Tag Archives: Duffer brothers

Westworld and The Crown head Golden Globe noms

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association has revealed the nominations for its annual Golden Globe film and TV awards – the next edition of which will be held in February 2017.

Some TV shows on the shortlists seem to have become permanent fixtures, notably Game of Thrones, Transparent and Veep. But there will also be stiff competition from a range of excellent new shows.

Westworld’s viewing figures improved as the debut season reached its climax

A key contender in the Best Television Series – Drama category is HBO’s Westworld, which also picked up nominations in two other categories. Created by husband-and-wife team Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, the show has just finished its first season with an average of 1.8 million (same-day viewing). However, the most encouraging thing about the show is that its audience has been rising since episode five, with the finale achieving the show’s best ratings to date (2.2 million). All of which bodes well for the second, which is likely to air in 2018.

Also in the running is Netflix’s royal epic The Crown, which we discussed last week. Written by Peter Morgan, the show is up for Best Television Series – Drama as well as two acting gongs. It’s 10 years since Morgan received an Oscar nomination for The Queen, so perhaps now would be a fitting time for him to win a top award for his royal endeavours. With an IMDb score of 9.0 and superb reviews, it’s another incredibly strong contender.

Arguably the surprise package of the year has been another Netflix show, Stranger Things, which also finished its first season with an IMDb score of 9. Up for awards in two categories (including Best TV Drama), the show follows the disappearance of a young boy at the same time as the appearance of a girl with telekinetic powers.

The Duffer Brothers’ Stranger Things was one of the hits of the year

The show was created by the Duffer Brothers, who featured in this DQ feature on 1980s-inspired TV. Commenting on the Netflix relationship, Ross Duffer said: “They have been incredibly supportive of our vision from the very beginning, and they’ve placed so much trust in us. We also just love Netflix as a platform, because it allows people to watch the show at their own pace. This story is not necessarily intended to be watched over eight weeks. The hope is that people will get hooked and the crescendo will feel even more impactful when it’s watched over a relatively short period of time. We want the audience to feel like they’re watching an epic summer movie.”

The Best TV Drama category is rounded out by the much feted Game of Thrones (David Benioff and DB Weiss) and This Is Us, the only one of the five shows that airs on a free-to-air network in the US (NBC). The latter has been one of the strongest-performing new shows of the 2016/2017 season and is very likely to be renewed for a second season.

It was created by Dan Fogelman, whose credits include Tangled, Cars and Crazy, Stupid, Love. Fogelman also wrote Fox’s new drama Pitch and is waiting to see if that show has done well enough to secure a renewal.

Dan Fogelman’s This Is Us

Battling it out for Best Television Limited Series or Motion Picture Made for Television are American Crime, The Dresser, The Night Manager, The Night Of and The People v OJ Simpson: American Crime Story.

ABC’s American Crime, recently commissioned for a third season, is the creation of John Ridley, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of 12 Years a Slave. It is pretty well regarded by critics but is unlikely to come out ahead of some of the other shows in this category.

FX’s American Crime Story: The People v OJ Simpson, winner of five Emmys, is probably the one to beat. Created by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, it has been nominated in three categories at this year’s Globes.

That said, the Golden Globes isn’t shy of choosing outsiders – as it did last year when it gave Mr Robot, Mozart in the Jungle and Wolf Hall the top drama awards. Wolf Hall’s success in this category last year provides encouragement for the British nominees – The Night Manager, written by David Farr based on the John Le Carre novel; and The Dresser, the latest adaptation of Ronald Harwood’s acclaimed 1980 play of the same name (written for screen and adapted by Richard Eyre).

David Farr

However, both of them will have to go some way to beat HBO’s The Night Of, created by Richard Price and Steven Zaillian. Of course, if The Night Of does win it will owe a debt to the Brits, because it is based on Peter Moffat’s excellent series Criminal Justice (BBC, 2008/2009).

As referenced above, Mozart in the Jungle was the surprise winner of Best Television Series – Musical or Comedy category at last year’s Golden Globes. So it’s hard to predict which show will come out on top this time out. Mozart, created by Alex Timbers, Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman and Paul Weitz, is in the running again, as are Jill Soloway’s Transparent and Armando Iannucci’s Veep, both of which are strong contenders.

This is, however, a category where the Globes could make a positive statement in favour of diversity, with both Atlanta and Black-ish on its shortlist.

Donald Glover’s Atlanta has been a success for FX this year, generating an 8.7 rating on IMDb and bedding in with a respectable 880,000 average audience for season one. ABC’s Black-ish is now in season three and hovers around the five million mark. Created by Kenya Barris, the show has been a solid performer but would be a surprising winner.

Donald Glover

The five dramas that received nominations in Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Drama were Mr Robot, Better Call Saul, The Americans, Ray Donovan and Goliath. In other words, a completely different line-up to the overall best drama category. This contrasts with Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy, where the only divergence from the overall category was a nomination for Graves instead of Veep. This is explained by the fact that the heartbeat of Veep is Julia Louis-Dreyfus, nominated in the actress category. If there’s a conclusion to be drawn out here, it’s that there is generally closer alignment between creator and cast in comedy series.

In terms of shows that have been overlooked this year, the Globes didn’t pay much attention to Fox’s Empire and Netflix’s much-feted Orange is the New Black. The mood also seems to have moved away from Shondaland dramas for the time being.

In fact, viewed from the perspective of writers, it’s been a pretty poor year for women, with Lisa Joy and Jill Soloway the only two high-profile female figures to be involved in the headline categories. It’s a reminder that supporting diversity has many dimensions.

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Writers dabble with the supernatural

Beyond the Walls (Au-delà Des Murs)
Beyond the Walls (Au-delà Des Murs)

AMC Networks has acquired a French supernatural drama from Newen Distribution for its horror streaming service Shudder. Three-part miniseries Beyond the Walls (Au-delà Des Murs) was originally commissioned by public broadcaster Arte in France and marked something of an editorial change of direction for the channel, focusing on a young woman who moves into an old uninhabited house that she inherits from a mystery benefactor. Already, that sounds like a mistake.

The show was created by Hervé Hadmar and Marc Herpoux, who have emerged as two of the best-known French TV auteurs on the international drama market, despite the fact neither of them really took a straightforward route into the scripted TV business.

Hadmar, for example, studied at business school and then spent 10 years as an art director at an ad agency before writing and directing his first short film, Steamed, in 1996. Two years later, in 1998, he wrote and directed his first feature.

Herpoux, a few years younger, started out in the film business, working on movies until around 2006. He then took the plunge into scripted TV, with the TV movie Catching Fire.

The two first worked together in 2008 on The Forgotten, a TV series for France 3. And from this point on it has been TV all the way. After The Forgotten, they created Pigalle, la nuit, (Canal + in 2009) and then Signature (France 2, 2011).

Sandra Winckler (Marie Dompnier) in Witnesses
Sandra Winckler (Marie Dompnier) in Witnesses

But their big breakthough on the international market was Witnesses, a crime series that followed up a strong domestic performance with widespread international sales (including Channel 4 in the UK and Netflix in the US). Then came Beyond the Walls.

Hadmar and Herpoux’s transition from film to TV reflects an important sea change in the French audiovisual business. For many years, French cinema was very much viewed as the appropriate medium for artistic auteurs. But the new wave of French TV, which includes series like Spiral, The Returned, Witnesses and Marseille, is a sign that the small screen is now regarded as a comparable creative challenge. Hadmar himself has said that TV is now more akin to literature than cinema.

In an interview with Channel 4, Hadmar explained that it was international scripted drama that influenced Witnesses, which may explain why the show has travelled so well. “The goal was to make a Nordic thriller – dark, strange and beautiful,” he said. “I loved shows like The Killing and The Bridge, as well as the British show The Fall. I wanted to write and direct a show like that, or at least try to. It’s a Nordic thriller with one question in it: does the ideal family exist?”

Asked why so many TV dramas are crossing borders these days, he said: “We all want to see great shows. As an audience we are becoming more and more curious. And the technology has meant the industry is in the middle of a revolution. Netflix, for example, is bringing new ways to watch your favourite shows. Netflix, Amazon, Channel 4, HBO, Canal+… everybody needs to take risks, to give the audience something different. So if a story is good, it will be shown all over the world.”

The Duffer brothers are behind Netflix hit Stranger Things
The Duffer brothers are behind Netflix’s 1980s-influenced hit Stranger Things

On French drama, he said the recent revival is partly explained by this creative risk-taking: “French dramas were incredibly good in the 60s and 70s. And then, for all kinds of reasons, in the 80s and 90s, until about six years ago, it was not so good. But again the industry is evolving, and now the broadcaster has no choice but to take risks. To make better shows, they have to trust the writers and directors and producers. That’s the difference today.”

Elsewhere, young US writing team the Duffer brothers seem to have reinforced their fast-won reputation with Stranger Things, the recently launched Netflix series. They first attracted the movie industry’s attention with the film Hidden, and soon after they were invited to join the writing team on M Night Shyamalan’s sci-fi TV series Wayward Pines.

Then came Stranger Things, a homage to 1980s pop culture that focuses on the disappearance of a young boy, and a girl with telekinetic powers who helps his friends in their search for him.

Jeff Davis (photo by Gage Skidmore)
Jeff Davis (photo by Gage Skidmore)

The show has been getting good reviews from critics and decent ratings on aggregators like Metacritic and IMDb. And now Symphony Advanced Media research has shown that Stranger Things is also one of the most watched shows on the SVoD platform.

Within the first 35 days of its July debut, the drama averaged 14.07 million adults age 18 to 49, putting it ahead of shows such as Making a Murderer and Daredevil. There has been no news of a second season yet, but a renewal seems likely.

A few weeks ago, we explored where some high-profile writers would go next following the conclusion of their latest hit drama series. One of these was Jeff Davis, who is finishing with Teen Wolf after six seasons. This week the industry found out what Davis is up to when US cablenet TNT announced that it has greenlit a pilot based on the Swedish vampire novel and feature film Let the Right One In. Davis wrote the script for the pilot and will executive produce alongside Marty Adelstein and Becky Clements of Tomorrow Studios and Simon Oakes of Hammer Films.

Let the Right One has already been remade in the US as a film called Let Me In. However, the pilot relies heavily on the original book written by John Ajvide Lindqvist. Keeping up this week’s supernatural theme, it follows a lonely young boy who makes friends with a charismatic female vampire who appears to be roughly his age.

The original Let the Right One In movie
The original Let the Right One In movie

Vampires, of course, are a heavily used subject in recent TV and film productions. But if anyone can manage to eke out a new franchise based in this mythology, it’s Davis, following his novel take on werewolves.

Commenting on the show, Sara Aubrey, executive VP of original programming for TNT, said: “Let the Right One In combines elements of horror, revenge thriller and adolescent romance into an unforgettable and truly unsettling tale.” The show is part of a broad-based revamp at TNT, which is trying to reach out to a younger demographic.

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