. We hope viewers will be drawn into the world behind the glamour of a beach paradise, and delight in seeing a Scandi noir set among the palm trees.

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