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2013 LA Screenings in review

BlacklistAs the sun sets on the studio lots and the myriad of international buyers head home after this year’s LA Screenings, the real business is just beginning.

For those channels not tied into long term output deals with certain studios, the bidding wars for the best of the US are already underway.

And though there was a feeling that 2013 brought a relatively safe selection, there was also a general belief this was a better vintage than last year, and one of the best of recent times on both the comedy and drama fronts.

Right at the top of many wishlists will be – as widely predicted – NBC’s new serialised FBI thriller The Blacklist, which Sony Pictures Television is shopping. The show’s pilot wowed all the buyers TBI spoke with, with tributes being paid to James Spader’s virtuoso performance as a criminal mastermind-turned-FBI informant and to the overall scope and ambition of the programme.

Also on the drama front, new Jerry Bruckheimer TV-produced political espionage show Hostages scored plaudits.

It’s based on an Israeli script, a fact that will have distributor CBS Studios International hoping the Homeland formula – an Israeli-originated drama format that’s been hugely successful as a US export – works once more. As one European buyer wryly put it: “Those Israelis and their formats.”

The CW ordered a batch of dramas for its new season, which in itself is not necessarily a good sign, but it can definitely be optimistic givemn their potential. Buyers were impressed by the high-concept themes of The Tomorrow People and The Vampire Diaries spin-off The Originals, though it was teen period drama Reign that caught the most attention with its mix of melodrama, Baz Lurhman-style score and dramatic location shots.

Indeed, Reign is among the titles included in the first deals secured out of the event, one of which sees Finland’s MTV3 and CBSSI enter into a long-term output deal. CBSSI has also secured an extensive multi-platform content agreement with Russia’s Amedia for its pay TV and digital channels.

Meanwhile, only a few buyers had a privilege of seeing Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which somewhat dampened what was undoubtedly the largest pre-market buzz of the year’s Screenings show, but you can be sure there will still be plenty of fanfare when more is revealed at Comic-Con later this summer.

On the comedy front, NBCUniversal International Television Distribution’s new Fox comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine caught after-screening buzz with its witty dialogue and slapstick set-pieces, while Warner Bros. and Chuck Lorre-produced Mom had a number of buyers chuckling away in their seats, so expect international deals to follow soon on that front.

There was also a lot of love for Mixology, one of three new Disney Media Distribution comedies at the market and Ryan Seacrest’s first scripted offering. Though the series format – 10 episodes focusing on different characters over one night in a swanky bar – and some of its themes – sex, drink and debauchery – may not be the most universally translatable, there was a keen sense the slick production values and side-tickling set pieces will score well with the 18-34 demographic, and possibly even with slightly older groups.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the market was another Warner Bros. International Television Distribution-sold show, Christopher Meloni (Law and Order: Special Victims Unit) vehicle Surviving Jack, which scored one of only a few spontaneous rounds of applause TBI witnessed during the week.

Meloni plays a wise-cracking dad, who’s based on writer Justin Halpern’s own father, with a particular style of parenting that launches his children from one round of humiliation to another. Though CBS’s first attempt to make the character work in $#*! My Dad Says was short-lived, expect Jack to secure audiences and armies of fanboys and girls on niche channels globally.

With notes taken and after-the-matter chatter exhausted, global buyers are now armed with all the knowledge they need to identify the best new series coming out of the broadcast season.

Let the games begin.