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

LA Screenings 2014 (FT)

TVWise continues our LA Screenings coverage with a look at the series Sony Pictures Television 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, Twentieth Century Fox Television Distribution and NBCUniversal International Television Distribution, we turn out attention to Sony Pictures Television. The independent studio had a fairly small slate this year with only two broadcast series. So which of their shows are playing well? TVWise presents our run down of which shows are hot and those which, frankly, are not.

This year was something of a reversal for Sony Pictures Television. At this point in 2013, the studio was riding high with orders from every major broadcast network and 8 new shows to shop on the international market. This year, the slate is far smaller, but at the same time is still generating A LOT of interest. SPT has 2 broadcast series (Battle Creek and Marry Me), but much of the interest from buyers is emanating from SPT’s new cable series.

Breaking Bad spin-off Better Call Saul has been racking up pre-sales before a single frame has been shot and the Starz epic Outlander has also widely impressed buyers. New TBS comedy Your Family Or Mine is also playing well. In addition to those shows listed below, Sony Pictures Television is also handling linear sales on Netflix’s new drama series from the Damages creators; and new Amazon Studios entries The After, Mozart In The Jungle and Transparent.

Battle Creek

Battle CreekFrom Breaking Bad creator Vince Gilligan and House showrunner David Shore, Battle Creek tells the story of two very different cops, Detective Russ Agnew and FBI Special Agent Milton Chamberlain, who are teamed up to clean up the mean streets of Battle Creek, Michigan. The drama series is produced by Sony Pictures Television and CBS Television Studios and stars Dean Winters (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit), Josh Duhamel (Transformers), Kal Penn (House), Janet McTeer (The White Queen), Aubrey Dollar (Women’s Murder Club), Edward “Grapevine” Fordham (One on One), Liza Lapira (Super Fun Night) and Damon Herriman (Justified).

Truth be told, Sony could have sold Battle Creek sight-unseen to a fair number of international markets based solely on Gilligan’s credentials as the creator of Breaking Bad. This one is definitely hot. Its been called “great” and a “different kind of cop drama” by those who viewed it. Make no mistake Battle Creek and Breaking Bad are VERY different shows, but the success of the latter is certainly helping the former’s chances of going global. Based on early chatter, it looks like a bidding war may erupt over the rights to the drama in UK as well.

Marry Me

Marry MeCreated by Happy Endings’ David Caspe, Marry Me tells the story of Annie and Jake, who, six years ago, bonded over their mutual love of nachos and they’ve been inseparable ever since. Now, after returning from a romantic two-week island vacation, Jake’s all set to pop the question. Before he can ask, though, Annie lets loose on Jake for his inability to commit. She was expecting him to “put a ring on it” in paradise and now Jake’s perfect proposal is ruined. Not wanting to spend the next 60 years talking about that mess of a proposal, Jake and Annie decide to hold off on the engagement until they can do it right. The comedy series is produced by Sony Pictures Television and stars Casey Wilson, Ken Marino, Sarah Wright, John Gemberling, Tymberlee Hill and Tim Meadows. The executive producers are Caspe, Seth Gordon and Jamie Tarses.

Marry Me has emerged as one of the few true standout comedies at the screenings. Between the creator and a former star of Happy Endings, hopes were high that this would fill the gap that the aforementioned series left when it was cancelled in 2013. One source went as far as to call it “the funniest pilot of the year.” Sony Pictures Television should do some good business on this one, just as they did on Happy Endings back in the day

Outlander

Outlander - Key ArtBased on the novels by Diana Gabaldon and developed for television by Ron Moore, Outlander spans the genres of romance, science fiction, history, and adventure in one grandiose tale. It follows the story of Claire Randall (Caitriona Balfe), a married combat nurse from 1945 who is mysteriously swept back in time to 1743, where she is immediately thrown into an unknown world where her life is threatened. When she is forced to marry Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan), a chivalrous and romantic young Scottish warrior, a passionate affair is ignited that tears Claire’s heart between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives. Tobias Menzes, Graham McTavish, Gary Lewis, Duncan Lacroix, Annette Badland, Lotte Verbeek and Stephen Walters also star.

Outlander is an interesting one. While all the major studios do screen their new cable series at the screenings every year, it tends to be silent running on the cable side of things, with most buyers only talking about the new broadcast entries. Sure, there have been exceptions with buzzy shows like Homeland and this year’s Tyrant; but generally cable has a hard time breaking out at the screenings. This year, however, a few cable entries have emerged hot and Outlander is one of them. Buyers like the concept, which is viewed as coming with a built in audience thanks to the novel series. SPT is expecting Outlander to go global. As for a UK sale, I’m hearing rumblings that a deal is currently being hammered out and could be announced soon.