Review of US Drama on British television Part 4 – Sky

This article follows on from Parts 1, 2 and 3 which can be found in the Television archives and covers BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5. 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 Sky 1, Sky Living and Sky Atlantic.

Sky is the biggest player in the UK market for US TV Drama and has always been on the lookout for popular US drama shows that bring new subscribers to its service. This means as well as trying to get the best new shows available, it will also out-bid other UK broadcasters when their popular shows are due for renewal. This happened most notably with ‘Lost’, ‘Prison Break’ and ‘House’ and then again very recently with ‘Glee’ and ‘Mad Men’.

A number of shows that Sky have been showing have been cancelled or have come to their natural end but I do not think they will be that bothered given that none of the shows were of great importance.

For Sky 1, ‘The Chicago Code’ (FOX) and ‘Caprica’ (SY FY) were cancelled after only one season and ‘Stargate Universe’ (SY FY) got the chop after Series 2. The only concern here would be the lack of much science fiction on the network (apart from the usual Star Trek repeats).

Sky Living lost ‘Medium’ (CBS) but as this lasted for 7 seasons they could not have expected it to go on much longer. This was shown on the BBC in the early days but they pulled the plug on it like many other US shows they have shown.

Sky Atlantic have lost some HBO shows in Big Love’ (ended on Series 5), ‘In Treatment’ (ended on Series 3) and ‘Entourage’ (showing the eighth and final season at the moment) but these will be replaced by other HBO shows as they get commissioned and they can be repeated as part of the back catalogue.

In the case of Medium, Big Love and In Treatment these are behind the US broadcasts anyway, so they still have some first airings to come.

Let’s look at the renewals:

For Sky Living, ‘Cougar Town’ (ABC), ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ (ABC) and ‘Private Practice’ (ABC) were all renewed although Private Practice Season 4 has not yet been shown suggesting that they may be considering cutting it. Also, ‘Criminal Minds’ (CBS), ‘Supernatural’ (CW), ‘Bones’ (Fox), ‘Chuck’ (NBC) and ‘Nikita’ (CW) were renewed although Chuck Series 5 will be its final season.

For Sky 1, ‘NCIS Los Angeles’ (CBS), ‘HawaiiFive-0’ (CBS), ‘Fringe’ (FOX), ‘House’ (FOX) and ‘Spartacus: Blood & Sand’ (STARZ) all received orders for more seasons. Fringe scraped through despite lower viewing figures and changing schedules and may face another tough decision next year. The upcoming eighth series of House will be its last and has been coming for a while now, whilst it is uncertain how Spartacus will fair without Andy Whitfield.

For Sky Atlantic, ‘Blue Bloods’ (CBS), ‘Game of Thrones’ (HBO), ‘Boardwalk Empire’ (HBO), ‘Treme’ (HBO) and ‘Weeds’ (HBO) were all renewed and there is still much of the HBO back catalogue to be shown.

Sky have already picked up some new shows in ‘Teen Wolf’ (MTV), ‘Terra Nova’ (FOX) and ‘The Borgias’ (Showtime). Teen Wolf and The Borgias are currently airing and Terra Nova will help fill the Sci Fi vacuum this autumn.

On the acquisitions front, ‘Nurse Jackie’ (Showtime) is showing at the moment whilst ‘Mad Men’ (AMC) and ‘Glee’ (FOX) will likely be shown very soon after they air in the US. Sky 1 is currently showing ‘The Glee Project’ (FOX) a handy spinoff reality show that was a juicy bonus for them.

Sky did not take up the options on some of the shows they inherited form the Virgin takeover, so ‘Sons Of Anarchy’ was picked up by Five USA and ‘Leverage’ and

‘White Collar’ remain in limbo. Obviously they could decide to take up Leverage and White Collar if they want to as both shows were also renewed for further series in the US.

Let’s take a look at some of the new shows that Sky 1 could be interested in taking:

‘Alcatraz’ (ABC) is produced by J.J. Abrams ( a popular producer in Sky’s eyes) and his excellent team. This is a mystery drama that follows a detective and an expert on Alcatraz as 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) has been created by some of the Lost producers so may get some interest. Bail Bonds collector Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison) 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 fairy tales 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’). 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. Reactions to the pilot have been very mixed.

‘Prime Suspect’ (NBC) might be a nice fit given the familiarity that the british audience has with the show. This 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. Response to the pilot showings has been favourable.

‘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.

Potential Sky Living shows:

The new ABC show ‘Switched At Birth’ 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. This has proved surprisingly popular in the US.

‘Scandal’ (ABC) is created by the writers and producers of Greys Anatomy & Private Practice so may get a look. Ex white house employer Olivia Pope is now a fixer for people who need help defending their public images.

‘The Finder ‘(FOX) is a Bones spin-off centring on a man who has the ability to find just about anything or anyone. A Midseason show created by Hart Hanson starring Geoff Stults which could be a fusion of  ‘Psych’ and ‘Numb3rs’. It also stars Michael Clarke Duncan (Green Mile) and the English born actress Saffron Burrows.

Potential Sky Atlantic Shows:

‘Luck’ (HBO) is a lock  to be picked up by Sky Atlantic and stars Dustin Hoffman and Nick Nolte in the world of horse racing. Featuring jockeys, gambling, dodgy trainers, organized crime et al. Produced by Michael Mann and David Milch, this is a heavy hitter that will get some cash thrown at it and will be expected to work.

In Part 5, I will take a look at the smaller cable and satellite channels like FX, Universal, SyFy and Alibi.

Paul (The TV Drama Club) [twitter-follow screen_name=’thetvdramaclub’]

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