Upfront season is underway as the television networks (mostly the cable channels and streaming services at this point) present their schedules for the upcoming year to the advertisers. Plenty of development announcements, series pickups, and cancellations come out this time year and I will be covering that each week in this column as the Upfronts continue through May.
1. Long Live Westeros!
Fans of Game of Thrones will not have to wait long to return to the world of Westeros after the show wraps up with its eighth season as HBO has announced that multiple spin-offs are currently in the works. The premium cable channel has partnered with four different writers–none of which have current ties to the series–to start developing prequels, sequels, and/or spin-offs to their hit series. George R.R. Martin will be working directly with two of the writers, and while the current showrunners Dan Weiss and David Benioff will not be involved with developing these projects, they will executive produce along with Martin. Whether all four of these project eventually go into production remains to be seen, but it is apparent that HBO wants to continue to mine the rich world of Westeros created by Martin.
2. Hulu Renews The Handmaid’s Tale and Freakish
The streaming service Hulu announced two renewals this week in conjunction with its Upfront presentation: The Handmaid’s Tale, which just debuted to much acclaim last week, will be returning for a second season and could last for five to seven years. And the horror series Freakish, which Hulu produces in partnership with AwesomenessTV, will also continue into a second season. The renewal for the former series was expected, but news had been sparse on that latter show since it wrapped up its first season in fall. Both shows will likely target 2018 for their returns.
3. Hulu Picks Up Runaways and The First
Hulu also announced two pickups of genre shows at their Upfront presentation. They have officially greenlighted Marvel’s Runaways (cast photo above) which was one of the well-buzzed pilots they were considering. That one is based on the comic book of the same name about a group of super-powered youths who must unite to fight their own parents. The streaming service has also picked up the science fiction series The Firstabout our attempts to travel to and colonize Mars. Runaways, which will aim for a younger-skewing audience, could hit the streaming service later this year, and The Firstwill likely target a 2018 debut.
4. We’re Not on TV Anymore, Toto: NBC Cancels Emerald City
Coming as no surprise, NBC announced late yesterday that their Wizard of Oz re-imagining Emerald City has been cancelled after one season. That show lived a troubled life as it was originally greenlighted to series for the 2014-15 season but cancelled in production, then later revived with a different creative team. It took several years to finally make it to the Prime Time schedule and was then given the less-than-desirable Friday 9 PM EST timeslot. It debuted to mediocre ratings in that hour in January and saw those drop even further, essentially assuring that the show would be one-season-and-done. I thought it might have a slight chance if the network believed it would play well to the global audience in international syndication, but apparently they decided that would not be enough to offset the costs of this rather expensive series.
Expect more cancellation and renewal announcements as we head into the broadcast network block of Upfront presentations starting on Monday, May 15th.
5. Syfy to Fight Ghost Wars With Vincent D’Onofrio
Syfy has given a direct-to-series order to the supernatural entry Ghost Wars with Vincent D’Onofrio, just off the recently cancelled Emerald City (see above), in one of the lead roles. Also in the cast are Kim Coates, Avan Jogia, Kristin Lehman and Meatloaf. Deadline Hollywood gives the following description of the show:
Set in a remote Alaskan town that has been overrun by paranormal forces, the series focuses on local outcast Roman Mercer (Jogia) who must overcome the town’s prejudices and his own personal demons if he’s to harness his repressed psychic powers and save everyone from the mass haunting that’s threatening to destroy them all.
According to series creator Simon Barry (Continuum, Van Helsing), the show “is not just a contemporary homage to classic psychological horror, it’s also an opportunity to tell stories about human politics and how we shape our beliefs and lives based on our individual perspectives and biases.” The first season will comprise thirteen episodes and Netflix is also onboard as the global distributor of the show.
6. More Development: The Vampire Chronicles and The Black Company
Paramount TV has come onboard with Anne Rice to develop a television series based on her Vampire Chronicles books. The rights to the books had reverted to the author and she had previously started work on a small screen adaptation with her son Christopher Rice. With Paramount TV now involved, that is the next step toward getting the project on television.
And another epic book series is headed to the small screen as David Goyer and Eliza Dushku are look at adapting Glen Cook’s The Black Company fantasy books. The series follows an elite group of mercenaries operating in the fantasy world created by Cook. Dushku plans on playing the role of the dark sorceress know as The Lady. No television network is attached at this point, but this project should garner plenty of interest.
7. Will #OnceUponATime Head to Its Happily Ever After?
ABC’s Once Upon A Time has its season finale on May 14th and that could very well be its series finale as well. According to series creators Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, that episode will wrap up many of the story arcs from the show’s six year run. They have plans for a possible reboot of the show in its seventh season, but ABC may not be interested based on the fact that it has dropped to all-time viewership lows. So for those who have watched this one through the years, the upcoming season finale could be the show’s last happily ever after. You can keep up with the weekly listings of sci fi and fantasy shows here.
8. Showtime Unveils a Glimpse of the Upcoming #TwinPeaks
May 21st is the debut date set for Showtime’s revival of Twin Peaks and they released a teaser yesterday showing some familiar (though notably aged) faces from the original series. That one will return viewers to the familiar Pacific Northwest town with many of the characters from the original show returning. You can see the full Spring schedule of sci fi and fantasy shows here.
9. News Bites: More Star Trek: Discovery Castings
CBS continues to fill out the cast of the upcoming Star Trek series as they have announced the following additions: Shazad Latif, Rekha Sharma, Kenneth Mitchell, Clare McConnell, and Damon Runyan (more on their roles in the show here). Discovery is currently targeting late Summer or Early Fall for its debut on the CBS All Access streaming service.
Neil Gaiman’s American Gods just debuted on Starz to wide acclaim and the author has said that he hopes the success of that as well as Lucifer (headed into its third season on FOX) will eventually lead to his beloved Sandman series also getting a television adaptation.
ABC has apparently not been dissuaded by the recent lack of success of the time travel formula on television as it has ordered scripts for a “time loop mystery drama” titled Echo Point. If the show gets the greenlight, it will be targeted for a Summer 2018 run.