LA Screenings: Warner Bros. International Television Distribution 2013-2014 Slate – What’s Hot & What’s Not

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With the LA Screenings – where the big six studios host acquisitions executives from around the globe, screen for them the pilots of their new shows which have been picked up by the big five US networks (ABC, CBS, The CW, Fox and NBC) for next season, all with the hope of securing those lucrative international sales – now behind us, which of next seasons new shows are performing well with international buyers? TVWise continues its coverage of the annual industry event with our studio-by-studio break down of industry intel (from numerous sources) on which shows are hot and those which, frankly, are not.

In this sixth and final run down (following our coverage of the slates offered by CBS Studios International, Disney Media Distribution, Twentieth Century Fox Television Distribution, NBCUniversal International Television Distribution and Sony Pictures Television) we turn our attention to Warner Bros. International Television Distribution. WBITD was shopping 10 new scripted series at the Screenings, including three dramas for The CW, a comedy series for ABC, two new dramas for NBC and one drama and one comedy series for Fox.

Warner Bros. slate was arguably the one that had the most hype surrounding it before the LA Screenings. Between two new entries from JJ Abrams (Fox’s Almost Human and NBC’s Believe), Rebel Wilson’s new comedy series for ABC and The CW’s remake of The Tomorrow People, WB’s slate had buyers talking before they landed in LA. But did the screened pilots live up to the hype?

The 100

One of the five new dramas that The CW ordered for their 2013-2014 schedule, The 100 was created by Jason Rothenberg and is set 97 years after a nuclear war has destroyed civilization. A spaceship housing the lone human survivors sends 100 juvenile delinquents back to Earth to investigate the possibility of re-colonizing the planet. The drama is produced by Warner Bros. Television & Alloy Entertainment and stars Eliza Taylor, Isaiah Washington, Henry Ian Cusick, Marie Avgeropoulos, Paige Turco, Kelly Hu, Christopher Larkin and Thomas McDonell.

The buzz on The 100 has been good. The pilot was generally well received but this one doesn’t seem to have wowed anyone. One source told me that they like what they saw but were concerned about whether it would be a “male skewing” series. That said, it has a strong cast and that is driving a fair amount of interest. It’s hard to gauge just how well The 100 will do internationally, but based on current buzz I’d say it’ll do ok but not great.

Almost Human

Almost Human was created by J.J. Abrams & J.H. Wyman and is described as a buddy cop drama, set in the near future, when all LAPD officers are partnered with highly evolved human-like androids. The series is produced by Warner Bros. Television and Bad Robot and stars Karl Urban, Michael Ealy, Mekia Cox, Minka Kelly, Lili Taylor, Mackenzie Crook and Michael Irby.

Almost Human is the hottest drama series on Warner Bros. International Television Distribution’s slate. That no real surprise given the auspices involved – JJ Abrams’ name sells, who knew? I hear that this pilot was almost universally well received, but there were some doubts as to whether it would play well for general entertainment channels as it has been described by one source as “hard sci-fi”. On the whole, between JJ Abrams, J.H. Wyman and Karl Urban, star power is certainly at play with this one and Almost Human has generated buzz similar to that Revolution stirred last year. This will be a big seller for WBITD.

Believe

Penned by Alfonso Cuaron and Mark Friedman, Believe follows a young girl with a gift and a man sprung from prison who has been tasked with protecting her from the evil elements that hunt her power. The drama is produced by Warner Bros. Television & Bad Robot and stars Jake McLaughlin, Delroy Lindo, Johnny Sequoyah, Sienna Guillory, Jamie Chung and Arian Moayed.

Another series from JJ Abrams & his production company Bad Robot, Believe has a decent amount of buzz for it. It’s not the strongest or the weakest entry on WBITD’s slate this year, but I hear that the pilot had a fairly mixed reaction; with one source calliung it a “well rounded drama”. Still, as noted above, when buyers see the names JJ Abrams and Bad Robot it usually sells, if for no other reason than they are concerned that they could be letting the next Lost slip them by.

Hostages

One of the few new drama series that CBS ordered for next season, Hostage was created by Jeffrey Nachmanoff and follows a surgeon who is selected to operate on the President of the United States. When her family is kidnapped, however, she finds herself in the middle of a political conspiracy and must do everything she can to save their lives. The drama is produced by Warner Bros. Television & Bruckheimer Television and stars Toni Collette, Tate Donovan, Dylan McDermott, Quinn Shephard, Sandrine Holt, Billy Brown, Mateus Ward, Rhys Coiro and James Naughton.

Hostages seems to be playing quite strongly with buyers. It’s been called a “strong thriller”, by one source, who went on to say that “you’re not sure what’s really going on.” Star power doesn’t seem to be in play and the series success will depend on its own merits. It’s certainly one of WB’s hotter series and (unlike a number of others) lived up to the hype, so should do well overseas.

Mom

The latest entry from prolific comedy producer Chuck Lorre (Two And A Half Men, The Big Bang Theory), Mom is one of several comedy series ordered by CBS for next season. The series, which was penned by Lorre, Eddie Gorodetsky & Gemma Baker, follows a newly sober single mom who tries to pull her life together in Napa Valley. The comedy series is produced by Warner Bros. Television & Chuck Lorre Productions and stars Anna Faris (Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs), Allison Janney (The West Wing), Nate Corddry (Harry’s Law), Matt Jones (Breaking Bad), French Stewart (The Middle), Blake Garrett Rosenthal (New Girl), Spencer Daniels (Star Trek) and Sadie Calvano (J. Edgar).

This is one of the surprise stories of the LA Screenings. Understandably, whenever a prolific producer such as Chuck Lorre gets a new project picked up (even as a pilot, let alone a series) there is a lot of talk and A LOT of hype. This time was no different and when you add stars such as Anna Faris and Allison Janney to the mix, that hype only builds. The real take away from the Screenings is that Mom was not the hit that a lot of international buyers thought it would be. From what I hear it had the most mixed reaction of any new show. Some sources called it “very funny”, “hilarious” and “clever”, while others said they came away disappointed. Now, given just how much hype there was surrounding this one and the mixed reaction it received, it’s hard to get a clear read on just how well this will play internationally. Given Lorre’s track record and what has been described as a “stellar performance” from Allison Janney I’m sure it’ll still do well, but this, just like Fox’s Dads, seems to have failed to live up to the hype and is not the breakout hit many had expected.

The Originals

A spin-off of The CW’s The Vampire Diaries, The Originals revolves around the Original family of vampires, as Klaus returns to the supernatural melting pot that is the French Quarter of New Orleans — a town he helped build centuries ago — and is reunited with his diabolical former protégé Marcel. The drama series is produced by Warner Bros. Television, CBS Television Studios & Alloy Entertainment and stars Joseph Morgan, Daniel Gillies, Claire Holt, Phoebe Tonkin, Daniella Pineda, Charles Michael Davis and Leah Pipes.

The Originals was producing some pretty heavy buzz even before the LA Screenings got under way. The Vampire Diaries is a known quantity with international buyers and the spin-off seems to have impressed on a fairly wide scale. I’d expect a lot of business on this one – and (as TVWise previously reported) a UK sale is looking likely as a number of UK broadcasters are said to be interested in the series.

Super Fun Night

One of ABC’s new comedy series, Super Fun Night was created by Rebel Wilson and follows three nerdy female friends on their “funcomfortable” quest to have “super fun” every Friday night. The comedy series is produced by Warner Bros. Television & Conaco Productions and stars Rebel Wilson, Lauren Ash, Liza Lapira, Kelen Coleman and Kevin Bishop.

The story surrounding Super Fun Night is pretty similar to that of Mom. There was some very strong buzz for this comedy before the screenings, but now that it’s over? Not nearly as much. The reaction on this one seems to be far less mixed than it was for Mom and while two sources said they “loved” this pilot, others said that it was a “real disappointment” and “awkwardly unfunny”. But another source, who admits that the pilot failed to live up to her expectations, said not to count it out due to the so-called “Rebel Wilson factor.” How well will Super Fun Night sell internationally? It’s hard to say, but with such soft buzz, I wouldn’t be expecting huge sales.

Surviving Jack

Surviving Jack is based on the Justin Halpern book and was penned by Halpern and Patrick Schumacker. The series tell the story of a boy becoming a man, and a man becoming a father, in a time before coming of age was something you could Google. The series is produced by Warner Bros. Television & Doozer and stars Christopher Meloni, Alex Kapp Horner, Connor Buckley, Claudia Lee, Kevin Hernandez and Tyler Foden.

It happens every year. There is always a handful of shows that have little to no buzz going into the screenings and emerge as the hottest series after they’ve been screened by international buyers. That’s certainly what’s happened here with Surviving Jack, it’s emerged as the dark horse on WB’s slate. Sure Bill Lawrence and Christopher Meloni are both well known to international audiences but that wasn’t driving a lot of chatter before last week. I hear that the pilot was very well received across the board. Expect big sales on this one.

The Tomorrow People

Another of The CW’s new drama series, The Tomorrow People is based on the British series of the same name and tells the story of several young people from around the world who represent the next stage in human evolution, possessing special powers, including the ability to teleport and communicate with each other telepathically. Together they work to defeat the forces of evil. The drama is produced by Warner Bros. Television, Berlanti Television & FreemantleMedia and stars Robbie Amell, Madeleine Mantock, Peyton List, Luke Mitchell, Mark Pellegrino and Aaron Yoo.

Buzz on The Tomorrow People has been solid. It’s been generally well received and described as a “highlight” of the screenings by one source. Interestingly, I’m not hearing many comparisons to the original series. It’s not the hottest title, but on the whole The Tomorrow People seems to have impressed and should do well for Warner Bros. International Television Distribution.

Undateable

Based on the book by Ellen Rakieten and Anne Coyle, Undateable was written by Adam Sztykiel and follows a group of friends dubbed the “Undateables” whose lives are altered when a more confident character enters their world. The comedy is produced by Warner Bros Television & Doozer and stars Chris D’Elia, Brent Morin, Rick Glassman, Ron Funches, Bianca Kajlich, Matthew Wilkas and Briga Heelan.

Undateable is harder to get a read on. Generally the buzz has been soft, but the star power of Chris D’Elia and producer Bill Lawrence seems to be boosting its chances with buyers. This one looks like a wait and see job, but is definitely the WB series with the softest buzz. That’s it for our run downs of what the studios have on offer and how well they’re being received. On the whole this year’s screenings have been more upbeat than in previous years and there is certainly a hope (if not an expectation) that that will lead to stronger sales. We’ll have a report on which shows certain UK broadcasters are eyeing within the next week and its over the next three to four months that UK broadcasters will close the deals and announce their acquisitions. Let the fun begin.