Quite a bit of news last week, including some great-sounding book adaptations and some not-so-great-sounding book adaptations. Here's the slate:
The Borgias: Yes, you will be seeing even more of the Borgias next year. This is a show I legitimately cannot figure out, except to think that it must be wonderfully titillating for a certain segment of the population. I do not belong to that segment, and I kind of only think it's good when Jeremy Irons is chewing on the scenery. Still, it's doing well enough for Showtime that a third season is called for, and it's clearly replaced The Tudors in the hearts and minds of that show's fans. So more power to it.
Black Sails: Michael Bay, not content with turning the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles into non-teenage non-mutant Ninja Turtles, is now taking on (as producer) Treasure Island with a prequel called Black Sails, due out on Starz presumably sometime next year, since it's set to shoot in Cape Town, South Africa, this year. Remember, the entertainment industry holds Treasure Island sacred, so it'll be interesting to see if Bay can reach the high bar set by previous adaptations. Others have observed that much will depend on who Bay casts as Long John Silver.
WIGS: This was one of the biggest surprises at the YouTube upfront—excuse me, "brandcast." Jon Avnet and Rodrigo Garcia are producing a series of short films on YouTube's new channel, WIGS, about women in various dramatic situations. The actors on tap included (deep breath): Virginia Madsen, Stephen Moyer, Jennifer Garner, Alfred Molina, Julia Stiles, Sarah Paulson and Jeanne Tripplehorn. So it's a stacked cast, which is surprising, given that the salaries for the shows on YouTube are reportedly very low. Regardless, this looked like the thing YouTube was positioning as a breakout at its event.
True Detective: A promising offering from HBO starring Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConnaughey as a pair of cops trying to track down a serial killer in Louisiana—just right for a couple of Southern boys. In all seriousness, it's pretty obvious that HBO loves a good book adaptation (more about that in a moment), and Nic Pizzolatto (the writer) is a very buzzy Southern gothic writer at the moment. Eight episodes for this one.
Glass House: So this is a potential problem. ABC is now prepping a summer reality series about a constantly observed group of attractive young people called Glass House, which CBS is immediately threatening to sue over because it looks too much like their own Big Brother. Uh, Hardcore Pawn much? Copying your neighbor's successes is a time-honored tradition in reality television. If CBS files suit, and if said suit makes it to court, and if space and time implode and CBS wins that suit, expect the volume of unscripted development to fall by about 50 percent.
Killer Karaoke: TruTV invited us to their offices to take a look at its new programming slate, and among that new programming was a game show hosted by Steve-O from Jackass in which people with magnificent singing voices try to continue belting pop standards as Steve-O activates their electroshock collars and makes them reach into blacked-out terrariums filled with snakes. Is it further evidence that the world has become a Kurt Vonnegut short story? Yes, it is. Will I hate myself for watching it? Yes, I will.
Richard LaGravanese/Tony Goldwyn Crime Show (Formerly Philly Lawyer): Playwright Richard LaGravenese wrote the screenplay to a Terry Gilliam movie called The Fisher King, which under any other circumstances would be like saying he played rhythm guitar for Eminem, but for some reason it's the most screenplay-driven movie Gilliam ever directed and holds up better than most of the others. It's one of two pilots AMC picked up from its six-script showcase this year (last year it bought none), so chances are that at least the first episode will be very much worth watching.
Low Winter Sun: An adaptation of a British crime drama, re-set in Detroit, and the other AMC pilot. Chris Mundy of Cold Case and Criminal Minds writes.
Rewind—David Cronenberg: Cronenberg is acting in this pilot, which he does surprisingly well (anybody else see him on Alias?). Network president Dave Howe was over the moon about this script when I talked to him a few months ago, and now it looks like it's going to get the royal treatment from the network. Unless somebody really screws up along the way, expect Syfy to take this one to series once they've tested out their crazy video game/TV show mashup Defiance for hit potential.
Prosecuting Casey Anthony—Rob Lowe: Rob Lowe will play the prosecutor in this slapstick comedy a la Weekend at Bernie's about death and the good times that follow. He really will play the prosecutor, though.
The Corrections: Uh, wow, HBO has taken a pass on an extremely high-profile adaptation of Jonathan Franzen's univerally acclaimed novel, produced by Scott Rudin, who had a tantrum and nearly scuttled the Broadway debut of the now-Pulitzer-winning Clybourne Park when Bruce Norris dropped out of this very miniseries. It's a shame to see this go because Rudin has his name on some of the best dramatic work in film and TV in the last 10 years, and Noah Baumbach's adaptation of the novel was bound to be something interesting. Here's hoping it finds a berth elsewhere.