After months of developing and producing pilots in a vacuum beyond internal and test screenings to small groups, the broadcast pilots just picked up to series got their first wide exposure this week when they were shown to hundreds of international buyers in town for the annual LA Screenings.
Like everything in the TV business, the LA Screenings also have evolved — once devoted entirely to sampling the new broadcast product unveiled at the upfronts the prior week, they have expanded to include cable and digital series that may have been picked up months before. For instance, among the popular titles at this week’s NBCUniversal and Sony presentations were upcoming USA drama series Mr. Robot and Amazon show Mad Dogs, respectively. Also evolving are the type of buyers, with VOD companies now bidding alongside traditional TV networks.
Once a lavish affair with buyers being wined and dined by the U.S. studios for five days, like the upfronts, the LA Screenings have toned down the festivities. There was one major party this year, held last night by Fox on the studio lot. It was highlighted by the cast and creators of the studio’s breakout drama Empire (pictured are series co-stars Bryshere Y. Gray and Jussie Smollett performing onstage and with co-creator Lee Daniels). The hip-hop series has been breaking barriers, defying convention that dramas with African-American casts don’t travel well oversees with a growing international footprint.
Among the new dramas, as can be expected, several titles based on high-profile Hollywood movies have been getting a lot of buzz: 20th TV’s Minority Report, Warner Bros.’ Rush Hour and CBS Studios’ Limitless, the last one featuring original star Bradley Cooper. Also hot on the drama side are Warner Bros.’ mystery thriller Blindspot, starring Jaimie Alexander; Sony’s The Player, co-starring international movie star Wesley Snipes; as well as ABC Studios’ cat-and-mouse thriller The Catch, medical drama Code Black and Priyanka Chopra star Quantico. Spinoffs and sequels are often a safe bet, and NBCU’s Chicago Med, ABCS’ internationally-themed Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders as well as NBCU’s Heroes follow-up and 20th’s X-Files revival have been generally well received.
Comedy traditionally doesn’t travel well as humor doesn’t translate that easily but the new starring vehicles of 1990s heartthrobs, 20th’s Grinder starring Rob Lowe and ABCS’ Grandfathered toplined by John Stamos, seem to appeal to international buyers, along with the return of a 1970s staple, The Muppets, in a new ABCS series.
Meanwhile, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend continuing its improbable run. After being rescued by the CW after getting a pass by Showtime, the musical comedy also has been doing surprisingly well with international buyers who responded well to both the extended, sanitized trailer shown at the CW upfront for the show’s upcoming hourlong version as well as to the original R-rated half-hour Showtime pilot.
UPDATE: As usual, Canada’s CTV became the first international network to announce its pickups, which include new drama series Blindspot, Code Black, The Catch, Quantico, Lucifer, Oil and Legends of Tomorrow as well as new variety series Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris.