LA Screenings 2014: NBCUniversal International Television Distribution Slate – What’s Hot & What’s Not

LA Screenings 2014 (FT)

TVWise continues our LA Screenings coverage with a look at the series NBCUniversal International Television Distribution are distributing internationally and which ones have buyers talking.

Following our coverage of the slate of new shows offered by CBS Studios International, Disney Media Distribution and Twentieth Century Fox Television Distribution, we turn our attention to NBCUniversal International Television Distribution. The global sales arm of the Comcast owned NBCUniversal handles international sales for the company’s studio Universal Television and cable division Universal Cable Productions. So which of their shows are playing well? TVWise presents our run down of which shows are hot and those which, frankly, are not.

NBCUniversal International Television Distribution had the biggest slate this year, with 15 cable and broadcast series they were showcasing to international buyers. Of their new broadcast series, drama is playing best with Allegiance, Odyssey and State of Affairs all doing well. On the comedy front, the studio was shopping new Fox comedy Mulaney as well as new NBC entries Bad Judge, Mr Robinson and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. In addition to the show’s listed below, NBCUITD was also shopping event series Heroes: Reborn and Emerald City – both of which have strong buzz – as well as Bravo’s Girlfriend’s Guide To Divorce; Syfy series’ 12 Monkeys and Dominion; and USA Network’s DIG and Satisfaction.

Allegiance

AllegianceBased on an Israeli format, Allegiance follows Alex O’Connor, a young idealistic CIA analyst specializing in Russian affairs, who learns a shocking secret and his close-knit, affluent family is about to be split apart when its revealed that his parents, Mark and Katya are covert Russian spies deactivated decades ago. But today the Kremlin has re-enlisted them into service as they plan a terrorist operation inside the U.S. that will bring America to its knees. The drama is produced by Universal Television & Keshet Media and stars Scott Cohen, Hope Davis, Morgan Spector, Alexandra Peters, Annie Ilonzeh, Margarita Levieva, Kenneth Choi and Gavin Stenhouse. The executive producers are George Nolfi and Avi Nir.

Allegiance, despite early comparisons to The Americans, has largely impressed the international buyers who screened the pilot. It’s been called “gripping” and “very well done” by one source, while said that it was “vastly different” from the FX drama. That said there is a little hesitation from some corners. Cold War era dramas have been popping up in development since The Americans debuted on FX and there is a slight concern that, like last season’s The Assets, Allegiance may not be around for very long. Given the difference in both feel an budget between those two shows, however, I wouldn’t expect it to adversely effect interest. This is one of NBCUITD’s hottest dramas this year.

Bad Judge

Bad Judge (FT)Penned by Chad Kultgen, Bad Judge follows a hard-living, sexually unapologetic woman who plays with the law and whose life on the edge is constantly in balance because she also happens to be a judge in the criminal court system. The comedy is produced by Universal Television and stars Kate Walsh, John Ducey, Mather Zickel, Arden Myrin, Tone Bell, Theodore Barnes and Miguel Sandoval. The executive producers are Kate Walsh, Chad Kultgen, Anne Heche, Jill Messick, Will Ferrell and Adam McKay.

Comedy has been taking a back seat this year. But Bad Judge, unlike a lot of comedy entries this year, has emerged as a contender. The “stark contrast” between work and play was highlighted by one buyer, who said that it was “one of the funniest pilots” they had seen this year. As we’ve stated throughout our coverage of the LA Screenings, very few comedies have truly clicked with international buyers, so it is hard to get a clear read. But from what I’ve heard Bad Judge looks like it could do well for NBCUniversal International Television Distribution.

Mission Control

Mission ControlMission Control is an ensemble comedy set in the 1960s which examines what happens when a strong woman butts heads with a macho astronaut in the race to land on the moon. The half-hour effort is written by David Hornsby and stars Krysten Ritter, Tommy Dewey, Michael Rosenbaum, Malcolm Barrett, Jonathan Slavin and Julie Meyer. Universal Television is producing with Hornsby, Will Ferrell, Malcolm Barrett, Adam McKay and Jonathan Slavin serving as executive producers.

Things are not altogether upbeat for Mission Control. The select few who are talking about Mission Control were not expressing interest, but concerns. “It was funny in places”, one source said. The main concerns I’ve been hearing boil down to a potential issue with too many “period comedies” another main concern has been the short order (it’s only received a 6 episode pick up). Admittedly there little buzz on this one, could that change in time? Sure, but I wouldn’t be expecting many to invest money into a series that might only be around for six weeks.

Mr Robinson

Mr RobinsonMr Robinson follows the eponymous character who is a talented musician who must adjust to his new life as a middle school music teacher, where he maneuvers precocious kids, teacher politics, and the temptations of single moms. The comedy series is produced by Universal Television and stars Craig Robinson, Jean Smart, Ben Koldyke and Amanda Stenberg. The executive producers are Mark Cullen, Robb Cullen, Howard Klein and Mark Schulman.

This comedy, while having received the same six episode pick up that Mission Control did, does have a decent amount of buzz surrounding it. It’s been called “funny”, with a “great cast”. Jean Smart, in particular, seems to have impressed. Short orders tend to cause problems on the international distribution front – its rare that any show with less than 13 episodes racks up a lot of sales – but given the buzz on this one, NBCUITD may be able to do some decent business on this one.

Mulaney

MulaneyCreated, written by and starring John Mulaney, the comedy series is set in New York, and based on the life and stand-up comedy of Mulaney, the new comedy follows an aspiring comedian coming of age under the influence of his boss, his roommates and his neighbors. Universal Television, Broadway Video & 3 Arts Entertainment and stars John Mulaney, Martin Short, Zack Pearlman, Elliott Gould, Seaton Smith and Nasim Pedrad. 30 Rock‘s Lorne Michaels is serving as the executive producer.

It’s rare that Hollywood is honest about a concept. At the Fox Upfront, the network’s Chairman of Entertainment Kevin Reilly called Mulaney “the next Seinfeld” and buyers seem to agree. “It is, it’s Seinfeld”, one source told me last week, “there are some unique elements, but boil it down and that [Seinfeld] is what you’ve got.” Even so, it was well received by some buyers. NBCUniversal International Television Distribution may do some decent business on this one and Fox’s decision to give it a 10 episode back order isn’t hurting its chances of travelling internationally.

Odyssey

OdysseyFrom Adam Armus and Kay Foster, Odyssey tells the story of families torn apart when a female Special Ops soldier in North Africa, a corporate lawyer, and a Wall Street activist each uncover the same conspiracy between a U.S. corporation, the government, and terrorism. Odyssey is produced by Universal Television and stars Anna Friel, Peter Facinelli, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje and Treat Williams. The executive producers are Armus, Foster, Kristen Campo, Peter Horton, Mikkel Bondesen, Henrik Bastin and Simon Maxwell.

Odyssey has impressed buyers, who were already intrigued by the strong cast ant the comparisons to Traffic. Some buyers have called it “solid” and “fast paced”, while one buyer drew a less than favourable comparison to the recently cancelled NBC/20th Century Fox Television thriller Crisis. It looks like this one is breaking though on its own merits rather than star power. That said, serialised drama sometimes has a harder time internationally but Odyssey is certainly hot.

State Of Affairs

State Of AffairsPenned by Alexi Hawley & Joe Carnahan, State of Affairs stars Katherine Heigl as Charleston Tucker, a key CIA attaché who counsels the president on high-stakes incidents around the world. She balances her intense political responsibilities with a complicated personal life. The cast also includes Alfre Woodard, Sheila Vand and Adam Kaufman.

This one is interesting. There was a lot of chatter about State of Affairs going into the screenings and while it did play well with buyers it did not emerge as the red hot title as many had expected. Buyers were “wowed” by the performances of Heigl and Woodard and its not clear why talk on State of Affairs is cooler than that for Odyssey and Allegiance. A couple of UK buyers were suitably impressed, an a UK deal seems likely.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Unbreakable Kimmy SchmidtCreated by Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt follows Kimmy, who escapes from a doomsday cult and starts her life over in New York City. The comedy series is produced by Universal Television and stars Ellie Kemper, Tituss Burgess, Sara Chase and Lauren Adams. The executive producers are Tina Fey, Robert Carlock, David Miner and Jeff Richmond.

This one has garnered a decent amount of interest. Its seems that its more the auspices and star power that are at play here rather than the show itself. Most of the talk has been of Kemper’s performance and Fey and Carlock being described as “comedic geniuses”. It is really only the Canadian nets that do deals in LA anymore, so this could well cool down once buyers are back home and out of the “bubble.” This one is definitely a wait and see job.