23 September, 2007

Buzz: US imports special

The bidding war for US imports has got very silly over the past years, to the extent that networks were bidding for shows they didn’t want just to make another network out-bid them and pay much more money. They panic bought shows just in case they might possibly be hits and better to buy something that turns out to be a flop then allow another network to buy something that turns out to be a hit. Shows with terrible pilots were snapped up in haste and rued at leisure.

There are several cancelled shows bought last season yet to air and shows that did air but underperformed, so the networks have been a bit more cautious with the purse-strings this upcoming season. Channel 4 has gone as far to say they will be reducing the imports they buy in future and may not even renew things like Ugly Betty.

But all those extra digital channels will need content - imagine E4 without imports. All they can do is try and negotiate cheaper prices from the US production companies. There is now very little from summer and autumn 2007 worth buying that hasn't been bought yet.


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Drama


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Army Wives (Lifetime) - Living


My second favourite new show of the summer. It’s about army wives (and a army husband) on base dealing with absent partners and army rules. Quality writing.
Starts autumn 2008

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Bionic Woman (NBC) - ITV

I didn’t see much wrong with the pilot but certain commentators did. However, the ordinary public loved it. The show is being re-worked amidst behind the scenes turmoil. Top scribe Glen Morgan has resigned as a showrunner.

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The Black Donnellys (NBC) - ITV2

From last season, this early cancelled crime drama about brothers is from Paul Haggis of Crash and Casino Royale. It's quite good but it should have been a cable show as it's quite violent (one episode was considered too violent to be shown) and the criminals as main characters theme has never really worked on network TV. The quality Smith had the same problem last season.
Starts 27 September

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Cane (CBS) - ITV

It’s been called the new Sopranos but it’s closer to the new Dallas. The pilot and premise are OK, it just doesn’t grab you by the throat and insist you watch.

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The Company (TNT) - BBC

A spy mini-series with a star cast but I couldn’t finish the first episode. I just don’t care about spies and cold war toss. Turns out the demo was the oldest audience for a show ever, or something like that.

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Damages (FX) - BBC

I have buzzed this previously.

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Dirty Sexy Money (ABC) - C4

I haven’t seen it but it’s generating great buzz. It’s about a lawyer that works for an unusual family just like his father did before him.

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Flash Gordon (Sci Fi) - Sci Fi

This isn’t a bad show. It’s escapist fun - if you’re in the mood. People were hoping for a Battlestar Galactica style re-version for adults but it’s a Doctor Who style re-version for kids.

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Gossip Girl (The CW) - ITV


This is brilliant. It’s from Josh Schwartz from The OC and oozes class from the writing to the production values. It’s about the lives of rich kids in an exclusive Manhattan school but the main characters are new rich outsiders. The soundtrack is also brilliant.

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Greek (ABC family) - BBC

We follow a brother and a sister at college as they deal with their fraternity and sorority houses. The concept was deeply flawed and the writing very average but some of the characters are original.

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Hidden Palms (The CW) - Sky

By Kevin Williamson the genius behind Dawson’s Creek and the Scream franchise, this is pretty bad. I saw the pilot a while ago and can't believe anyone bought it. The CW delayed showing it until the summer and then cancelled it after only a few episodes due to the low viewing figures.
Starts 4 October

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Jericho (CBS) - ITV4

This was cancelled after the first season completed and then renewed following an audience campaign. It’s already been a hit on Hallmark. I previewed it here
Starts 3 October.

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Journeyman (NBC) - Sky

A Quantum Leap update. This was a fun romp about a San Francisco journalist, Dan Vasser, who finds he’s randomly time travelling for some reason. The only problem is it may be too random and the shifts back and forth in time can be confusing and annoying if done too much.
Starts 8 November

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K-Ville (Fox) - Five

The trailer didn’t convince me at all and the premise looked dodgy but watching the pilot online I was converted. The two main characters are brilliant and one character revelation at the end of the pilot is genius. Its début last week was the highest rating of any show on that day ever for Fox (apart from 24).
Starts January 2008

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Lipstick Jungle (NBC) - Living

Three high-powered women deal with life at the top in design, movies and magazine publishing. I had forgotten I'd seen the pilot, which says something. It’s OK, I suppose.

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Mad Men (AMC) - BBC4


Easily my favourite drama series of the summer and enters my favourite drama of all time list. The setting is the advertising industry on Madison Avenue in the early ‘60s. A lot of its appeal is dramatic irony - the characters smoke incessantly for instance – and the real sense of how people’s choices were limited then – especially women. Although the viewing figures weren't spectacular the demo of those viewers was good and so it has been renewed for another season. Unmissable.

Incidentally, HBO passed on this and greenlit John from Cincinnati. Oh dear.

Starts February 2008

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Moonlight (CBS) - Virgin 1

An Angel update about a vampire private investigator who helps humans.

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The Nine (ABC) – Five

A cancelled show from last season, I expect this to turn up on Five US at some point if not late night on the main channel. They showed Vanished after all and this was better written. It’s an ensemble piece which follows the nine people who bonded after being taken hostage in a bank robbery where something mysterious happened. It’s good but the concept was clearly flawed.

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Psych (USA) - BBC

This comedy detective show about a bloke with good observation skills pretending to be psychic has already aired on Hallmark. I can understand the reluctance of the BBC to show it, although they have already paid for it. The first season is too inconsistent and has too many obscure American references. It got better as the season goes on and season 2 is unqualified quality so far.

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Pushing Daisies (ABC) - ITV



This is my favourite pilot of any in the past few years. It’s intelligent, quirky and original which would normally mean it would be cancelled within a few episodes but it’s a big hit with both critics and test audiences. Some are even saying it’s the only new show to bother with this autumn.
Starts January 2008

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Raines (NBC) - ITV3

An awesome detective series with a difference. Raines sees the murder victims and they talk to him but they’re not ghosts, they’re a by–product of his disturbed imagination due to a traumatic incident. Difficult show to sell but it makes perfect sense once you give it a chance. Few people did give it a chance and it was cancelled but we have eight glorious episodes - when ITV can be arsed to show them.

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Reaper (The CW) - C4

This is going for a similar demo to Chuck(NBC) and the suggestion is that only one can survive. Please let it be this one. Chuck hasn’t found a UK buyer yet and I certainly wouldn’t buy it (not that I've got the money). The pilot is the worst of the season, although it apparently gets better. Reaper is good to go from the pilot.

Chuck is about a bloke whose college friend, an international spy, sends him a fancy email before he's killed which puts lots of top secret data in his brain and so he now has to work for the security services and pass on the info. A re-version of recent so-so flop Jake 2.0.

Reaper is about a bloke who when he turns 21 is told that due to a pact made by his parents when he was born he now has to work for the devil. The devil wants him to send escaped demons back to hell. A re- version of recent quite good flop Brimstone.

Both shows require a lot of suspension of disbelief, but Reaper manages to be more believable in the writing and the characters so you're more willing to ignore the dodgy set-up. Reaper is naturally funny while Chuck's humour is forced and fake.

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The Riches (Fx) – Virgin 1


Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver are the parents of a criminal traveller family who take the identity of a rich Jewish couple who die in a car crash. Driver is awesome and got nominated for an Emmy, while Izzard struggles with the accent which drags the show down. It does get better though or I just got used to it. It's certainly watchable and it was renewed for a second season but the writing is too inconsistent and the season arc looks made up as they went along.
Starts 1 October

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The Sarah Connor Chronicles (Fox) - Virgin 1

The pilot looked good but was kinda sucky, as I guessed it would be. This was going to début in the autumn but now it has been put back to spring while they re-tool the show. How can they re-tool such a deeply flawed concept? The "terminator chasing boy" story in the pilot is clearly a non-starter every week, so they want to set it in one place with regular characters, like a normal series. But even with the storylines and intrigue set up in the pilot, that's a non-starter too.
(Of course, I will be editing this section if they manage to do it and it's a big hit)


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Six Degrees (ABC) - ITV1

This early cancelled series from last season about six random characters who connect in a big city is included here more in hope than expectation that ITV will show it. They bought it for ITV1 but were put off by the cancellation in the US. It is classy and I think it would still do a good job considering what ITV1 has been showing. Co-incidentally BBC3 are about to pilot a British drama series about six random characters who connect in a big city called The Six. Spooky.

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Swingtown (CBS) - ITV

This is about swinging couples and it’s on the most conservative network. Expect a Smith style too early cancellation, although the execs are making all the right supportive noises.

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The Tudors (Showtime) - BBC


Classy historical drama.
Starts 5 October

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Viva Laughlin (CBS) - Living

Peter Bowker created the original for the BBC, which was about a bloke in the gambling business with big problems interspersed with mimed singing and dance routines to various pop songs. Bowker’s one of my favourite writers but I didn’t really get this premise at all. This re-make has one of the lowest test scores with audiences. I hope it lasts a 100 episodes and Bowker becomes a billionaire through syndication but it doesn’t seem likely at this stage.

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Comedy


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30 Rock (NBC) - Five


There were two programmes set behind the scenes of a sketch show last season on NBC. Studio 60 and this. Both were flops but this avoided cancellation because of its critical acclaim. It has just won an Emmy for best comedy justifying the faith. The first season of the US Office was similarly under-appreciated by viewers but now it is a huge hit. 30 Rock is quality and not to be missed. Five intend showing it at 10:45, which is taking the piss - unless it has a brilliant and appropriate lead-in.
Starts 11 October

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Back to You (Fox) - C4

Two of my favourite sitcom writer-producers have teamed up and while this result isn’t double the fun, it is fun nonetheless. A big TV anchor is forced to go back down the ladder to where he started but his old co-anchor stayed at the station and resents him for some reason. Had a very good début audience and most should stay for the second week.

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The Big Bang Theory (CBS) - C4

While not the most hilarious pilot ever, this sitcom about geeks who befriend their new neighbour – a hot non-geek woman – is funny, charms and has potential. Generating good buzz.

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Californication (Showtime) - Five



This is about a novelist with writer's block who is still in love with the wife he’s divorced and who shags around a lot. It's not too far from excellent and has been picked up for another season.
Starts 11 October

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The Class (CBS) - C4/E4

This sitcom about classmates who meet up at a party and remain in touch is bound to get an airing at some time, just probably not the primetime Friday slot it deserves. It was early cancelled last season and sometimes you have to accept that people just don’t get things and accept that they don't have to watch something if they don't want to. After all, there's things I don't get that other people love. However, anyone who doesn't love this show is a fracking idiot.

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Flight Of The Conchords (HBO) - BBC4


British comedy fans will be familiar with this Kiwi musical double-act who had a radio series and played the circuit over here for years. Their TV comedy début - about them trying to make it big in New York - is quality and not to be missed. Incidentally, one of the writer-directors on the series is, fellow Kiwi, Taika Cohen of the excellent Eagle vs Shark.
Starts 25 September

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The Sarah Silverman Program (Comedy Central) - Paramount


Sarah Silverman was a comedy god due to her awesome stand-up before this narrative comedy series. Now the few remaining doubters can shut the frack up and bow before the deity like everyone else. Unmissable.
Starts 4 October

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'Til Death (Fox) - Five US

From last season, traditional sitcom featuring young newlyweds moving next door to cynical long-marrieds. It's OK but not exactly appointment to view.

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Unhitched (Fox) - FX

Previously called "The Rules for Starting Over", this is from the Farrelly brothers. I really like the premise: "a group of newly single friends learning the painful lessons of starting over in their 30s."

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The best of the unbought

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Drama


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Burn Notice (USA)

This was very popular and has been renewed for a second season. I admit I had my doubts and stopped watching but with the likes of John Rogers bigging it up I gave it another chance and I'm glad I did. I expect it to get a UK buyer eventually. The only sticking point might be that one of the heroes is ex-IRA. Also in the pilot she had the most appalling ‘oirish’ accent which is likely to put people off.

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Life (NBC)


A cop is framed for murder and serves life in prison but DNA evidence frees him. Although the compensation has made him a multi-millionaire he returns to police work. He solves the murder of the week while also trying to find out who framed him in the first place and why.

I guessed this would be one of my favourites from the premise and the trailer was encouraging. Thankfully the pilot was quality. I have no clue why it hasn't been bought yet.

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Side Order Of Life (Lifetime)

A photographer gets a job on a magazine and has to deal with getting married and a friend who falls ill. This is so real and yet there’s a fantasy element where the photographer has some strange ability to see the truth that’s hidden behind the photos she takes and she uses that ability in the story of the week. I have no idea why it works but it does.

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Comedy


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Aliens in America (The CW)

An unpopular nerd at school is given a cool foreign exchange student by his parents to help him be cooler. But there’s a mix-up and the student isn't a cool English dude but a dork from Pakistan. Cue panic about terrorism, etc. The pilot was quality and while UK viewers have been negative on the boards, it’s getting great buzz in the US.

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Cavemen (ABC)


This is getting the worst buzz of any new show in the US with even people who haven’t seen it having a good old rant about it. I’ve seen it and I like it. The premise is what if cavemen were like any other racial group in the states. It’s been called the dumbest show ever but it’s actually quite sophisticated. It deserves a chance, I think.

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Samantha Who (ABC)

When you laugh at the premise for a sitcom, it’s a good sign. Samantha loses her memory and doesn’t remember what she was like. Friends and family try and manipulate her but she can only trust her boyfriend to tell her the truth. It’s getting great buzz from test audiences although I haven't seen the pilot yet.

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Slacker Cats (ABC family)

Gross out animation about cat friends and their owners from the British writers of Hyperdrive. I like Hyperdrive and I like this and I’m not ashamed to say so. Well, I'm a little ashamed to be honest.

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7 comments:

David Bishop said...

Agreed with you on a lot of this [Mad Men is blinding], but cannot see the appeal of Reaper at all. Maybe if I'd seen it before Chuck, not after. Reaper bored me so badly I felt like inviting tramps in so I could pick their scabs. Bleugghhhh.

Robin Kelly said...

You'd better copyright that idea before C4 nick it for Celebrity Tramp Scab Picking.

My brain told me Reaper was wrong but I laughed out loud when I watched it and it earned enough goodwill by the better than average writing. Perhaps you have to like that Kevin Smith style.

While it's not on my must-see list, I'm curious enough to see how they develop it.

Robin Kelly said...

Just found this USA Today article:

'Chuck' comes to fall season's rescue

How can so many people be so wrong? ;-)

Dan said...

Hey Robin, thanks for the message. Rather strangely I have indeed been blogjacked. Can't understand how it happened as the people who've done it have also managed to retain my custom layout.

I can't actually get my URL back as blogger says it is no longer available but you can still leave messages that will go directly to me? Odd.

My blog now resides at www.danieljamesalexander.blogspot.com

graham said...

Agreed Mad Men is a great show, but why the cheap shot at John from Cincinnati. That is a truly fantastic show - one of a kind ... did you actually watch it?

Robin Kelly said...

Graham, I did watch all of John from Cincinnati and while I admire the attempt to do something different and be original, there's a fine line between that and self-indulgent, pretentious nonsense.

I'm not a Milch fan, I admit, but good episodes from writers later in the season like Alix Lambert, Abby Gewanter and Wayne Loren Wilson showed that the show could have been great with less Milch involvement and a better writing team. But it was Milch's ball and he gets to play.

graham said...

fair enough. thanks.