Good News for Fanboys

Looks like BORAT director Larry Charles and CHARLIE'S ANGELS director McG have been watching STAR TREK: THE NEW VOYAGES, PHASE II,  the fan-produced sequel to STAR TREK. Variety reports they've sold a pilot to NBC about a group of fans in a small town who produce their own version of a canceled TV show.

Speaking of CHARLIE'S ANGELS, Variety reports that Josh Friedman is scripting a remake for ABC. Friedman previously wrote & produced the Fox series TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES with writer/producer John Wirth who, incidentally, wrote a CHARLIE'S ANGELS reboot with LOST's Carleton Cuse that ABC passed on a few years ago.

Why Daily Variety is No Longer Relevant

Today, Daily Variety reported that the new version of V not only won wide critical acclaim, but also did great in the ratings. In a brief, separate article, they report that the show shut down for a month, and that a new showrunner has been brought in. Those two articles create an interesting contrast…one Variety doesn't bother to explore because that might actually require the reporter do some work beyond retyping a press release. What's missing here is the context and detail that would make this a meaningful, interesting, and newsworthy story. What went wrong with V? Why did ABC bring in a new showrunner? If ABC had trouble with the creative direction of the show, does the wide critical acclaim and high ratings suggest that the network may have made a mistake by benching the series and retooling it? What were the creative, financial, and strategic reasons behind the network's actions? That's the story that a credible and relevant Daily Variety would be reporting. Instead, we get the straight-forward ratings in one article and a short, rewritten press release in another.

Tom Selleck is Happily Stoned

I'm a big fan of Tom Selleck's JESSE STONE movies. I like them even more than the Robert B. Parker books that they are based on. The movies do very, very well for CBS, but that doesn't stop the network from inexplicably sitting on them for as long as a year before airing them. The sixth movie NO REMORSE, has been on the shelf since January, the seventh is currently shooting in Halifax, and Selleck tells Variety that he'd like to do an eighth…and see CBS broadcast two a year to add some regularity to what amounts to network television's last successful, TV movie franchise.

"We don't do cliffhangers. The movies stand on their own. But with regular viewing the audience gets the bonus of a continuing backstory," Selleck said. "People want to know what's going to happen with this guy. He's basically a decent guy with a lot of flaws. He's his own worst enemy…but he's a guy you want to root for.

He's got other TV and film prospects, but there's something special about Jesse Stone for Selleck — perhaps because he feels like complicated cop is carrying the flag for the longform biz on network TV.

"There's a market for us," Selleck said. "We're proving that the network TV audience does want to see movies — they just want to see good movies."

New Tricks Becoming Old Tricks

Broadcast magazine reports that the UK mystery series NEW TRICKS, about a bunch of retired cops solving crimes, has been picked up for two more seasons, guaranteeing the show at least an eight season run. That said, their idea of a "season" is eight 60-minute episodes. So, after eight years, they will have made as many episodes as a typical American network series does in three. 

The UK Loves Its Crime Writers

Broadcast reports that ITV3, a UK TV network, has struck a deal with the Crimes Writers Association to air their awards and run documentaries on their nominees.

ITV3 has secured the Crime Thriller Awards for another three years, after signing a deal with Specsavers, Cactus TV and the Crime Writers Association.ITV3 will broadcast a six-week season of crime and drama programming each year and Cactus will produce 6x 60-minute docs profiling nominated authors ahead of the awards’ broadcast.

Can you imagine an American network striking a deal like that with the Mystery Writers of America?

Idris Elba Stars in new BBC Series

Broadcast reports that Idris Elba, who played “Stringer Bell” on THE WIRE, will star in the new BBC detective series LUTHOR, written and created by SPOOKS writer Neil Cross, who describes the title character as a “near-genius murder detective whose brilliant mind can’t always save him from the dangerous violence of his passions”.

Whereas traditional whodunits search for the murderer, each hour-long episode of the new drama will identify the culprit from the start, focusing attention on the dynamic – and similarities – between the detective and the murderer.

The series will air in Autumn 2010. No word yet on whether it will be carried stateside on BBC America or not. Cross also writes for the ITV series THE FIXER, one of my favorites (about a hitman working for a secret police unit), so I have high hopes for this show.

I Am Looking Forward to “Dexter,” the reality series

Variety reports that Showtime is bringing back THE L WORD…this time as a reality series.

Pay cabler has greenlit nine episodes of "The Real L Word: Los Angeles," from "L Word" creator Ilene Chaiken and reality producers Magical Elves ("Top Chef").
Show will follow six lesbians in Los Angeles as they go about their lives — a lesbian answer to Bravo's "Real Housewives" franchise. Project is dependent on casting, the net said; if all goes as planned, "The Real L Word" would debut sometime next year.

If this works, the reality versions of DEXTER and THE TUDORS should be fun.

Writing Staffs Shrinking

Variety reports what I've been hearing from TV writer friends for months…writing staffs are shrinking dramatically.

"I definitely feel as if there are (fewer) jobs out there," says Damon Lindelof, exec producer of ABC's LOST. "Whereas new shows from pilots that got picked up used to have 10 to 12 writers — that was the size of our staff in 2004 — we're just eight now.

[…]William Rotko, exec producer of the FBI-themed Patrick Swayze starrer THE BEAST, which finished its one-season run for A&E, says a confluence of events has altered the TV dynamic.

"I don't know if it's a combination of the recession and the prior writers' strike," he says. "They kind of landed one after another. After the writers' strike, it seemed this was going to happen anyway, but the recession sped up the process of reducing the size of the writers' room.

There are also fewer scripted shows than there were in the past. The major networks have all given up offering new, scripted fare on Saturdays, there's more reality shows than ever, and NBC has scrapped five hours of prime-time for Jay Leno's new show.

While cable has picked up some of the slack by producing original dramas, they are short orders with small staffs. It all adds up to the worst job market for TV writers than I have ever seen before. It's shocking to me how many of my friends…experienced, successful scribes, some with shelves of Emmy Awards… are out of work right now. 

Sweet News for Willeford Fans

Variety reports that Neil LaBute will write and direct an adaptation of Charles Willeford's novel BURNT ORANGE HERESY. It's not Willeford's best novel, but I'm glad to see any of his work make it to the screen. Past adaptations have been a mixed bag… COCKFIGHTER and WOMAN CHASER were great, MIAMI BLUES was a major disappointment.