Okay, so maybe this isn’t as exciting as yesterday’s foray into how these new shows were pitched. But it’s just as important. Maybe even more:
by Lesley Goldberg & Bryn Elise Sandberg
Another year, another batch of potential breakouts looking to lure the mix of viewers and buzz that NBC’s The Blacklistgenerated a season earlier. Garnering early attention among the 2014-15 season’s two dozen new offerings is theShonda Rhimes-producedHow to Get Away With Murder(ABC), telenovela Jane the Virgin (The CW) and genre plays Gotham (Fox) and The Flash (The CW).
There are recognizable works — comic adaptations, romantic comedies and, in the case of ABC, diversity — and a new cadre of film stars, led by Viola Davis (Murder) and OctaviaSpencer (Red Band Society) making the leap to TV. “I’ve never been the show before and with this, I wasthe show … what was there to refuse?” Davis says of TV’s appeal.
But if history is any indication, stars don’t guarantee viewers — and second-season renewals are hard to come by. Not that cancellation scars have stopped talent from attempting new hits — the fastest rebounder of late being Dylan McDermott, who is returning to CBS with psychological thriller Stalkeronly a few months after the same network axed his 2013 starrer Hostages.
The Hollywood Reporter quizzed the producers behind several of the new fall offerings to find out how they pitched their series — as well as the stories behind the show titles and how they netted their stars.
Jeff Lowell, Manhattan Love Story (ABC)
The original title was My Thoughts Exactly. ABC never loved the title, so during pilot production it was “Untitled Jeff Lowell Project.” It was great for my ego to walk around for weeks hearing everyone say my name, until one day I saw them towing away cars on a street we were shooting on, and I realized there were a dozen fliers with my name on them that some very angry drivers were about to find. ABC came up with Manhattan Love Story, and it was one of three finalists. … The thing that put it over the top was them commissioning artwork showing how they’d use the title to sell the show. It was tonally perfect — I immediately signed off, and that artwork is the main title card for our show.
Peter Nowalk, How to Get Away With Murder (ABC)
A show that takes place in law school doesn’t sound like the most exciting premise, so I knew the name Professor Annalise Keating (Viola Davis) gave to her class had to be sexy and attention-grabbing. How to Get Away With Murder worked on all levels. It gives you a great first impression of Annalise as a character — that she’s bold, irreverent and controversial — and also describes the fun, dark, twisted tone of the show.
Jennie Snyder Urman, Jane the Virgin (CW)
Jane the Virgin came with the show when I was asked to adapt the format from the Venezuelan telenovela Juana La Virgen. I didn’t think too much about the title at the time; I was focused more on the question: “How on Earth does a virgin get accidentally inseminated?!” Then, once the show was picked up, I started to hear that the title was a little controversial, which honestly I didn’t get at first — especially because Jane, as a character, is such a role model. Then, my 4-year-old son asked me what my new show was called. I started to answer: “Jane the …” I hesitated. Sucked it up. “Jane the Virgin.” He looked at me, confused, and asked me what a “vermin” was. So, I told him the truth. It’s a small pest.