CBS Studios Readies Baltimore-Set ‘Shuga’ Paramount+ Series With Damon Wayans Jr’s Two Shakes Entertainment, And Unveils Co-Productions In Australia And Europe

David Stapf and Damon Wayans Jr
David Stapf and Damon Wayans Jr Kevin Winter/Getty Images; Casey Durkin/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

CBS Studios has teamed with Damon Wayans Jr to create a Baltimore-set version of its African drama MTV Shuga for streaming sister company Paramount+ and is co-producing shows in Australia and on the France-Spain border.

Shuga: Baltimore will follow the lives of six people seeking to find beauty in their futures while surviving in the rapidly tech-gentrifying Maryland city. Billed as a “hyper-surrealist tale,” the show is now in development, with Greg ‘Mellow’ Brown’ writing.

Wayans Jr. and Kameron Tarlow are co-producing through their Two Shakes Entertainment banner, with Paramount Global and MTV Staying Alive Foundation’s Georgia Arnold, Sara Piot and Richard Warburton sitting alongside them as executive producers. Mellow is a co-executive producer.

CBS Studios acquired rights to Shuga from the MTV Staying Alive Foundation, which is a Paramount initiative aimed at using the power of entertainment to change the attitudes and behavior of young people.

MTV Shuga: Kenya launched out of Nairobi in 2009 and has gone on to become a long-running drama series following the lives of young people on the African continent. It has crossed borders, with episodes shot in Nigeria, South Africa, Cote d’Ivoire and India and explored HIV testing, infection prevention, Covid-19, gender-based violence, condom use, family planning and contraception and transactional sex. Lupita Nyong’o (Black Panther) and Thuso Mbedu (The Woman King) have starred in the show. Mbedu entered into a Paramount+ development deal with Paramount production division VIS Social Impact, as Deadline revealed at the time.

All the series are produced locally and produced rights-cleared and given away free. CBS Studios cites several sources that have showed MTV Shuga viewers are twice as likely to test for HIV, are more aware about self-testing and that young women are much less likely to test positive or chlamydia if they watch the show.

Two Shakes, founded by Wayans Jr and Tarlow, launched with a commitment to take “characters who are traditionally fourth, fifth and sixth on a call sheet and making them first, second and third. It’s based on the CBS lot and is in production on Netflix series Glamorous starring Kim Cattrall and Miss Benny. They also recently sold Moore and More to ABC and a multicam comedy to CBS starring Damon Wayans and Damon Wayans Jr.

Shuga: Baltimore marks the latest original for streamer Paramount+, which today launches in France offering up series such as Tulsa King and The Offer.

International Co-Pros

Meanwhile, CBS Studios President David Stapf used a session today at Content London to unveil a pair of international co-productions.

Gold Diggers comes out of Australia and is a co-production with The Alliance, which is a joint venture between Stampede and Kojo Studios, for public broadcaster the ABC.

It’s set in the 1850s Gold Rush in Australia, when men from around the world moved to the backends of the country to find their fortunes. The show follows Gert, a heavy-drinking sociopath, and Marigold, her virginal sister, who are willing to do anything to find their fortune but first have to “suffer the lads, lice and lechery of outback Australia.” Jack Yabsley serves as writer. 

Electric Years is from Dynamo in association with CBS Studios, from Fernando Navarro and Cristian Conti and directed by Kike Maillo. Navarro and Conti are writing alongside Isabel Peña, Rafael Cobos and Salvador Perpiñá.

The show follows Campano, a mysterious wanderer and fugitive hiding near the French-Spanish border, who turns a group of artists into sophisticated art thieves.

“These premium scripted series have the ability to travel to a broad global audience through the themes and characters and we look forward to sharing these relevant stories with viewers,” said Stapf.

“Working with these talented producers allows us to support diverse talent in front of and behind the camera while helping to tell entertaining stories that authentically reflect the world around us,” added Lindsey Martin, vice president of international co-productions and development at CBS Studios.

Paramount Global Content Distribution has international sales rights to the shows outside of their local territories.

For CBS Studios, the news comes at the end of a fast moving and full-on week. CBS President and CEO and Chief Content Officer, News and Sports, Paramount+, George Cheeks has unveiled a restructure that will see CBS Studios and Paramount TV Studios share various back-end functions for the first time, installing leaders across finance, law, production, business affairs and casting.

Several layoffs will follow the changes, which you can read about in full here.

At Content London today, Stapf vowed it was BAU at CBS Studios despite the upheaval.

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