Here is an anecdote a producer shared with me during the pitch portion of this development season. He’d taken a writer to a network meeting. The writer poured his heart out pitching a show based on his life, but the network executive appeared uninterested, barely paying attention. As they were heading out, the producer mentioned he also had the rights to a book. Upon hearing the title, the executive’s eyes immediately lit up. “I’ll buy that show,” the exec exclaimed before even hearing what the book was about. This has been the case over and over this season, with the networks going hard and heavy after book adaptations and remakes of TV shows and movies, betting on underlying material as well as the familiar or catchy titles that come with it.
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In light of the blockbuster success of two series based on books, HBO’s Game Of Thrones and AMC’s The Walking Dead, there are a slew of literary adaptations this season. The book-driven pilots include CBS‘ dramas Backstrom, based on the Backstrom books by Leif G.W. Persson, and Anatomy Of Violence, inspired by the non-fiction book by Adrian Raine; Fox‘s drama Delirium, based on Lauren Oliver’s book trilogy; Fox’s comedy I Suck At Girls, based on Justin Halpern’s book; NBC comedies Girlfriend in a Coma, based on Douglas Coupland’s book, and Undateable, based on the book by Ellen Rakieten & Anne Coyle; NBC drama The Secret Lives Of Husbands and Wives, inspired by Josie Brown’s novel; the CW dramas The Hundred, based on the books by Kass Morgan, and The Selection, based on the book by Keira Cass; Fox comedy To My Future Assistant, based on the blog and upcoming book by Lydia Whitlock; ABC drama The Returned, based on an upcoming novel by Jason Mott; and CBS drama Intelligence, based on on an unpublished book by John Dixon, joined by CBS’ summer series Under The Dome, based on Stephen King’s book.
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In cable, FX’s pilot The Strain is an adaptation of Guillermo del Toro‘s vampire novel trilogy. Additionally, Fox drama pilot Sleepy Hollow, NBC’s Wonderland and ABC’s Venice are contemporary takes on the literary classics by Washington Irving (The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow), Lewis Carroll (Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland) and William Shakespeare (Romeo & Juliet), respectively. NBC’s comedy pilot Assistance is based on Leslye Headland’s play, NBC’s drama pilot The Sixth Gun is based on the Oni Press graphic novel, while ABC drama S.H.I.E.L.D. is based on the squad from both the Marvel comic books and feature films, including last year’s The Avengers.
It has been a strong year for movie adaptations. CBS has the hourlong Beverly Hills Cop and comedy Bad Teacher, while NBC has comedy pilot About A Boy. On the cable/digital side, Bravo’s pilot The Joneses is based on the 2009 movie, while Amazon’s Zombieland too is an adaptation of a 2009 film. Additionally, the 1967 series Ironside is getting a remake by NBC.
When NBC’s The Office and ABC’s Ugly Betty took hold 6-7 years ago, their success spurred an influx of adaptation of foreign series. Now we have another wave of formats on the heels of the success of Showtime’s Homeland, which is based on an Israeli series, and the buzz surrounding Netflix’s House Of Cards, based on a British miniseries. No U.S. version of a foreign series has worked on U.S. broadcast TV since The Office and Ugly Betty. (Adaptations have been more successful on cable, with Homeland and modest hits Being Human on Syfy (based on a British series) and The Killing on AMC (based on a Danish series). But that has not deterred broadcast nets from loading up on pilots based on formats this year. UK series are again the most popular source material, followed by the new U.S. TV industry darling, Israeli formats.
As should be expected from a Brit, ABC’s Paul Lee once again ordered the most pilots based on UK shows: drama Lucky 7 (based on the British series The Syndicate) and comedies Pulling and Spy. Other British series adaptations include CBS pilot Second Sight, Fox comedy Friends And Family (based on Gavin & Stacey), NBC comedy The Gates and the CW drama The Tomorrow People. Israeli formats are represented by ABC comedy Divorce: A Love Story, CBS drama Hostages and CBS’ Julie Rottenberg/Elisa Zuritsky comedy. Additionally, ABC has drama pilot Betrayal, based on a Danish series and Killer Women, based on an Argentine format, while Fox’s hourlong pilot Rake starring Greg Kinnear is based on the Australian series. On the cable side, HBO has comedy pilot Getting On, an adaptation of a British format, and Bravo’s pilot Rita is based on a Danish series.
There are also several new series based on foreign formats launching in the next several months: ABC’s drama Red Widow, based on a Dutch series; comedy Family Tools, based on a British format, and soap Mistresses, also a British series adaptation; Lifetime dramedy Devious Maids, based on a Mexican series; AMC’s Low Winter Sun, based on a UK miniseries; as well as recently picked up FX drama The Bridge, based on a Danish/Swedish series.
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