LA Screenings 2014: Disney Media Distribution Slate – What’s Hot & What’s Not – TVWise

TVWise continues our LA Screenings coverage with a look at the series Disney Media Distribution are distributing internationally and which ones have buyers talking.
Following our coverage of the slate of new shows offered by CBS Studios International, we turn our attention to Disney Media Distribution. The international distribution division of the ABC/Disney group handles global sales for all series produced by ABC Studios and the recently launched boutique division ABC Signature. “We are committed to bringing clients around the world incredible storytelling, powerful brands and innovative distribution and marketing opportunities– all backed by the strength of The Walt Disney Company,” said Ben Pyne, President of Global Distribution for Disney Media Networks.
DMD unveiled their new line up of programming last Sunday at Walt Disney Studios in Burbank. This year’s slate is very strong with red hot drama American Crime, new Shonda Rhimes drama How To Get Away With Murder and comedies Galavant and Black-ish. Another hot titled on Disney’s slate is, of course, Marvels new primetime drama Agent Carter. In addition to the show’s listed below, DMD is also shopping USA Network’s Benched and new ABC Family series Mystery Girls and Young and Hungry. So which of these shows are looking good for international sales? TVWise presents our run down of which shows are hot and those which, frankly, are not.
American Crime
From John Ridley, American Crime centers on a racially charged murder and the subsequent trial, which are examined through the personal lives of the players involved. The case takes on greater meaning in the community, bringing to the forefront America’s hardened views on race, class and gender politics. The drama is produced by ABC Studios and stars Timothy Hutton, Felicity Huffman, Elvis Nolasco, Caitlin Gerard, Richard Cabral, Benito Martinez, Johnny Ortiz, W. Earl Brown and Penelope Ann Miller.
Disney Media Distribution always has at least on RED HOT title that is all but guaranteed to go global. Last year it was Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., this year it looks like it may be American Crime rather than Agent Carter that claims that title. This pilot impressed buyers, including a couple from the UK, and has been pegged as the “must have” drama on DMD’s slate. A few have gone so far as to compare American Crime to Broadchurch. I’d expect a lot of sales for American Crime.
Black-ish follows an upper-middle class black man who struggles to raise his children with a sense of cultural identity despite constant contradictions and obstacles coming from his liberal wife, old-school father and his own assimilated, color-blind kids. The comedy, from ABC Studios, stars Anthony Anderson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Yara Shahidi, Miles Brown, Marcus Scribner, Caila Martin and Laurence Fishburne.
Going in, star power was driving interest here with international buyers attracted to the likes of Anthony Anderson and Laurence Fishburne. That is understandable as both are well known to international audiences. Reception on the pilot itself has been rather mixed. Some have described it as “funny” while others were less than enthusiastic. It has a decent amount of interest and could do ok, but its far from the hottest comedy DMD is shopping.
Created by Dan Fogelman, Galavant is a musical fairy tale which follows the handsome Prince Galavant and his quest for revenge over the king who stole his one true love. The comedy is produced by ABC Studios and stars Joshua Sasse, Timothy Omundson, Vinnie Jones, Karen David, Mallory Jansen, Luke Youngblood and Genevieve Allenbury. The executive producers are Fogelman, Alan Menken, Glenn Slater and Chris Koch.
Quite possibly the most divisive pilot of the screenings (with the exception of Lionsgate’s The Royals), Galavant is very difficult to get a clear read on. “Musical fairy tale for adults” is not a concept that certain buyers were overly excited about, but others have called it “bold”, “funny” and as having a “great cast”. This one is a real wait and see job. That said, could the fact that it is being produced in the UK convince a UK broadcaster to take a swing on this one?
How To Get Away With Murder
From Scandal‘s Shonda Rhimes, How To Get Away With Murder is described as a sexy, suspense-driven legal thriller about a group of ambitious law students and their brilliant, mysterious criminal defense professor who become entangled in a murder plot that will rock the entire university and change the course of their lives. The cast includes Viola Davis, Matt McGorry, Aja Naomi King, Jack Falahee and Alfred Enoch. ABC Studios and Shondaland produces with Rhimes, Betsy Beers and Peter Nowalk serving as executive producers.
It’s Shonda Rhimes, enough said? Certainly, the success of the prolific producer has driven strong interest, as has the cast which is being led by Viola Davis. Suffice to say this pilot impressed. This is one of the hotter titles DMD has this year. A number of international broadcasters will be looking to snap up How To Get Away With Murder in order to replicate ABC’s strategy of pairing it with Rhimes’ Scandal.
Manhattan Love Story
Manhattan Love Story is described as a romantic comedy that exposes the unfiltered internal monologues of a young couple embarking on a new relationship. From ABC Studios, the comedy stars Analeigh Tipton, Jake McDorman, Jade Catta-Preta, Nicolas Wright, Chloe Wepper and Kurt Fuller. Jeff Lowell wrote the script. The executive producers are Jon Liebman, Rachel Kaplan, Peter Traugott and Robin Schwartz.
This one provided quite a few laughs. Though it has been described as “awkwardly funny” it seem to be playing particularly well and just may be Disney Media Distribution’s hottest comedy title. This one is breaking through on its own merits and should rack up a decent amount of international sales.
Marvel’s Agent Carter
Marvel’s Agent Carter tells the story of Peggy Carter. It’s 1946, and peace has dealt Peggy Carter a serious blow as she finds herself marginalized when the men return home from fighting abroad. Working for the covert SSR (Strategic Scientific Reserve), Peggy must balance doing administrative work and going on secret missions for Howard Stark all while trying to navigate life as a single woman in America, in the wake of losing the love of her life – Steve Rogers. The series was written by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely.
Going in to the screenings, Marvel’s Agent Carter was expected to be the hottest titled on Disney Media Distribution’s slate. Ok, there was no pilot, but the 10-20 minute presentation that buyers saw gave enough of an idea of the concept. Even so, talk on Agent Carter, while still STRONG, is perhaps weaker than expected. There is no doubt this will sell, but the short 8 episode order, and the ratings issues that SHIELD faced last year. may be making buyers hesitant.
Red Band Society
Red Band Society was written by Margaret Nagle and follows the daily lives of a group of teenagers living in a hospital who become unlikely friends. The drama, described as darkly comedic, is produced by ABC Studios and Amblin Television and stars , Octavia Spencer, Griffin Gluck, Rebecca Rittenhouse, Brian Bradley, Charlie Rowe, Nolan Sotillo, Zoe Levin, Ciara Bravo and Dave Annable. The executive producers are Nagle, Sergio Aguero, Darryl Frank, Justin Falvey and Steven Spielberg.
The only drama that ABC Studios is producing for an outside network rather than sister-net ABC, Red Band Society has elicited a decent amount of excitement from those who saw it. Octavia Spencer’s performance has been highlighted as “spectacular” by one buyer. Another called the series “heart-breaking, one of the best [pilots] this season”. This will sell well internationally, especially with Spielberg’s name attached.
Secrets And Lies
Secrets & Lies tells the story of a family man who finds the body of a young boy and quickly becomes the prime murder suspect. He has no choice but to try to find the real killer as his marriage, his kids, his reputation, and his sanity are all at stake. The drama is produced by ABC Studios and stars Phillippe, Juliette Lewis, KaDee Strickland, Clifton Collins Jr, Natalie Martinez, Belle Shouse, Indiana Evans, Charles Dutton, Steven Brand and Kate Ashfield. The script was written by Barbie Kligman who executive produces alongside Tracey Robertson, Aaron Kaplan and Nathan Mayfield.
If there was a buzz phrase at this year’s screenings it was “think Broadchurch”. That was what one buyer said to me of Secrets and Lines with the added caveat “from the other side.” Secrets and Lies is the latest in a long line of serialised dramas. The pilot was well received, but the short order (10 episodes) and the fact the serialised dramas are not as repeatable as procedurals may cause issues on the international sales front.
The Whispers
The Whispers is about an alien invasion and the race against the clock to defeat an unseen alien enemy out to destroy the world. The sci-fi series is from ABC Studios & Amblin TV and stars Lily Rabe, Barry Sloane, Derek Webster, Milo Ventimiglia, Kyle Harrison Breitkopf, Catalina Denis, Kylie Rogers and Brianna Brown. The executive producers are Steven Spielberg, Justin Falvey, Darryl Frank and Dawn Olmstead.
ABC’s first “real sci-fi series since V“, The Whispers interested a number of buyers from Western Europe (UK included) and Latin America. But I’ve heard concerns of it being a little “dark”. One buyer, who was hit with a string of cancellations ahead of the screenings, admitted they thought it was a “great concept”, but were concerned if The Whispers could last on network television. DMD will get a number of sales on this one, but some buyers may wait to see if it gets a second season before committing (just as they did with Resurrection this past season).