Comcast-backed Sky has unveiled a huge swathe of commissions as part of its 2020 programming slate as it eyes a 25% increase in the number of originals on air this year.
The pay broadcaster revealed ten new projects ahead of a fancy upfronts event at the Tate Modern art gallery in London, which is set to feature stars including David Schwimmer, Steve Coogan and Game of Thrones’ Maisie Williams.
It is set to air 80 original series in 2020, a 25% increase on last year, including Jude Law’s The Third Day, Billie Piper’s I Hate Suzie and FX co-pro Breeders. It will also increase the number of U.S. acquisitions across its channels, which now includes Sky Comedy and Sky Documentaries, by 40% including HBO’s The Plot Against America, The Undoing, Phoebe Waller-Bridge-exec produced Run and Showtime’s Penny Dreadful: City of Angels.
New projects unveiled today include paramedic comedy Bloods, starring Samson Kayo and Jane Horrocks, and Kirstie Swain-penned Sweetpea, both first revealed by Deadline, as well Roald Dahl and Beatrix Potter drama The Tail of The Curious Mouse from the makers of Sherlock, Greg Davies comedy Safe Space, entertainment format Redknapps’ Weekend Warm Up featuring former Liverpool star Jamie Redknapp and his football manager dad Harry and an adaptation of drug novel You by The Capture writer Ben Chanan.
Sky has also renewed a number of series including David Schwimmer’s Intelligence, comedy Brassic and political drama Cobra, as well as debuting a new season of its comedy strand Urban Myths.
Sky Group CEO Jeremy Darroch, said, “2020 is going to be the best year yet for content on Sky – we have over 80 original series and 40% more US shows, we have new channels like Sky Comedy, Sky Nature and Sky Documentaries launching and we are announcing ten new commissions today. In an increasingly competitive market, we keep pushing to give our customers what they want, all the best TV, all in one place.”
Sky’s Managing Director of Content Zai Bennett added, “In a world where there are more hours of content than ever, we want to make sure that we’re offering our customers the most high-end, engaging TV that quite simply blows them away. We’re creating and investing in our own world-class original content that sits perfectly alongside the best from the U.S. This year we’ll be making more of our customers’ favourite shows than ever before.”
Greg Davies, who starred in The Inbetweeners and Cuckoo, is piloting Safe Space from Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and Catastrophe producer Avalon. He plays a demotivated small-time psychotherapist heading nowhere fast until fate intervenes in the form of a new client; his rising star local MP. A dark web of revelations lead to a serious breach of client confidentially. A tale of control, power and how idiotic it makes us. He has written it with Stephen Morrison.
The Tail of the Curious Mouse (w/t) is a one-off drama from Sherlock and Dracula producer Hartswood Films. For Sky One, it is a Christmas film that tells the true story of when a young Roald Dahl met his hero, Beatrix Potter. With Beatrix, played by Dawn French, coming to the end of her career and Roald aged only six and having recently lost his father and sister, this meeting of two literary legends was to have an enormous impact on the lives of both writers. Written by Abi Wilson (Trollied), the show is executive produced by Elaine Cameron for Hartswood Films.
Redknapps’ Weekend Warm Up is an entertainment series starring Jamie and Harry Redknapp as well as comedian Tom Davis. The trio invite the biggest and best names in show business and sport to join them, and a lively audience, for an evening packed full of laughter, topical football talk, celebrity chat, and unique anecdotes. Produced by Expectation, it was commissioned by Phil Edgar Jones, Sky’s Director of Arts and Entertainment and Zai Bennett, Sky’s Managing Director of Content. Shirley Jones is the commissioning editor for Sky. It will be executive produced by Ben Wicks and Aaron Morgan.
Finally, the Urban Myths strand is back with four new episodes. Fictionalising some of the most peculiar stories to have ever leaked out of Hollywood, the music industry and the worlds of art and culture, the episodes will feature stories about Joan Rivers and Barbra Streisand, Jimi Hendrix, Orson Welles and Les Dawson.
Urban Myths: Joan Rivers and Barbra Streisand stars Katherine Ryan and Jessica Barden and is based on Joan Rivers’ recollections of a play she starred in with Barbra Streisand. Streisand has remained tight-lipped about the whole experience. A sixteen-year-old Barbra Streisand (Barden), is in rehearsals for ‘Driftwood’, an off-Broadway play, when a woman, dressed head to toe in fur, bursts through the door. She’s Joan Molinsky, although the world will soon come to know her as Joan Rivers (Ryan). Joan is failing as a club comic and wants to turn her hand to more serious artistic pursuits. Unfortunately, the only part available is ‘Man in Black’, which Joan blithely demands is gender-swapped to ‘Woman in Black’. Joan hasn’t bothered to read the play, and therefore doesn’t realise that the ‘Woman in Black’ and Barbra’s character, Lorna, have a love scene together. It is written and directed by Sue Perkins and produced by Fulwell 73. Benjamin Turner executive produces for Fulwell 73.
Urban Myths: Hendrix and Handel stars David Haig, Zach Wyatt, Jonny Sweet and Kara Tointon. Housemates separated by time, Jimi Hendrix (Wyatt) and George Frideric Handel (Haig) grapple with the stresses of the music business. In January 1969, Jimi Hendrix and his girlfriend Kathy Etchingham (Harriet Cains) moved into their first real home in Brook Street in London – the same building that Handel first called home 246 years earlier in 1743 where he wrote The Messiah. The film imagines the events leading up to a transformative moment when Jimi saw Handel’s ghost which he reported to Kathy. Written by Cara Jennings and Sophie Trott and directed by Justin Chadwick (The Other Boleyn Girl), it is produced by John Rushton with executive producer Lucy Lumsden for Yellow Door Productions.
Urban Myths: Orson Welles in Norwich stars Cracker’s Robbie Coltrane as Welles, who in 1972 was working on ‘F for Fake’, a faux documentary now regarded as his last masterpiece. But ‘F for Fake’ has run out of funds, and Orson is skint says his manager (Craig Ferguson). However, opportunity comes from the most unlikely of places… in East Anglia. Orson accepts work at a regional television station in Norfolk where he encounters an ambitious local news woman played by Saoirse Monica Jackson, and then swiftly goes missing. Written by Matthew Broughton and produced by Absinthe Film Entertainment. Richard Curson-Smith directs, Jeremy Campbell produces, and Robbie Coltrane and Lucy Lumsden are executive producers.
Urban Myths: Les Dawson’s Parisienne Adventure is written by and starring Steve Pemberton alongside John Bradley and Mark Addy. It tells the story of the well-loved stand-up comedian’s adventures in Paris in the mid-1950s. Inspired by his heroes, the writers Jean Paul Sartre and Albert Camus, a young Les Dawson (Bradley) left his home in Manchester to live in Paris in order to pursue his dream of becoming a serious novelist. Unfortunately, things didn’t quite work out as he planned, and he ended up becoming a pianist in a brothel. Written by Steve Pemberton, directed by Steve Bendelack, and produced by RED Production Company. Jemma Rodgers executive produces for RED Production Company.