Pop, the joint venture between CBS and Lionsgate, believes that British mystery drama Clique can be the next Pretty Little Liars or Gossip Girl as it searches for “modern grown ups” to help it become “The CW 2.0”.
Justin Rosenblatt, Executive Vice President of Original Programming and Development, at the network told Deadline that the psychological thriller, which was created by Skins’ Jess Brittain, was a “really fun ride” that he hopes will help the channel move to the next level.
The first season of Clique, which is produced by BBC Studios and Balloon Entertainment, will launch on Pop on November 7 at 10pm, while the second season, which Pop has come on board as a co-producer, will launch in line with British network BBC Three early next year.
The first season found Holly, played by Synnove Karlsen, drawn to a group of alluring, confident but troubled young women at a university in Edinburgh, Scotland. The second will see her encounter a radically different clique, this time a band of brothers. It will explore the power of friendship between intensely smart, complicated and ambitious young people on the cusp of an ever-enticing but dangerous adult world. Living in a house share with Louise, played by Sophia Brown, and some younger, student activists, Holly is trying to put the past behind her. Nonetheless, she finds herself the subject of intense attention from those around her — fellow students keen to hear about the events of last year, but also a close-knit, smart and magnetic set of young men.
Led by charismatic, good-looking Jack, the boys’ clique of libertarian, freewheeling renegades has a no-nonsense attitude to what they see as a patronizing university administration. When they become embroiled in a campus-wide scandal, Holly is torn between the kinship she feels with them and the unnerving sense that something darker is at play. Do the clique boys represent the provocative fight-back response of fed-up youth, or are their politics hiding a more personal, insidious danger?
The second season stars Victoria’s Leo Suter, Outlander’s Stuart Harris and Darkest Hour’s Imogen King.
Rosenblatt said he “flipped out” when he first read the scripts for the show. “When the first episodes went to market we were incredibly competitive; there was a lot of interest in the U.S. from a variety of SVODs and cable networks and we won out. We acquired season one and became co-producers of season two. The mystery was really hooky, the characters were intriguing and it felt smart and commercial. In a world where Pretty Little Liars and Gossip Girl had gone away, it felt like the next extension,” he added.
The series, which is distributed by All3Media International, consists of six episodes per season. However, Rosenblatt said short orders, very common for British broadcasters, were no longer a problem in the U.S., particularly with the success of cable dramas such as HBO’s Big Little Lies and Sharp Objects and Showtime’s Sky co-pro Patrick Melrose. “I think if the material speaks for itself and is the right number for the story, it’s not a deterrent whatsoever. American audiences have grown accustomed to limited series.”
In fact, he said that Pop, which is also home to Australian horror drama Wolf Creek and Scandinavian thriller Swedish Dicks, has to look outside of the U.S. for the best programming. “We have to look beyond American content and find smart business models with international partners; we embrace it, accents aren’t a barrier and our audience has grown up watching many American and British shows so there’s no restrictions any more. Sometimes some of the strongest most powerful content is coming from overseas so why wouldn’t we snap it up?”
Clique creator Jess Brittain said that the show has been “reset” after season one. The second season was filmed in Scotland earlier this summer. She said that it’s “terrifying” what young people at university have to come up against these days, a perfect backdrop for a mystery thriller.
“It has changed a lot since I was there. They are expected to become a hell of a lot more together and what they stand for and their opinions. The push towards having everything worked out. Clique is an attempt to pick at that. It’s quite fun to dismantle that and poke holes in that. It’s quite easy to find the thriller stakes when writing about young people. It’s been a relatively insane three to five years for the younger generation, more intense than in my memory. The primary aim of Clique isn’t to be political or put forward a specific take on anything but if you’re going to be talking about young people and their experiences, it’s impossible nowadays not to have our characters come up against the stuff that’s going on in the world right now.”
The show originally aired last year on BBC Three in the UK. Despite the fact that the network is online only, Brittain said it’s a misnomer that younger audiences don’t want to watch long-form content. “Young people do want to watch TV but they don’t want to put up with so much rubbish as maybe my generation did. It’s awesome that the industry is allowing different formats and different platforms, I think that’s great but to decide that young people can only consume in ten minute segments on their phone is a bit of a myth and is quite patronising. I think they still watch TV as long as it’s good.”
Elsewhere, Brittain is working with her brother Jamie Brittain, who co-created Skins, on Wraith, a new comedy drama for Channel 4, produced by Sharon Horgan’s production company Merman. She told Deadline that the pair have written a pilot script and are waiting for feedback from the network.