MIPCOM Hot Pick: 800 Words

800-Words_S1_ep1_Erik-Thomson-as-George-Turner-©-SPP-&-A3Mi-(3)Actor Erik Thomson is well-known to Australian television audiences through his performances in Seven Network ratings smash Packed to the Rafters, and to international audiences through his role as Hades in the 1990s syndicated fantasy drama Hercules: The Legendary Journeys.

His latest outing for Seven is 800 Words, a gentle but comic drama about a Sydney columnist who moves his family to a quaint New Zealand town after his wife dies unexpectedly.

“This is a comic drama that really tugs at the heart strings,” says Kelly Martin, CEO of Auckland-based coproducer South Pacific Pictures.

Martin’s prodco, part of the All3Media stable, is a prolific scripted outfit in New Zealand, but 800 Words represents its first effort entirely produced for the Australian market and she hopes it could become a long-running franchise if successful.

Much of the jeopardy comes from Thomson’s relationships with his teenage children, who are perplexed by their quieter new life, the townspeople he writes about in his 800-word columns, and the local women who take an interest in him.

“Those relationships with the women build throughout the series, and the audience will want to know if any of them work out,” says Martin.

Running to eight one-hours, All3Media International will focus on sales to channels with primetime slots that suit.

Of particular interest to global buyers is co-writer James Griffin, who was behind The Almighty Johnsons. That show, also from South Pacific, made history in 2013 by becoming the first Kiwi-created drama to sell to a US network.

The show: 800 Words

The producers: South Pacific Pictures, Seven Productions

The distributor: All3Media International

The broadcasters: Seven Network (Australia), TV One (New Zealand)

The concept: Comedy-drama in which a recently-widowed Sydney columnist moves his family to a remote Kiwi town