Fast Five: Learn Tips from TV Writers, Sherlock's Sister Sued, and Cobra Kai goes to Netflix
June 29, 2020
The industry is in one of its weirdest points in history; one we will eventually look back on and study. But for now it has to keep chugging along and it does so with repertory theater screenings, fall schedules made up of foreign television shows, Emmy® campaigning over Zoom and lawsuits!
Learn tips from TV writers as Emmy campaigning goes digital
While all of the industry’s networking events have been shut down, the Emmy campaigning has continued in a digital space. Variety’s A Night in the Writers' Room and Actors on Actors and The Hollywood Reporter’s Roundtables series have continued to produce quarantine episodes that showcase writers and actors speaking to each other about their craft. Even though the entire purpose of these shows is a form of promotion to try and land an award nomination, the videos are invaluable for aspiring writers and performers. Top showrunners and creators in both the comedy and drama genres discuss the art of writing and the challenges of working in a digital writers room while the actors discuss their roles and, more importantly for writers, what they look for in a script when choosing a project. The best thing an aspiring writer can do is sit down and write, but sometimes listening to what the professionals have to say about their creative process can lead to bursts of inspiration. The videos are free to watch and most of them are also available on Variety and The Hollywood Reporter’s YouTube pages along with archives of roundtables and writer interviews from years past.
Professional Sherlock suers sue Sherlock’s sister
Enola Holmes, a potential blockbuster film franchise written by The Eddy creator Jack Thorne based on a series of young adult novels, has found itself in a little bit of legal trouble. The books, which follow Stranger Things actress Millie Bobby Brown as Sherlock’s sleuthing sister, is being sued by the estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a company that clings to the 10 Sherlock stories that haven’t yet fallen into the public domain. While the majority of books and short stories featuring the character are in the public domain and can be adapted by anybody, some later stories are the sole property of the estate and the estate will sue anybody who doesn’t pay to license features of the character only found in those stories. In this case the estate claims that Sherlock only displayed emotions in the stories it owns, so any adaptation of Sherlock that portrays the detective with emotions will need to pony up the dough. I can’t see a trial being worth it for Netflix or the publishers of the novels, and I would imagine they will pay a licensing fee to the estate rather than have to pay lawyers to read all the public domain books for instances of the character displaying kindness. Mind you, if Netflix isn’t scared off of litigation (and the Fox lawsuits would say the streamer likes a good battle) they could read Den of Geek’s compilation of lines from earlier stories that would indicate Sherlock always had emotions. They could also use a 2014 court case that the estate lost as precedent. But what does this mean for you? Public domain is a great source of free IP for aspiring writers, just make sure you do your due diligence before you sit down to write your steampunk Robin Hood spec script to make sure there isn’t a litigious heir out there willing to make your life a living hell.
Jurassic Park returns to the top of the box office charts
On June 11, 1993 Steven Spielberg’s summer blockbuster Jurassic Park opened up around the country on its way to a $47 million weekend. And while it spawned a franchise that would continue to break records, the original is still a draw in its own right. With around 1,100 screens open across America for Father’s Day weekend, Universal flooded the market with reissues of classic big-screen popcorn flicks like Jurassic Park and Jaws, which took the number one and two spots with half a million each, and Back to the Future and E.T., which were in the sixth and eighth spots respectively. Universal’s dominance in the charts isn’t limited to reissues either, as slots three through five were made up of the studio’s The Invisible Man, Trolls World Tour and The Hunt. I am going to speculate wildly that Universal’s movies are making up a large chunk of the chart as a make-good to the theaters after the big feud over Universal’s announcement that it would release movies to VOD simultaneously with the theatrical release. This led to chains like AMC saying they wouldn’t run Universal movies anymore. Did Universal agree to take a smaller percentage on its classic films as a way to help the theaters stay afloat during the pandemic to make up for the bickering? It would explain why the studio is sitting pretty with most of the top 10. Or maybe people just really like seeing lawyers get eaten by dinosaurs.
Networks gamble on fall schedules but new shows are not on the menu
The broadcast networks have been in one of two camps for next season: Fox and The CW ordered completed series from other countries and from American streaming services, while ABC, NBC and CBS filled their schedules with renewed series, hoping that this pesky pandemic will disappear long enough for them to actually make the shows. But there's one thing none of the networks are interested in and that’s new programming. Only 15 new shows received a series order and a place on the schedule, down from 36 last season and 49 in 2015. It’s not surprising this year had a low crop after production shutdowns resulted in only one pilot being finished. The networks decided that the devil they know is better than the devil they don’t and opted to only give series orders to shows from big stars like NBC’s Young Rock about The Rock’s teenage years and CBS’s The Equalizer reboot starring Queen Latifah. It’s terrible for the creators who finally got a pilot order just to see the show thrown to the side but great for creators with bubble shows that got renewed.
Netflix steals away one of few subscription-selling shows
When a new service launches it needs the type of show that sells subscriptions the way House of Cards did for Netflix and The Handmaid’s Tale did for Hulu. New streaming services that don’t launch with one of these shows have to bank on a deep library the way Peacock and HBO Max have. On rare occasions you get both, like Disney+’s massive library of content and buzzy launch show The Mandalorian. So where does a fringe show like Cobra Kai fit in? Well, when YouTube announced it would stop making original programming and move its shows out from behind the YouTube Premium paywall it came with a major caveat: The move wouldn’t be made until after the second season of Cobra Kai launched, because that show sold YouTube Premium accounts. And now Sony is packing it up and moving it over to Netflix, which just renewed the show for a third season. The expectation is that Netflix can expose the show to a new audience and turn it into an even bigger hit like it did for Channel 4’s Black Mirror and Lifetime’s You.
Written by: Conrad SylviaConrad Sylvia is the creator of the The Week in Television, a private industry newsletter that recaps the week's television news in a humorous and unique manner. Throughout the years he has developed projects for studios and production companies and continues to provide freelance research on the current television landscape and international marketplace. He is also a fan of drinking in the bathtub. A full tub if he's happy, an empty tub if he's sad.