Stephen Fry’s ‘The Liar’

Thursday, June 4th, 2020

The Liar, based on the best-selling semi-autobiographical comic novel by internationally renowned British institution Stephen Fry, is a fast-paced, rude and very funny comedy about learning to accept who you are in life.

The Liar has been awarded development funding by MEDIA, Creative England and Ingenious Media and is greenlit, and currently scheduling.

We have a very exciting cast lined up making it a ‘Best of British’ ensemble. Official announcement to follow.

A brilliant, manipulative young man, who has a strong compulsion to lie, becomes embroiled in an elaborate ‘game’ of lying and finds himself in a world where nobody can be trusted. This is the educational career of public school student Adrian Healey (Stephen Fry’s alter-ego, and an inveterate liar), whose school pranks somehow get him embroiled in an international espionage case.


Posted by azf |

Broken Shelter

Monday, February 24th, 2020

Tim Hewitt’s new short ‘Broken Shelter’ completes its shoot.

A new short starring Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, Jaye Jacobs, Anabel Kutay, Lara Peake and Michael Jibson.

Posted by azf |

Our shorts ‘Mancrush’ and ‘Faulty’ join ‘Pastoral’ on the festival circuit!

Tuesday, February 14th, 2017

We are pleased to announce that we have all 3 of our shorts finally complete and sent out to festivals this year (2017). Faulty stars Sarah Solemani and Mike Bailey, Mancrush stars Blake Harrison and Oliver Chris and Pastoral stars Jeff Stewart and Elizabeth Healey.

We have had a fantastic response and would like to thank all those that gave their advice and contributions to the cuts. It is amazing to have them finished.

Links to festivals they get accepted in will be available via our twitter or facebook accounts. At the end of our festival run they will be available on the Shorts International channel.

Posted by azf |

‘A Little Place’ goes to festivals

Thursday, September 12th, 2013

Our short A Little Place Off The Edgware Road starring Paul McGann and directed by Tim Hewitt has been selected for 3 film festivals! It had its UK premiere at The Isle of Wight film festival and you can catch it at the Cambridge Film Festival on 19th and 28th September and the Graham Greene Festival in Berkhamsted on 27th September. Tim will introduce the film then.

More dates to follow, as and when!

Posted by azf |

The Need To Relax

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

The Need to Relax

After a hiatus, my blog is back – and will be focusing now primarily on analyzing content. The first subject I want to delve into is one that writers and development executives often overlook – that audiences consume entertainment in order to escape.

This may seem obvious, but writers spend a lot of time trying to create as realistic a story as possible. Realism helps viewers buy into the premise and creates a suspension of disbelief. Executive notes often revolve around maximizing conflict, creating high stakes, ensuring there’s a clear journey for the protagonist, pushing the authenticity of the world of the story, making it relatable – and fundamentally trying to ensure the audience identifies with what they’re watching. However, the audience’s own needs may actually be quite different.

There is mounting evidence to suggest that one of the key drivers of entertainment is the need to relax. This means that audiences seek content that departs from what they do on a day-to-day level. Identification may be important in order to get the viewer hooked, but – subconsciously at least – we want to watch content that helps us forget about our lives. We commissioned Dr. Kit Pleydell-Pearce (senior lecturer in the Department of Experimental Psychology at the University of Bristol) to examine the brain activity of different groups of people while they watch television. Kit had previously worked on a US Government DARPA project that studied the cognitive state of pilots while they were flying demanding aircraft. His initial research for us, concluded that “viewer engagement is a process in which brain activity reverts to a more relaxed and passive state.” Television physically helps us recharge our batteries.

Kit’s analysis focuses on the frontal lobe part of the brain, an area which is associated with “goal-oriented activity, planning, selection, control and focus of attention.” However, when we are paying most attention to entertainment, this part of the brain appears to be in a quieter state, while other parts of the brain may be more active (e.g. the amygdala, which is associated with emotion).

On a personal level, this makes sense to me. When I watch my team Arsenal play football, I’m pretty convinced my frontal lobe isn’t working too hard. I’m feeling tension for the team I support (and how poorly they’ve been playing), but I’m not really thinking about having to plan and write this blog. I’m feeling, rather than focusing.

There is also plenty of ratings evidence to support this idea. For instance, the legal drama ‘Suits’ is not particular popular with lawyers and judges – even though the show is about them! Using the Epsilon demographic breakdown available in Rentrak’s TV Essentials, you can look at different professions’ viewing habits. The chart below looks at the second season of ‘Suits’ on USA – and how varied the viewing share was for different professions. Since each profession has different total viewing, the index below is based on their respective shares. If a profession scores, say 1.15, it means the share of people from that profession who viewed ‘Suits’ was 15% higher than the national share of ‘Suits’.


From this chart, it is clear that lawyers and judges are, proportionately, the least interested in ‘Suits’. Interestingly, those viewers who work in the Military seem to be drawn to the show more than any other group. Perhaps the boardroom conflict and expensive style is an escape for people in the Military?

This is by no means an isolated example. Medical drama ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ suffers the same fate with doctors. During the month of November, 13% less Doctors watched the ABC drama than the national share. In the month of December that figure was 33% less than the national share.

What did doctors enjoy watching in that same period? College Football (roughly 60% above the average) and ‘It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown’ (viewed by 19% more Doctors than the average). The latter had virtually the same rating as Grey’s Anatomy’s November average (5.4), which tells us that this isn’t just an issue of proportions. In total – more doctors watched Charlie Brown than Grey’s Anatomy!

I guess watching Snoopy wearing his World War I flying ace costume is an easy thing to escape to.


Posted by azf |

How Relevant is the Past?

Sunday, May 20th, 2012

“Think only of the past for its remembrance gives you pleasure.”

Jane Austen wrote this almost 200 years ago, via her strong-willed protagonist, Elizabeth Bennett. For many modern audiences, the past, rose-tinted with nostalgia, continues to be a source of pleasure…and not just through remakes of ‘Pride and Prejudice’!

The last few years have seen a resurgence in Period Dramas on TV (For more on this, see TheirTV blog.) Much of this may have been spawned by ‘Mad Men’, but since Don Draper hit our screens, we have had Boardwalk Empire (HBO), The Borgias (Showtime), Hell on Wheels (AMC), Spartacus (Starz), as well as Life on Mars (ABC), Swingtown (CBS), Pan Am (ABC) and Playboy (NBC). You’ll notice a common trend, even with the ones I mentioned. When they’re on broadcast networks, period dramas tend to fail. That’s because they generally have narrow appeal. That appeal may well be loyal and highly engaged, which is why cable often proves a better home.

But even on cable, dramas set in the past can often struggle when compared to their present-day counterparts. Let’s compare ‘Mad Men’ to ‘The Walking Dead’, as both shows air on the same network, and both are perceived as big cultural hits.




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Same Language, Different Humour: Translating American and British Sitcoms

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

On Friday it was announced that the most successful British comedy of all time, Only Fools & Horses, is to be adapted into an American sitcom by ABC. This classic BBC series began its life back in 1983. Its Christmas specials topped the annual audience ratings charts in 1996 and again in 2001 – the latter garnered a phenomenal 21.3m viewers on BBC1 which represented a staggering 74% audience share. That’s Royal Wedding territory!

Earlier that year, a much smaller sitcom premiered on BBC airwaves – The Office hovered around 2m viewers in its first season, and around 3.5m viewers in its second season, while at its height it managed 6.5m total viewers for the Christmas special in 2003. Given that The Office has been adapted successfully into a long-running sitcom for NBC, based on significantly lower ratings in the UK, how could a network go wrong with Only Fools & Horses? In fact, it seems remarkable that no US network has tried it in all these years. Well – that is, if one were to simply judge by the numbers.

Comedies unfortunately do not translate so literally.

The BBC series Coupling, which initially performed similarly to The Office, and aired on the same UK channel (BBC2) was a notorious failure when adapted for the same US channel (NBC). The Worst Week of My Life (BBC1) reduced down to Worst Week for CBS was a huge disappointment for the top-rated US network. Meanwhile some UK comedies have struggled so much with being adapted that the network in question has decided to drop them at the pilot stage. Fox reportedly tried shooting Absolutely Fabulous on two occasions while Peep Show went to pilot stage both with cable net Spike as well as with Fox.

It’s not just one-way traffic, either. Successful US comedies do not always work in the UK. The most famous example of this was Seinfeld, though many argue that poor scheduling in the UK led to a major lack of awareness. The same cannot, however, be said of current darling, New Girl, which Channel 4 has given plenty of promotion and a solid Friday night slot. I wrote in an earlier blog about how well the show opened for Fox in the US, consistently outperforming Glee and The X Factor in Adults 18-49. The show continues to hold up.

But on Channel 4, the opening episode was without doubt a disappointment, and the second episode dropped over 25% from the series premiere. The most recent transmission (28th Jan) underperformed the channel’s timeslot average in both male and particularly female viewers.

New Girl Audience Share on Channel 4 (UK) 28th Jan, 2012


Source: Attentional/BARB (Live + VOSDAL)

Part of the equation here is obviously the difference in the audience profile of Fox compared to Channel 4. Fox is mainstream Adult, whereas Channel 4 is Young Adult and slightly more niche. Many Channel 4 viewers most likely found the show cheesy and unrealistic, while the more mainstream audience on Fox probably found something touching and charming about how the roommates help Jess get over her ex.

So why do the ratings in one market for a comedy not necessarily correlate in the other market, given that both markets speak the same language? Clearly, comedy is a more cultural genre than drama, playing on familiar stereotypes and often reversing our expectations of them. For that to work successfully, the audience has to have a level of familiarity with the culture. Problems emerge when things get too locally specific (e.g. “Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps” is an embedded part of British pub culture, but the show of the same name would struggle to gain any familiarity within an American audience).

In many ways it’s no surprise that both audiences find different things funny. They are different cultures after all. So what about when the adaptation does work?

Many, many elements go into making an effective adaptation. From a lot of the content analysis we’ve done, I would say the three most important strands that emerge are:

  1. Ensure the premise is universally identifiable.

In the case of Only Fools & Horses, the idea of two blue collar brothers trying to get rich quick is undoubtedly universal.

  1. Localize the characters even if it means changing them.

Finding local versions of Del Boy and Rodney seems like it will be a challenge. What is the U.S. equivalent of cockney working class Londoners? A good example of this element being applied effectively is Michael Scott vs. David Brent in The Office. Once Michael Scott departed from being as unsympathetic as David Brent, and reflected the slightly more upbeat and positive nature of an American boss desperate for popularity, US viewers were able to have more empathy with him. In the UK version, we have empathy with Tim, whose eyes we see David Brent through.

  1. It is generally better when the source of the humour comes from relationships between the characters, rather than snappy/witty dialogue.

When the comedy is reliant upon just the dialogue, there is a greater risk that it will be lost in translation. It is easier to replicate relationships than jokes. For instance, Del Boy and Rodney in Only Fools and Horses are constantly tired of Uncle Albert harping on about the War. This dynamic can be translated easily to the US, with the war being the Vietnam War rather than WW2.

Only Fools &Horses has an amazing archive of comedy scripts for the writing team to take advantage of, and seems a smart move for ABC. Now they just have to find the American equivalent of Del Boy bottling up tap water and calling it “Peckham Spring”!


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Online Distribution Might Be the Key to Unlock China

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

The problems for international producers trying to break into China are many. There’s heavy regulation and censorship, and a whole set of different rules for foreign companies setting up in Beijing or Shanghai. There’s also a completely different structure to the Film & TV industries, when compared to Europe or North America.

For instance, a feature film in China makes on average 64.7% of its revenue from its domestic theatrical release, which makes cinemas the dominant mode of distribution. Contrast that with the U.S. where the domestic cinema release accrues roughly 21.4% of a film’s total revenue. Clearly ancillary markets like pay-TV, home video, and of course international theatrical releases are more mature for U.S. movies. But that’s just the basic picture.

The bigger issue in China is actually one of supply. There are a very limited number of theatrical screens which struggle to cope with high domestic demand. Chinese audiences love to attend the cinema, with its advanced audiovisual experience (compared to the lesser quality of TV or pirated content). But there are only 7.3 screens for every 10 million moviegoers in China. In the U.S., the same number of viewers share 129.8 screens.

The result is that a huge number of movies in China simply do not get the opportunity to be released in the cinemas. And there’s no way of making their money back through ancillary revenues.

In some ways, it could be argued that the purpose of making movies in China is basically to supply theatrical markets. This causes a huge lock on distribution and leaves so much of the industry control in the hands of the theater-owners.

The greatest threat to the current imbalance in the market is online distribution. Having just completed a report on potential changes to the Chinese Entertainment Industry, we discovered that there are surprisingly quite a few websites that are gaining prominence through legal online video distribution.

In China, the Internet has become one of the major video consumption platforms for younger viewers. Many sites such as and have established Hulu-like business models, incorporating paid and advertising-supported platforms. These websites circulate Chinese and foreign copyrighted TV drama series and movies.

Based on China’s market environment, these websites employ distinct operational practices. For example, tv offered ‘Wu Xia’, a local blockbuster, for free streaming two months after its theatrical release. The period between theatrical and online releases is much shorter than the U.S. standard probably due to rampant video piracy. is an emerging player to watch out for. They are now regularly paying $1 million for online rights to popular Chinese films, while their revenues for the 1Q this year were $16.1m, a 1319% year-on-year increase according to the company’s financial report. Co-productions, TV dramas and comedies, and western content are now being distributed, or considered for distribution, via these platforms. Of course, they still have to overcome the Chinese censors, but they are private companies – and as their wealth and market dominance continues to grow, it would not be inconceivable to see these video sites turn into the Chinese equivalent of the US studio.

Just consider Tudou, perhaps the largest of the online distributors. They are fast becoming an all-round production and distribution hub, and a recent press release proudly states:

“In 2010, we launched Orange Box , our in-house original content production facility, and Warehouse No.6, a talent recruitment program designed for selecting and recruiting talents for our in-house content production, including actors, directors, screenwriters, editors and producers. These initiatives are aimed at developing and enhancing ‘made-for-Internet’ drama series and other independent ‘made-for-Internet’ content.”

These studio-like initiatives resulted in their first Internet dramas series, ‘That Love Comes’, which debuted in October 2010 – and generated approximately 40 million video views as of December 31, 2010.

Tudou’s website now has a large library of TV dramas and comedies, as well as movies and their own original content. This is where international producers could in the future take serious advantage.

After all, they even have a copyright policy on their website!


Posted by azf |

It’s Not All Glee For Musical Dramas

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

The Indian film industry is full of them. They were once a staple of Hollywood. Now television is trying to embrace the musical drama. With the phenomenal success of Fox’s Glee, and the imminent arrival of the Spielberg-NBC drama, Smash, TV networks are making a concerted effort to succeed with a genre that has traditionally been a ratings challenge.

Now when I refer to musical dramas, I mean solely scripted series where the characters break out into song, either naturally (e.g. a character sings on stage), or unnaturally (e.g. a character sings in a police precinct). What I’m not referring to are the spate of reality competition series, where music clearly is one of the most popular sub-genres. This piece isn’t about X-FactorThe Voice or Idol, it is purely about dramas and comedy-dramas that are musicals.

In the past year, I have been asked on a few occasions by US network and production company execs whether there are any decent international musical dramas for them to snap up the format rights to. This led me to think that there is clearly a growing demand among the creative community to develop hit musicals. However, there are very few examples of successful musical dramas, either in the US or internationally.

Over the last 20 or so years, Before Glee, (or as ‘Gleeks’ would call it, B.G.), there had been several attempts in the US to launch successful musicals. There was Stephen Bochco’s infamous Cop Rock, CBS’s Viva Laughlin (based on the UK musical drama Viva Blackpool), to name but two. Both were ratings disasters.Viva Laughlin was in fact canceled after just two episodes. Even the UK original, Blackpool, which aired on BBC1, had very ordinary audience figures, falling between four and five million viewers – well below the timeslot average for that channel. So why is it that musicals generally struggle on TV?

Television certainly requires a greater sense of realism than cinema. You don’t find the same levels of fantasy, adventure and other pure escapist fare on mainstream TV – most of the highly successful series are grounded in reality. One could argue that the reason the first season of Heroes compared better than subsequent seasons was that it stayed in a world that viewers recognized, whereas later seasons became more typical fantasy, which alienated non-fantasy viewers of that series.

When characters start singing, viewers instantly recognize this as a world that isn’t the one they inhabit. This lowers their suspension of disbelief, a key requirement for any drama to sustain itself – especially over multiple weeks and years. New original songs written for the series also reduce the level of familiarity, as do old Broadway numbers, because they aren’t songs most viewers instantly recognize. And then there’s creating a story archetype that satisfies the target demo’s preferences. A show about cops isn’t necessarily appealing to the core tastes of audiences that like musicals.

What Glee does so well is literally overcome all these problems. It uses modern songs that viewers do not feel are dated. (Some of them are in fact exceptionally current). They take a universal situation – the struggles of sexuality and popularity in high school – and ground it in a reality that is the glee club, something that actually exists in American high schools. The problems that the main ensemble of characters face are issues that are easily identifiable, especially to the types of viewers that are potentially attracted to musicals.

These may seem obvious elements to have in any musical drama, but you’ll be surprised how many have (and will) fall short.

We know from the reality competition shows that viewers love to see people sing, but in a drama they need the right context to care about these characters (as none are likely to be competing for a record contract!). If you dig into the library of musical dramas, you’ll notice the odd series that addresses this, e.g. Dennis Potter’s Lipstick on your Collar, which at its heart was about a bored foreign officer worker (played by Ewan McGregor) desperately wanting some fun and excitement to his life as the Brits had handed over global affairs to the Americans, and he had nothing to do at work. This was, however, still niche. Glee has turned the genre into a huge mainstream affair.

For US network execs, the goal it appears has been to find another gem in this arena. However, they will need to be aware of the pitfalls that this genre poses for mainstream audiences – as not all musicals have the characteristics of Glee.

Lipstick on your Collar is profiled in TheirTV, currently in beta phase, our free resource and blog covering trends in international content.


Posted by azf |

Time for Foreign Dramas on US Screens

Friday, June 24th, 2011

DirecTV are doing something interesting with their entertainment channel. On 1st June, they rebranded their ‘101’ channel and it is now called the Audience Network. Its purpose is to show high quality dramas, but from a diverse range of sources. This might sound like the mission of many other networks, but when you dig deeper, the story with DirecTV is slightly different.

For those who don’t know, DirecTV is a satellite subscription service in the U.S. that has previously had little reputation for airing its own content, unlike say Sky in the U.K. However, as Comcast’s deal with NBC-Universal has shown, platform owners and content owners are merging. The 19.2 million subscribers to DirecTV have always had access to the ‘101’ channel, but DirecTV had previously done very little with it. Now that has changed.

However, rather than create and invest in brand new original dramas, DirecTV has noticed some canceled U.S. series retain a core, loyal audience base. Hence, they have taken on Damages and Friday Night Lights, which were initially on FX and NBC respectively, but didn’t secure enough viewing figures to justify those networks recommissioning the series. The Audience Network has also cleverly acquired second window rights to The Wire (which is otherwise only available to HBO subscribers). The diverse source of their dramas doesn’t stop there, though, as they have recently delved in to the international marketplace. They acquired U.S. rights to Australian critical darlings, Underbelly and Rake, as well as Canadian series Call Me Fitz and British series No Heroics and Mutual Friends.

Aussie sensation ‘Underbelly’



Apart from UK series airing on BBC America and PBS, the U.S. is not known for showing non-US product. Yet DirecTV has seen this as an opportunity rather than a risk.

One of the major trends over the past few years in U.S. broadcasting has been how small cable channels are investing heavily in original content. The fact that AMC, the 27th largest channel in terms of audience share in America, airs one of the most proclaimed series of recent times in Mad Men is testament to this. Yet DirecTV have decided with their Audience Network channel to buck that trend and invest in acquisitions.

It strikes me that other U.S. networks could follow suit here.

There are so many well produced dramas being commissioned all over the world (this will be the topic of a separate blog, but consider South Africa’s Zero Tolerance and Mexico’s El Equipo) that there is bound to be an audience for this type of content in the U.S. Of course, it is likely to be niche, but the majority of cable and premium cable channels have niche audiences – their aim isn’t breadth, rather it is to maximize the value out of their target audience by satisfying their specific viewing demands. Foreign content could easily do this.

Even though some may argue that television is primarily a domestic form, it is undeniable that for a particular segment of the viewing population, nationality is less relevant. It is why, for instance, non-English language films have performed better in the U.S. box office in the past decade. From Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon(which made $128.1m at the U.S. box office) down to the tiny Monsoon Wedding, which was shot on super 16mm and was made reportedly for $1.5m (and earned $13.9m just in U.S. cinemas), American audiences are increasingly appreciating non-US content.

We’ve started to see some signs of this in the U.K. where BBC4 have aired the Danish version of The Killingand back in 2008 also aired French crime drama Spiral. But in the U.S. this has yet to happen for anything other than English language content. (Obviously this doesn’t include Spanish-language series, which airs on channels aimed at the Hispanic diaspora). Given that the season finale of the U.S. version of The Killinggarnered a decent 2.3m viewers last Sunday night on AMC, there must for instance be some demand for seeing Forbrydelsen (the Danish original).

So as channels try to find an extra edge in this highly competitive market, how long will it be before we start to see subtitled series on U.S. television?


Posted by azf |

A Tale of Two Series

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

Today was the first day of Up Fronts in New York. For those who are unaware, this is when the major US networks present their Fall schedules to the advertising community.

NBC and Fox both announced their respective schedules today. Two interesting things to emerge, particularly from a UK perspective, was how high Fox’s expectations seem to be of “The X Factor” and how a failed UK comedy, “Free Agents”, has managed to find its US adaptation on NBC’s much-vaulted new schedule.

An Unhappy Outing on C4


Let’s firstly look at Fox, who have slightly less time to fill than their competitors (as their 10pm slot goes to News). Whilst they have gone for some heavyweight titles in sci-fi epic “Terra Nova” (about a futuristic family who go back in time 150 million years to correct the damage done to Earth and save the world) and JJ Abrams’ action-drama “Alcatraz”, the centerpiece of Fox’s presentation was the much-hyped “The X Factor”.

On one level, this makes a lot of sense. The original UK format entered its seventh season in 2010 backed by a continuous rise in ratings every year. This culminated in the highest rated telecast of 2010, where “The X Factor” finale results edition attracted 17.7m viewers, beating even England’s World Cup game against Germany.

The UK has embraced the format for a long time, recognizing its more sophisticated nuances when compared to the “Idol” format, which does not have judges competing against each other. With “American Idol” ranked the number one show in the U.S. since 2005, it would seem only natural for its successor to take over the mantle.

However, “The X Factor” in the U.S. faces a number of challenges that may not seem obvious at first glance. Simon Cowell it has been proven was not the sole reason viewers were attracted to Idol. This season, the show has performed excellently without the judge who was once deemed irreplaceable. The brand of Idol it seems has usurped the brand of Cowell.

The other key element is NBC’s “The Voice”. In its freshman season, the show managed to rank number 3 in 18-49’s for the week ending 8th May. This puts it ahead of “Glee” and “Modern Family”, and only behind the two editions of “American Idol”. “The Voice” may have a different hook to “The X Factor”, but it takes some of the best elements of that format and effectively evolves it. The consequence of all this could be that come September, Simon Cowell’s return may not roar as the ratings monster Fox are hoping. Of course, it is likely to get well sampled, but if it ends up as a middling performer, not nearing the levels of “American Idol”, will that be perceived as a failure?

Flop on C4

“Free Agents” originally aired in the UK on Channel 4 in February and March of 2009. Its final episode garnered a lackluster 0.7 million viewers, which was roughly 52% of the timeslot average. By any measure, this is a failure, as evidenced by no re-commission. This awkward romantic comedy, about a recently divorced and homeless talent agent who thinks his colleague is his soul mate, will be airing on Wednesdays at 8.30pm right before the Kathy Bates legal drama, “Harry’s Law”.

Like all US comedies, it will need to find a way to sustain itself beyond the six episodes it aired in the UK. Naturally, NBC recognizes what it requires to make such adaptations work – proven by the long-term success of “The Office”.

But given that this series failed to work in its home market, if it does succeed in the US, it could well be unprecedented. Very few reformatted dramas and comedies succeed in the U.S., and of the ones that do all had significant acclaim in their domestic market. Success for “Free Agents” could alter the way shows are sold into the U.S.

Take note international producers in possession of shows that have flopped: you can always have a second chance in America!


Posted by azf |

TV is not the new Film

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

In the current pilot season, there is a noticeable trend that a whole spate of well known movie stars are being cast for TV series. There was a time when it was only the big screen that had stars and the small screen which made stars. Nobody knew who Jennifer Aniston was before “Friends”, nor did the public know who George Clooney was before “E.R.”. And even recently, Katherine Heigl pre-“Grey’s Anatomy” was a relative unknown, while Steve Carrell before “The Office” had only appeared as a side-show in Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show”. Now, of course, Carrell is regarded as something of an A-list comedy film star.

So why is it that network execs are seeing an increasing need to cast established movie names such as Amanda Peet, Liz Hurley or even Kevin Spacey in the current crop of pilots?

Liz Hurley Wonder Woman

The primary reason must be the hope that ratings will rise because of these household names. However, there is very little evidence to suggest that movie stars in TV series can consistently improve a show’s chances of success. Sure, it may help improve the sampling of the opening episode, as it piques viewers’ interest – but in the long run, over the course of an entire season, audiences return to their favorite dramas and comedies because of the characters that interest them – not the star involved.

The attachment we form is with the narrative and the characters we’re engaged with, which is why a group of unknowns in a well constructed drama have a better chance of succeeding than a movie star led ensemble in an averagely written series.

Another reason for star attachments is that it may help the series get ordered in a competitive pilot season where some high profile pilots won’t even make it to series. Producers it seems feel their shows have a better chance of getting the nod if they manage to secure a big name. But if that’s the case, why not simply get that movie star to be another producer on the project?

Often the problem with a big-name star driving a new series is that everything is rewritten and reconceived for that actor. This ends up with a show that was far from the original vision of the creators.

So when looking to find the new “Lost” or “Grey’s Anatomy”, network execs might do well to think about casting less well known actors. TV is not the new film.


Posted by azf |