It has already been a great day for the legions of (predominantly female) fans of Diana Gabaldon‘s wildly popular Outlander time-travel romantic novels as Starz released a new image from its series adaptation of the first book depicting hero Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan) shirtless. Here is more good news for them: Sony TV-produced Outlander, currently in production on its 16-episode freshman season, will do at least one more. “I would be shocked if we didn’t do the second book,” Starz CEO Chris Albrecht told me after the Scotland-set show’s session at TCA that featured writer and showrunner Ron Moore in a kilt. It is not only the enormous and enormously passionate fan base of the books, though that is not lost on Starz brass. Albrecht said he is very high on the early footage he has seen and didn’t spare praise for Battlestar Galactica developer/executive producer Moore’s skills as a top-notch writer and producer.
Even without the big vote of confidence from Albrecht, Outlander has the odds in its favor as all original dramas ordered by Albrecht have gone to second season with one exception, Camelot. I asked Albrecht about Starz’s “two-season curse” as no series since Spartacus has been able to go to a third season.
“You want a show that really makes a difference,” he said. The exec believes that good serialized dramas need time to reach their potential, which explains his willingness to hand freshman series a second season, but if he feels a show won’t go to the next level, he doesn’t have much trepidation about pulling the plug. (Albrecht did, however, regret the Kelsey Grammer drama Boss not getting a satisfying closure at the end of its two-season run the way Magic City did.) “TV shows are assets, not shrines,” he said. “You put them on; if they do the job, you keep them, if they don’t, you don’t.”
Starz has been in the straight-to-series business long before it became the hot production model it is today. The premium channel’s version includes assembling a small writers room and doing a lot of preproduction work before a series gets a green light. The network recently did it with Outlander and also has done it with Incursion, the alien saga from Spartacus creator Steven DeKnight. Starz did location scouting and creature creation on the sci-fi project, but it has been put on the back burner for the moment as the network has another big-production drama on its hands in Michael Bay‘s pirate series Black Sails, in addition to David Goyer’s Da Vinci’s Demons. But Incursion is still very much alive, Albrecht said. DeKnight has a couple of other projects in the works at the network under his overall deal, including an adaptation of the Italian drama Romanzo Criminale.
One of the first major calls Albrecht made when he arrived at Starz was to cancel the network’s comedy series Party Down and Gravity. He has not greenlighted a half-hour project since but might do soon. Starz is developing a couple of comedies, including Survivor’s Remorse, from NBA All-Star LeBron James, Tom Werner and Mike O’Malley.