LA Screenings: Sony Pictures Television 2013-2014 Slate – What’s Hot & What’s Not

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Last week saw the major studios host international buyers from around the world during the LA Screenings. It’s at this annual industry event that global TV executives screen each studio’s new shows for the 2013-2014 season with a view to zeroing in which new entries they will purchase for their own schedules. With the screenings now behind us, which shows are looking good for international sales? TVWise continues its coverage of the screenings with its studio-by-studio break down of industry intel (from numerous sources) on which shows are hot and those which, frankly, are not.

Following our coverage of the slate of new shows offered by CBS Studios International, Disney Media Distribution, Twentieth Century Fox Television Distribution and NBCUniversal International Television Distribution, we now turn our attention to Sony Pictures Television. The independent studio was shopping 8 new broadcast shows at this years screenings including a comedy series for CBS, NBC’s The Blacklist, The Michael J. Fox Show, The Night Shift & Welcome To The Family, ABC’s The Golbergs and Fox’s Rake and Us & Them.

This has already been a record year for Sony Pictures Television who landed series orders on all of the big four broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC). The only real upset for the studio was CBS passing on their Beverly Hill Cop series, which was one generating a lot of buzz with international buyers before it was passed on by the network and still had a lot of those execs talking during and after the LA Screenings. Based on the buzz coming out of the screenings, Sony Pictures Television looks as though it has the strongest slate of any of the big six studios, but just which of their new shows are the hottest?

Bad Teacher

A comedy series for CBS which received a late pick up once the upfronts were over and the LA Screenings were in full swing, Bad Teacher is based on the feature film of the same name and follows an always inappropriate, fearless and unapologetic former trophy wife who masquerades as a teacher in order to find a new man after her wealthy husband leaves her penniless. The comedy series is produced by Sony Pictures Television in association with CBS Television Studios and Mosaic Media Group and stars Ari Graynor, Kristin Davis, Sara Gilbert, Ryan Hansen, David Alan Grier, Caitlin Kimball and Katie Walder.

This one is difficult to get an accurate read on. I understand that due to the late pick up from CBS the series was not being screened for buyers by the studio, but that didn’t stop SPT discussing it with acquisitions executives. Still, the series is based on a well known feature which grossed over $200 million at the box office and I was hearing that more than one UK broadcaster had their eyes on this project before the screenings. This one’s a wait and see job.

The Blacklist

One of NBC’s new drama series which got the plum post The Voice time-slot, The Blacklist was created by Jon Bokenkamp and tells the story of the world’s most wanted criminal who mysteriously turns himself in and offers to give up everyone he has ever worked with. His only condition is he will only work with a newly minted FBI agent with whom he seemingly has no connection. The drama is produced Sony Pictures Television and stars James Spader, Megan Boone, Ryan Eggold, Diego Klattenhoff, Harry Lennix and Ilfenesh Hadera.

This is definitely the hottest series that Sony Pictures Television was shopping at the LA Screenings, at least on the drama side of their slate. The series has been almost universally well received and has been pegged as “fantastic and fast paced” by one source. The performance of James Spader was also highlighted by another source. It’s hard to say if star power is driving this one, but regardless it looks like SPT will do a lot of business on this one.

The Goldbergs

Created by Adam F. Goldberg, The Goldbergs is set in the 1980s and follows the exploits a family with and in-your-face mother, a hot-tempered father and three eccentric children. The comedy series is produced by Sony Pictures Television & Happy Madison and stars Wendi McLendon-Covey, Jeff Garlin, George Segal, Darien Provost and Troy Gentile.

Buzz on The Goldbergs has been strong. More than one source said it was very funny, if not eliciting some nostalgia. There seems to be a decent level of interest from international buyers and looks like it could do well internationally for Sony Pictures Television. There is a looming question, however, if the similar comedy series Surviving Jack, which is being shopped by Warner Bros. International Television Distribution, will effect sales for The Goldbergs.

The Night Shift

Another new drama series for NBC, The Night Shift was penned by Gabe Sachs & Jeff Judah and follows a group of Army doctors working the late shift at a San Antonio Hospital. The drama is produced by Sony Pictures Television and stars Eoin Macken, Jill Flint, Freddy Rodriguez, Ken Leung, Jeananne Goossen, Robert Bailey Jr and Brigid Brannagh.

The chatter on The Night Shift has been ok. It’s not the hottest drama being shopped by SPT, but its far from the weakest new show being shopped at this year’s LA Screenings. One source said it was “a strong medical show”, while another called it “character driven.” It’s got less buyers talking than any of the other new shows Sony has on offer this year, but still looks like it will do well internationally.

The Michael J. Fox Show

Based partly on Fox’s own life, The Michael J. Fox Show follows Mike Henry a former New York City news anchor who put his career on hold to spend more time with his family and focus on his health after he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. But five years later, with the kids busy growing up and Mike growing restless, it just might be time for him to get back to work. Having never wanted Mike to leave in the first place, his old boss Harris Green jumped at the chance to get him back on TV. The trick, as it’s always been, was to make Mike think it was his idea. Now the plan is in motion and Mike will be back to juggling home, family, and career — just like the old days, but only better. The comedy series is produced by Sony Pictures Television and stars Michael J. Fox, Wendell Pierce, Betsy Brandt, Conor Romero, Juliette Goglia, Jack Gore and Katie Finneran.

This was the first project to get a series order for the 2013-2014 season and after a bidding war amongst the nets it landed at NBC with a 22 episode commitment. Michael J. Fox’s return to TV as a series regular didn’t only get NBC execs excited, it was being talked about by international acquisitions executives for months before the LA Screenings and from what I hear it didn’t disappoint. The comedy has been very well received, with one source calling the pilot “genius”. This is Sony’s hottest comedy this year and looks like it’ll be a big seller.

Rake

One of the new dramas that Fox has on tap for mid-season, Rake is based on the Australian series of the same name and follows a brilliant but self-destructive criminal defense lawyer named Keegan Joye. The series is produced by Sony Pictures Television, Fedora Entertainment and Essential Media & Entertainment and stars Greg Kinnear, John Ortiz, Miranda Otto, Bojana Novakovic, Necar Zadegan, David Harbour and Tara Summers.

Rake is one of the more interesting ones the come out of the screenings. Going in, international buyers (except those from Australia, for obvious reasons) were not really talking about this one. But now that the pilot has been screened there is a lot of interest in this one. It’s been the dark horse of Sony’s slate. Sources have called it “well written and acted” and “a different kind of legal show”.

Us & Them

Based on BBC Three’s Gavin & Stacey, Us & Them tells the story of two very different lovers who try to make a long-distance relationship work. The series is produced by Sony Pictures Television and BBC Worldwide Productions and stars Jason Ritter, Alexis Bledel, Jane Kaczmarek, Dustin Ybarra, Kerri Kenney-Silver, Kurt Fuller and Ashlie Atkinson.

Before the screenings feelings on this one were mixed – especially from UK executives, with one source telling me that “US remakes rarely work” back in April. Others were more cautious and were reserving judgement until they saw the pilot. As it turns out those that fitted into the latter category were right. Us & Them has been well received on the whole and I’m told that while you can see the “building blocks” from the original series, this adaptation stands out as it has its own feel and merits. It’s been called a “funny rom-com” by another source. This should play well overseas, as for a UK sale; it’s early days, but I’d give it more than an even chance of landing one.

Welcome To The Family

Another new comedy series for NBC, Welcome To The Family was written by Michael Sikowitz and follows a white family and a Latino family who are bonded together by their children who fall in love followed quickly by an unplanned pregnancy. The comedy series is produced by Sony Pictures Television and stars Mike O’Malley, Justina Machado, Mary McCormack, Ella Rae Peck and Aramis Knight.

The buzz on Welcome To The Family is also fairly strong. The comedy was well received and the star power of both Mike O’Malley and Mary McCormack is boosting it with international buyers. One buyer compared it to the now defunct CBS series Rob by saying “If Rob was good or even funny, this would be what it looked like”. Again, I’d expect this to do well internationally based on the buzz. As will most if not all of these shows as, according to my sources, SPT is the only studio whose new shows have all lived up to the hype and did not disappoint.