I’ve learned that AMC is in final negotiations to join UK broadcaster Channel 4 as co-producer and U.S. distributor of upcoming eight-episode sci-fi drama series Humans. The project, an adaptation of Swedish series Real Humans, was announced in April as a co-production between Channel 4 and Xbox Entertainment Studios, in what was the first greenlighted scripted series for the entertainment arm of Microsoft’s XBox. Three months later, Microsoft announced it was going to shut down XES as part of the company’s plan to cut 18,000 jobs.
Since then, XES toppers Nancy Tellem and Jordan Levin have trimmed the company’s development slate. I hear the company is holding onto some two dozen projects, whose scripts have been either written or are being written, or which have a presentation tape well in the works for unscripted shows. XES has settled out of projects that were in very early stages and passed on those it considered very long shots. Meanwhile, Microsoft, which never had a clear vision for what its Hollywood footprint should be, as well as Tellem and Levin have been approached with multiple opportunities about partnering with another over-the-top video service that would include the duo taking XES’ infrastructure and development slate with them. That has included discussions with Warner Bros. about possibly merging XES with Machinima, the video game-centric YouTube channel, in which the studio has a stake.
However, there was an urgency with Humans, which needs to go into production soon for a 2015 premiere date. With XES’ future uncertain as its parent is considering different business models, I hear the company gave its blessing for the series’ producer, Shine-owned UK outfit Kudos (Broadchurch), which has been developing the project for more than three years, to try and find another U.S. partner, leading to the pending deal with AMC.
Written by British writing team Sam Vincent and Jonathan Brackley (Spooks), Humans is set in a parallel present where the latest must-have gadget for any busy family is a ‘Synth’ – a highly-developed robotic servant eerily similar to its live counterpart. In the hope of transforming the way they live, one strained suburban family purchases a refurbished synth only to discover that sharing life with a machine has far-reaching and chilling consequences. Here is a trailer for the original series.
Jane Featherstone and Derek Wax will executive produce for Kudos, along with Henrik Widman and Lars Lundström, from Matador Films, the executive producers of the original Swedish series, which aired on public broadcaster Sveriges Television. Chris Fry (The Smoke) will produce. Shine International is distributing. Casting is expected to begin shortly.
Xbox’s other high-profile scripted series, Halo, is still in the deal-making phase but it is fully expected to move forward with Showtime running lead.