Monday, 2 June 2014 | MYT 4:40 PM

Film to TV: Steven Spielberg steps up TV production presence

He’s A-OK. Steven Spielberg is producing a total of seven shows airing on American TV next season. – AFP

He’s A-OK. Steven Spielberg is producing a total of seven shows airing on American TV next season. – AFP

The filmmaker will be producing seven shows, becoming most active producer on the small screen.

Between July 2014 and early 2015, a total of seven shows backed by the filmmaker will air on American television. Taking the place of J.J. Abrams, Steven Spielberg has become the most active producer working for the small screen today.

Extant, Red Band Society, The Whispers and Public Morals are the four new Spielberg productions viewers can expect to find on TV in the coming months. These latest productions will join the returning dramas Falling Skies, The Americans and Under the Dome.

Aliens invade the airwaves

Unsurprisingly, a number of Spielberg’s productions are related to his signature themes, namely extra-terrestrial life forms. The director known for his sci-fi blockbusters E.T., Close Encounters of the Third Kind and War of the Worlds is bringing similar narratives to television.

The Whispers is a thriller series about an alien invasion that uses children to take over the planet.

Premiering July 9 on CBS, Extant stars Halle Berry as an astronaut who, upon returning to Earth after one year alone in space, finds out that she is pregnant, presumably due to a mysterious extra-terrestrial force. At the start of next year, ABC will unveil The Whispers, a thriller series about an alien invasion that uses children to take over the planet.

These new series echo some of the motifs seen in Falling Skies, which has aired on TNT since 2011, and Under the Dome, the second season of which will premiere June 30 on CBS. The two programmes also refer to extra-terrestrial life, each in its own way.

Action and dark humour

Of course, Spielberg’s body of work for the silver screen is hardly limited to the sci-fi genre, and his TV productions are just as diverse. For TNT, Spielberg is producing the new historical police drama Public Morals, which promises to be closer to the current FX Cold War spy drama The Americans than to E.T.

Set in 1960s New York, Public Morals follows a team of officers in the NYPD Public Morals Division. Ed Burns (Mob City) plays an agent trying to stay on the straight and narrow in a job full of temptations, all while raising his young sons.

FOX, meanwhile, is betting on the dark humour of Red Band Society, a remake of the Spanish medical drama Polseres vermelles. Octavia Spencer, the Oscar-winning actress seen in The Help, is cast of this series, which follows the day-to-day life of seriously ill teenagers living in a hospital.

The new J.J. Abrams?

With seven productions on his hands – or eight including the TV adaptation of the video game Halo – Steven Spielberg has become the most prolific TV producer of the coming season, surpassing even his counterparts focused entirely on the small screen.

Chuck Lorre currently has four comedies airing on CBS in the coming season (Two and a Half Men, The Big Bang Theory, Mike & Molly and Mom). Shonda Rhimes has a total of three dramas (Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder), tying with Seth MacFarlane, who has as many comedies (American Dad, Family Guy and The Cleveland Show).

J.J. Abrams

In fact, Spielberg seems to be stepping in to fill the position occupied previously by J.J. Abrams, a producer known for juggling multiple TV projects in recent years. After building his reputation with the series Felicity, Alias and Lost, among others, the creator and producer has all but disappeared from the small screen. Person of Interest is now his only TV production, as Revolution, Believe and Almost Human were all cancelled this year. While J.J. Abrams has responded to the call of the cinema – he is currently directing Star Wars: Episode VII – his idol Steven Spielberg seems to be stepping in to take his place.

But while a number of noted filmmakers have turned their attention to the small screen only recently, the director of Schindler’s List has actually been active in TV for several decades. In the 1980s and 1990s, Spielberg produced Amazing Stories, Seaquest 2032 and ER for NBC. He has also collaborated with various cable networks over the years for Into the West, Band of Brothers, The Pacific and United States of Tara.

And in spite of his unprecedented level of involvement in the TV arena for the coming season, Spielberg is not giving up on the silver screen. The director is involved in several projects, including Indiana Jones 5, Robopocalypse, a West Side Story remake and an adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The BFG. – AFP Relaxnews

Tags / Keywords: Entertainment , Steven Spielberg , American television , producer


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