|PRODUCTION & DEVELOPMENT
Jon Stewart has set his team for his forthcoming
untitled Apple current affairs series. The former “Daily Show” host tapped Former CBS Evening News producer Brinda Adhikari as showrunner and exec producer. Adhikari was most recently senior broadcast producer of the “CBS Evening News with Norah O’Donnell.” Chelsea Devantez, who’s written on Peacock’s “Girls5Eva” and Comedy Central’s “The Opposition with Jordan Klepper,” is head writer, and Lorrie Baranek, whose credits include Netflix’s “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman,” is executive in charge of production. Series does not yet have an air date.
Issa Rae and her Hoorae production shingle, and Stephanie Allain’s Homegrown Pictures are in as exec producers on “The Vanishing Half,” currently in development as a series at HBO. Aziza Barnes (“BLKS”) and Jeremy O. Harris (“Slave Play”) also signed on as writers and exec producers on drama, based on the Brit Bennett’s novel about twin sisters who are reunited as adults after they ran away from their small, southern Black community at age 16 and have led separate lives.
Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, exec producer of the “Power” franchise, and Kenya Barris, creator/exec producer of the “Black-ish” suite, are developing a series for Netflix based on The 50th Law, the book by Jackson and Robert Greene. The story is the semiautobiographical account of 50 Cent’s rise both as an urban hustler and a musician.
For Spike Lee’s newest project with Netflix, he’ll produce “Gordon Hemingway & the Realm of Cthulhu.” Directed by Stefon Bristol, the feature is based on an original screenplay by Hank Woon and set in East Africa in 1928, where a Black American gunslinger teams up with the warrior princess of Ethiopia to rescue the country’s kidnapped regent.
And in more Netflix, the streamer scored “The Bluff,” starring Zoe Saldana, with Frank E. Flowers directing. The film is set in the Cayman Islands in the 1800s and centers on Caribbean woman whose secret past is revealed when her island is invaded by vicious buccaneers… The streamer also added Robbie Fox comedic thriller spec script “Uncoupled” to its coffers, with with Escape Artists Todd Black and Jason Blumenthal onboard to produce. Script follows a married couple who, on the eve of their divorce, go on the run together after they’re wrongly accused of a murder.
Things are hopping at Peacock. The NBCU streamer is adapting the classic arcade game “Frogger” into a physical competition series and has ordered 13 eps from “Holey Moley” producer Eureka Productions. Frogger, for which players attempted to return frogs safely home by crossing a bustling road and navigating a river of obstacles, was introduced in 1981 by Konami, and published by Sega.
“The Rise and Fall of Victoria’s Secret” has found a home at Hulu. From Peter Berg and Matt Tyrnauer, the docuseries will chronicle the lingerie franchise from its start as a mail-order brand to its ascension as a a global sensation to the controversies that plagued it, including the relationship between owner Les Wexner and Jeffrey Epstein.
truTV greenlit “Backyard Bar Wars,” a comical take on the classic DIY competition series hosted by Chris Distefano. In each episode of the home reno series, slated to debut in July, two neighbors will compete to see who can create the buzziest at-home bar on the block.
Epix ordered “Fall River,” a four-part docuseries from Blumhouse Television. Set to debut May 16, “Fall River” revisits the murders of three women in Fall River, Mass., in 1979, almost 90 years after infamous, accused murderer Lizzie Borden’s notorious acquittal.
Phylicia Rashad (“The Cosby Show”) is exec-producing and possibly set to star in a series adaptation of Emily March’s 18-part novel series Eternity Springs. Rashad is teaming with Virgin River exec producers Roma Roth and Christopher E. Perry on the project, whose storyline is under wraps. Writer John E. Pogue (“Beauty and The Beast,” “Everwood”) is attached to write the adaptation.
“Tyler Perry’s The Oval” has been renewed for a third season on BET, just a week after its season 2 opener on February 16.
It’s a meta kind of thing. Ron Moore, who exec-produced “For All Mankind,” is developing multiple TV projects at Disney+ that will be set at Disney’s Magic Kingdom. First up, “The Society of Explorers and Adventurers,” is a series from 20th TV in which the themed lands and characters of the Disney parks and classic films all actually exist in another reality. Moore also reportedly is working on collabs with Disney Imagineering that would feature a universe similar to Marvel but set in the Magic Kingdom.
David Oyelowo’s feature directorial debut, “The Water Man,” got picked up by RLJE Films and Netflix. The family film, which bowed at the 2020 Toronto Film Festival, will debut in US theaters and premium VOD on May 7 via RLJE, with Netflix releasing the film later this year internationally. From Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Films, ShivHans Pictures and Yoruba Saxon, the film focuses on a young man who sets off to save his ill mother by searching for a mythic figure who possesses the secret to immortality.
Greenwich Entertainment acquired the US distribution rights to doc feature “Kenny Scharf: When Worlds Collide,” slated to to debut April 23 in theaters and on digital platforms. The film, which premiered at last year’s SXSW, was filmed over 11 years and features interviews and archival footage with Scharf, Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring and others.
Topic snagged North American rights to Israeli drama “The Wordmaker,” starring Shira Haas (“Unorthodox”), with plans to release the series this spring. The 2015 show is set in the mystical world of Kabbalah studies and explores religious zealotry through the story of Dr. Ari Milus, who becomes entangled in a murder mystery after he returns to his childhood neighborhood in Jerusalem to consult with the doctor who once treated his parasomnia.
NEW + RETURNING SERIES
Pass the sunscreen. Heroes & Icons TV Network is adding “Baywatch” to its lineup, beginning Monday, March 15, as well as “CSI: Cyber,” starring Patricia Arquette and Ted Danson.
Jack Osbourne and Katrina Weidman face off against paranormal activity once again with the return of new eps of “Portals to Hell, “ Saturday, March 20 on discovery+.
Nasim Pedrad-helmed series “Chad,” about 14-year-old pubescent Persian boy who navigates his first year of high school on a mission to become popular, premieres Tuesday, April 6 at 10:30p on TBS. “SNL” alum Pedrad stars and also serves as creator, writer, exec producer and showrunner.
Netflix dropped a title treatment teaser for superhero series “Jupiter’s Legacy” that heralded the May 7 premiere of its series adaptation of the graphic novels by Mark Millar and Frank Quitely. Eight-ep series, starring Josh Duhamel, Leslie Bibb and Ben Daniels, spans decades of family, power, and loyalty dramatics as the offspring of first-generation superheroes struggle to live up to their parents’ legacy.
Ziwe Fumudoh’s eponymous Showtime sketch comedy series will debut Sunday, May 8 at 11p. Six-part series, which landed a straight-to-series order in October, will feature interviews, sketches, musical numbers, faux commercials and more… Also at Showtime, season 2 of “Couples Therapy” lands April 18 with the first two eps airing back-to-back beginning at 10p.
The Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. unveiled additional presenters for the 78th Golden Globe Awards, airing at 8p Sunday, February 28 on NBC. Bryce Dallas Howard, Christopher Meloni, Rosie Perez and Christian Slater join previously announced presenters including Kevin Bacon, Margot Robbie, Tiffany Haddish, Anthony Anderson, Kate Hudson and Kenan Thompson.
New from UPtv is “Hint of Love,” premiering Sunday, February 28 at 7p. Film follows a cookbook literary agent who’s forced to choose between following directions and her heart when she’s tasked with helping elevate the brand of a food channel personality.
“Hunger Ward,” newly acquired by MTV Documentary Films, will debut on Pluto TV on Monday, March 1. The third installment in a trio of short films by Skye Fitzgerald that probe the plight of refugees and people displaced by conflict, the doc turns the lens to children suffering starvation in Yemen as a result of war in the Middle Eastern country.
Netflix set Wednesday, March 3 as the premiere date for “Murder Among the Mormons,” a three-part docuseries from directors Jared Hess (“Napoleon Dynamite”) and Tyler Measom (“An Honest Liar”) that examines the series of pipe bombs in 1985 that kill two people and severely injures another in the closeknit epicenter of the LDS Church. The BBC Studios production is exec produced by Joe Berlinger, Ryan O’Dowd, Jared Hess and Tyler Measom.
Gladys Knight and Alessia Cara will perform, virtually, at the 70th annual NBA All-Star Game. The game, airing Sunday, March 7 at 8p on TNT, also will feature performances by iconic HBCU musical groups. Knight will perform the US national anthem from Atlanta; Cara will sing the Canadian national anthem from Toronto, and they’ll also perform in concert with the collegiate groups before tip-off.
“The Blinding of Isaac Woodard,” a documentary about a Black army sergeant who was savagely beaten by a bus driver on his way home to South Carolina after serving in WWII, premieres Tuesday, March 30 at 9p on PBS. The film explores how the horrific incident of racial violence became a catalyst for the Civil Rights movement.
It’s official. NBCUniversal’s 42 NBC/Telemundo stations and seven regional sports nets are moving to 100 percent impressions-based buying for all local ad campaigns as of April 1. After the stations announced their move to impressions in September 2019, clients and agencies that weren’t trading on impressions were granted additional time to transition while they evaluated the impact the change would have on their business and clients.
In collaboration with NASA, National Geographic debuted an augmented reality experience on the @natgeo Instagram account. The activation gives users one of the first opportunities to be “on” the Perseverance rover, and offers a 360 look at the panorama from the robot’s point of view.
Building on its partnership with Samsung TV Plus in the US, Vevo will now be available to millions of Samsung TV Plus users in the UK. Linear, ad-supported Vevo Pop is the first Vevo channel available on Samsung TV Plus in the UK. Additional genre-curated channels are being explored for launch later this year, as are additional European markets.
Cable news channel Newsmax TV launched its channel on Vizio SmartCast. The SmartCast operating system comes equipped with every Vizio Smart TV and provides free content available from the SmartCast Home screen.
ShortsTV is expanding into OTT via a new partnership with India’s Airtel Xstream to launch a VOD service viewable on a mobile app and television screens. The move adds Airtel’s 340 million subscribers to ShortsTV’s current universe of 60 million TV households.
Nickelodeon is diving back into Upfront waters for the first time since 2018. The network will stage a virtual presentation Thursday, March 18, and is inviting attendees to bring their kids. A blend of animation and live action, the event promises to unleash the net’s largest content slate to date—including more original animation productions than ever in its 40+year history—and will feature screening rooms, sweepstakes, photo opps and interactive meet and greets.
In related news, Nick is partnering with Mattel Television to produce an animated series and live-action TV movie musical based on the “Monster High” franchise about the children of famous monsters and creatures. The series, which will be available globally across Nick platforms, is slated to premiere in 2022 as will the movie musical, which marks the first time “Monster High” will be brought to life in live action.
Animation veteran and cable marketing pioneer Fred Seibert launched a new production entity, FredFilms, and inked a first-look deal with ViacomCBS Networks International’s VIS Kids division. Seibert, whose production credits include “Adventure Time” and “The Fairly OddParents” through FredFilms will develop long- and short-form animation series designed for linear TV and streaming. He remains exec producer of two Netflix series, “Castlevania,” and the upcoming “Bee & PuppyCat” installment.
In related news, VIS Kids inked a first-look deal with John Boyega’s UpperRoom Productions. Boyega (“Star Wars”) last year signed a deal with Netflix to develop non-English language films focusing on west and east Africa. For VIS Kids, he’ll offer three to five projects that could be developed into long-form series.
“Hannah Montana” and “That’s So Raven” co-creator Michael Poryes partnered with France’s Superprod Group to create tween comedy series “Home Sweet Rome.” Set in the Italian city, series follows the antics of an American girl who moves to Rome with her father. Doug Schwalbe, a former DreamWorks and HBO exec, developed the series with Poryes.
Taylor Kitsch will star opposite Chris Pratt in Amazon’s conspiracy thriller series “The Terminal List”… Rebbi Rosie, whose credits include dancing with Beyonce, J. Lo and Nicki Minaj, joined the cast of Starz’s re-imagined “Step Up” series along with new cast members Keiynan Lonsdale (“The Flash,” “Love, Simon”) and Enrique Murciano (“Power,” “Bloodline”). Additionally, Terayle Hill (“Cobra Kai”) has been upped to series regular… At the CW, Bradley Gibson (“Power Book II: Ghost”) is joining the upcoming reboot of “Kung Fu” in a recurring role, while “Rosewell, New Mexico” added Quentin Plair in a recurring guest role.
Rome Flynn (“How To Get Away With Murder”) will recur on the fourth and final season of Netflix’s “Dear White People.” Flynn has also joined the season two cast of Netflix’s “Raising Dion,” with Aubriana Davis (“Genius: Aretha”), Tracey Bonner (“Sweet Magnolias”) and Josh Ventura (“P-Valley”) … Ian Colletti (“Preacher”), Dawn Olivieri (“House of Lies”) and Denyce Lawton (“Tyler Perry’s House of Payne”) will recur opposite Daniel Dae Kim and Tony Goldwyn in “The Hot Zone: Anthrax,” the second installment of Nat Geo’s scripted anthology series… Paulo Costanzo inked a recurring role on the second season of Amazon’s “Upload.”
Disney+ launched general entertainment service Star in Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. The new outlet enables the company to jockey among streamers offering more grown-up programming. Disney also launched Disney+ together with Star in Singapore, the first market where the two services are offered in tandem. Eastern Europe, Hong Kong, Japan, and South Korea are on the map for later this year.