HBO’s sibling pay-cable channel Cinemax is venturing into original programming with its first scripted primetime drama, Strike Back, a 10-hour action series it will co-produce with British satcaster Sky and U.K.-based Left Bank Pictures (The Special Relationship). The project, written by The X-Files alum Frank Spotnitz and British TV writer Richard Zadjlic (EastEnders), is inspired by the Sky series Strike Back, which in turn was based on Chris Ryan’s book of the same name. That series, produced by Left Bank Pictures, premiered last summer and starred Richard Armitage as John Porter, former British Special Forces soldier drafted back into service by MI6. The Cinemax/Sky version will have new settings/storylines and will introduce new characters, led by Damien Scott (Animal Kingdom‘s Sullivan Stapleton), a charismatic former U.S. Special Forces operative who teams up with a British military unit led by Section 20 officer Michael Stone bridge (Fringe‘s Philip Winchester) to stop an international terrorist group. The series is slated to film in South Africa and Hungary from Feb-July 2011 for a premiere on Cinemax in the summer. Executive producing are Left Bank’s Andy Harries and Sky1’s Elaine Pyke, with Dan Percival (HBO’s Dirty War) and Spotnitz co-exec producing and Michael Casey producing. Percival, Bill Eagles and Alex Holmes will direct.
While HBO has built its brand on strong original series, this marks the first major primetime scripted series effort for Cinemax, whose original series fare to date has been mostly in the late-night adult entertainment arena. (In the 1980s, the network gave a short run to the British-produced sci-fi series Max Headroom, and last July, it ordered late-night anthology series Femme Fatales) Word is Cinemax is considering doing more scripted originals, mostly high-octane, sexy dramas, with a co-production model like the one with Sky on Strike Back as one way to do them. HBO and Sky are already in business together through their deal last summer that makes Sky the exclusive home for HBO programming in the U.K.