Review of US Drama on British television Part 5 – FX, SyFy, Universal and Others
This article follows on from Parts 1,2, 3 and 4 which can be found in the Television archives and covers BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and Sky. I am reviewing where each UK broadcaster stands as far as US TV drama is concerned now that the ‘Upfronts’ have been completed and the US primetime schedule for the upcoming 2011 season has been announced. This part covers the broadcasters that are outside of the ‘Top Five’ and Sky.
I think that FX is the best of the other broadcasters for the quality of its American drama, so let’s cover this one first.
The only show cancelled from FX’s repertoire is ‘The Defenders’ (CBS) which only lasted for one season but did at least get to 18 episodes.
The renewed shows are ‘The Walking Dead’ (AMC), ‘NCIS’ (CBS), ‘True Blood’ (HBO),
‘Dexter’ (Showtime) and ‘Burn Notice’ (USA Network). There may be a concern for the future with ‘The Walking Dead’ after the firing of showrunner Frank Darabont. This followed rumours that the show was being ‘under funded’.
‘Dexter’ Season 5 was the best series since Season 2, ‘NCIS’ keeps building a huge audience in the US and ‘Burn Notice’ has already received on order for series 6. FX tend to show many of their shows behind the US so they already one series behind on many of their shows. This leaves them time to replace any show that gets cancelled.
New shows picked up are ‘Falling Skies’ (TNT) which has just finished showing and has been renewed for another season in the US and ‘American Horror Story’ (FX) which has a strong cast and production team (‘Nip Tuck’ and ‘Glee’). Recent data from the US suggest that the critics hate it but the audience figures will determine its fate.
FX have also recently picked up ‘Leverage’ (TNT) which was originally shown on Bravo and then Sky Living. Sky obviously decided not to take up the show so FX have stepped in and bought the show and have recently started re-showing from Series 1. Series 3 has not yet been broadcast in the UK and Series 4 has already started in the US
FX also has a large back catalogue of old shows like ‘The Wire’, ‘Nip Tuck’, ‘Jag’, and ‘Third Watch’ and has always been on the lookout for Canadian and Australian dramas like ‘Babylon 5’ ‘The Listener’, ‘The Border’, ‘Intelligence’, ‘ReGenesis’ and ‘Farscape’.
The SyFy network has a larger remit than many people might think as their content covers Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror. This still restricts the number of shows they can consider as these types of shows can be expensive to make and in the current economic climate the US have not been making as many of these shows as they used to.
They tend to pick up shows from the SyFy network in the US but they do not have exclusive rights and have to bid against other networks for these shows.
What SyFy really need is a ‘big’ show which would bring a larger audience to it and ‘Game of Thrones’ (HBO) would have been ideal until Sky signed an exclusive deal with HBO for all their shows.
Shows that were cancelled included ‘V’ (ABC) and ‘Human Target’ which both managed to get Season 2 before the dreaded audience ratings caught up with them. I think that ‘The Cape’ (NBC) had already been cancelled before SyFy decided to show it.
‘Persons Unknown’ (NBC) has been picked up and this was a show from the 2010 season which was aborted after one series. Written by Christopher McQuarrie (‘The Usual Suspects’) and this program will get a look from me.
Renewed shows include ‘Eureka’ (SyFy) which will end after Season 5, ‘Warehouse 13’ which will resume it’s third series and ‘Haven’ (SyFy) which will be on it’s second series. They also picked up ‘Lost Girl’ fromCanada.
Like the other networks, repeats are needed to keep up the content and shows like ‘Angel’ and ‘Buffy’ fall into this category.
Of the new shows on SyFy in the US, not picking up ‘Alphas’ seems a strange decision but this is coming soon to Five Star.
The US remake of the BBC drama ‘Being Human’ (SyFy) does well in the US but I am not sure if there are any contractual problems with the BBC for picking this up but it would definitely suit SyFy over here.
The ‘Law & Order’ franchise has finally run out of steam with only ‘Special Victims Unit’ still up and running in the US. That means that ‘Law & Order Los Angeles’ (NBC) was canned after its first series and that ‘Law & Order Criminal Intent (USA Network)’ was shut down after 10 commendable seasons.
The renewed shows were ‘Rookie Blue’ (ABC) which was given a second year, the aforementioned ‘Law & Order Special Victims Unit’ (NBC) which is already showing Series 13, ‘Royal Pains’ (USA Network) which was given a third series, ‘Psych’ (USA Network) which was given a remarkable sixth season and ‘Fairly Legal’ (USA Network) for which a second series was ordered.
Given the shows that Universal have, it would appear to have good ties with both NBC and USA Network.
If the BBC gives up ‘Damages’ (Direct TV) then Universal should jump in there as it has already been showing repeats of previous series.
Universal also runs repeats of ‘Cold Case’, CSI:New York’ ‘House’, ‘Monk’ and ‘Without a Trace’.
Universal have already picked up an older show in ‘Harry’s Law’ (NBC) which is on Season 2 in the US but I would be surprised it hung around for too long. One suspects that the failure of many other of NBC’s shows is the only thing that keep this going.
As the ‘home’ of crime drama, Alibi will always have a reasonable selection of shows to take from the US should they wish to do so. The majority of Alibi’s shows have always been British but following the successful acquisition of ‘Castle (ABC)’ it looks like they are developing a taste for US shows.
Castle was renewed for its fourth season and ‘Body of Proof’ (ABC) has been given a second series. I believe that when they bought the rights to ‘Rizzoli & Isles’ (TNT) that they already knew that Season 2 was in the pipeline.
They have also started showing repeats of ‘The Closer’ (TNT) which is a solid move given the fact that it is a long running quality drama.
The executives at Alibi should note that ‘White Collar’ (USA Network) has been renewed for a fourth season in the US. Only the first series was shown over here in the UK by Bravo and the excellent show is just waiting to be picked up.
Now we move on to a clutch of other channels which have started to show more interest in US drama.
Season 4 of ‘Sanctuary’ (SyFy) has started airing in the US so that should be coming over here soon but they lost ‘No Ordinary Family’ (ABC) which crashed after 1 series but at least made it to 20 episodes.
Watch have also picked up ‘Grimm’ (NBC) which as not yer aire in the US. Grimm is based on the Grimm’s Fairy Tales told to children. Homicide Detective Nick Burkhardt discovers he is a descendant of an elite team of hunters who protect humanity for various supernatural bad guys. David Greenwalt (of Buffy and Angel fame) is one of the executive producers.
‘Hellcats’ (CW) lasted only 1 season but ‘Pretty Little Liars’ (ABC) was given a second year.
Dave has rather surprisingly picked up the new drama ‘Suits’ (USA Network). This turned out to be very popular cable show in the states and has already been renewed for a second series. Mike Ross, a brilliant but unmotivated college dropout with a photographic memory ends up in job with a firm of New York corporate lawyers. This looks interesting and it also stars Gina Torres.
Really made a very solid pickup in ‘Covert Affairs’ (USA Network) as the show has been running for a while and has just has a third series commissioned. Covert Affairs is about a CIA agent played by Piper Perbao who gets into all kinds of trouble all over the world. It looks more like ‘Burn Notice’ than ‘Alias’.
Taking a lot at some of the shows that have not yet been picked up, here are a few that could be considered:
‘Alcatraz’ (ABC) is produced by J.J. Abrams and his excellent team. This is a mystery drama that follows a detective and an expert on Alcatrazas they try to figure out why inmates and prison guards who disappeared decades ago have suddenly resurfaced in the present. Looks like a cross between ‘Prison Break’ and ‘The 4400’ and it could be a new ‘Lost’ or a new ‘Flashforward’.
‘Missing’ (ABC) stars Ashley Judd (‘Kiss The Girls’ & ‘High Crimes’) as an ex-CIA agent whose son goes missing whilst studying abroad and she ends up travelling around many countries tracking him down.
‘The River’ (ABC) has Steven Speilberg behind it Lincoln Cole sets off for the Amazon to find his father and wildlife expert who has been missing for 6 months. Sponsored by a documentary filmmaker this looks like an adventure thriller that might work.
‘Once Upon A Time ‘(ABC) features Bail Bonds collector Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison) who is found by the 10 year old son she gave up a long time ago. Her son believes in a world of magic and she ends up getting sucked into a world where fairytales are real. Has Robert Carlyle and looks bizarre. It looks like a boom or bust show.
‘Person Of Interest’ (CBS) has a great pedigree with producers J.J. Abrams, Bryan Burk and Academy Award nominee Jonathan Nolan (‘Memento’). This show stars Jim Caviezel who recently appeared in the remake of ‘The Prisoner’ and Michael Emerson (Ben Linus from ‘Lost’). This is a crime thriller about a presumed dead former-CIA agent who teams up with a mysterious billionaire to prevent violent crimes by using their own brand of vigilante justice. Reese’s actions catch the attention of the NYPD and a cat and mouse game ensues.
‘Prime Suspect’ (NBC) is a remake of the long running Helen Mirren UK drama and stars Maria Bello as the female police detective trying to make her way in a police precinct dominated by testosterone. This also stars Kirk Acevado (‘Fringe’) and has lots of police procedural work, autopsies and white boards.
‘Unforgettable’ (CBS) stars Poppy Montgomery (‘Without A Trace’) as Carrie Wells a cop who has perfect recall and is a great crime solver. Unfortunately she cannot work out who killed her sister a long time ago.New Yorkdetective Al Burns (Dylan Walsh from Nip/Tuck) is her ex boyfriend and she ends up working for his team and begins to unravel the truth behind her sister’s death.
‘Awake’ (NBC) stars Jason Isaacs as detective Michael Britten who wakes up from a car accident in which his wife has died. The story turns when he later wakes up from the same accident in which his son has died instead and he ends up leading two lives, awaking from each different reality trying to piece together what is really happening. Delicious plot which looks good on paper and the pilot has been well received.
‘Switched At Birth’ (ABC) recently had its first series aired already and has already been renewed for season 2. It features two teenage girls who discover they were switched at birth. One girl is poor and one is wealthy.
‘The Nine Lives of Chloe King’ (ABC Family) about a teenage girl who starts developing mysterious powers when she reaches 16.
‘Revenge’ (ABC) features Emily Thorne (played by Emily Van Camp (‘Everwood’ and ‘Brothers & Sisters’) who returns to the wealthy ‘Hamptons’ to wreak revenge for events that happened to her there as a child. Looks slightly dark and also stars Madeline Stowe.
‘Boss’ (STARZ) features Kelsey Grammer (‘Frasier’) as the powerful mayor of Chicago who has a dark secret. Gus Van Sant (‘Good Will Hunting’ and ‘Milk’) will be directing this one.
‘Against The Wall’ (Lifetime) stars Rachael Carpani (‘The Glades’ and ‘ NCIS: Los Angeles’) as a Chicago police detective who brings friction to her close knit family of cops when she decides to join the Internal Affairs division.
‘Perception’ (TNT) is about neuroscientist Dr Geoffrey Pierce (played Eric McCormack from will & grace) who works on complex criminal cases, helping the federal government. The FBI team is lead by a former student.
Paul (The TV Drama Club)