The Fast Five: ‘Bond’s New Crooner is Unveiled, as Apple Deals With a Lawsuit Over ‘Servant’
January 20, 2020
Lawsuits in this industry are always fascinating. Creators may suspect their ideas have been stolen when watching a similar show or movie to their own, but very rarely do they go to the lengths of suing over the perceived theft. And when they do, the lawsuits have a nasty tendency to disappear in a haze of settlements and locked case files, so we never end up knowing who was in the right. So this week’s new lawsuit against Apple over their show Servant, is quite the scandal. And in lighter news, James Bond gets a new crooner and Disney deletes Fox from its contacts.
It’s every writer’s biggest fear. (Well, second biggest fear behind an empty page on the day of a deadline.) Another writer could steal your idea. Or in this case, another writer accuses you of stealing their material. Sometimes they claim the theft is from material they shared with you—as was the case with the Stranger Things lawsuit—and sometimes, they claim you saw a completed film and took inspiration from it. Writer-director Francesca Gregorini is suing Apple, M. Night Shyamalan and Servant creator Tony Basgallop over claims that they turned her 2013 movie The Truth About Emanuel into their own TV show.
Servant follows parents who use a therapy doll to replace their newborn child that passed away, hire a live-in nanny, and then the doll mysteriously turns into a real kid. Gregorini wrote this logline for The Truth About Emanuel’s IMDb page: “A troubled girl (Emanuel) becomes preoccupied with her mysterious new neighbor (Linda), who bears a striking resemblance to her dead mother. In offering to baby-sit Linda's newborn, Emanuel unwittingly enters a fragile, fictional world, of which she becomes the gatekeeper.” Having not seen the movie I can’t attest to how similar the Apple+ show is to The Truth About Emanuel, but it does pose some interesting questions for writers everywhere.
At what point in the creative process does inspiration become impersonation, and at what point do similarities blend into theft? A lot of writers are quick to accuse if a project resembles their own, but parallel development is a real thing. And while projects do get stolen in this industry, you probably shouldn't worry about it at this point in your career. The best thing you can do is sit down and write, because every idea you have in your head—no matter how unique you think it is—is probably being written right now by somebody else. What will separate your projects is execution, so focus on telling the best version of the story you possibly can.
While Netflix is busy spending billions on original material, Amazon Prime only debuted twelve new series in 2019. One new show a month does not leave a lot of room on the schedule and a lot of shows end up going by the wayside. The Dark Tower was one of the many sci-fi and fantasy series Amazon was developing based off a beloved book series. And while the show went through many iterations, from a spin-off of the movie to a standalone series, Amazon decided not to move forward with the Glen Mazzara-penned show. Sadly, it had fierce competition and was compared to the new Wheel of Time and Lord of the Rings shows Amazon has in development as well.
But where one dies, another thrives. Jack Reacher, from Scorpion creator Nick Santora, just received a series-order and will join Jack Ryan on the streaming network under the category “Shows Your Dad Loves.” Source material is a huge asset to Amazon, with the network prioritizing projects that have established worlds behind them. Game of Thrones became a different show once it ran out of source material and the creators were tasked with finishing the long-running story for themselves. The projects Amazon are developing have strong characters and fleshed out worlds to draw from and, most importantly, the majority of them have endings, so the creators don't have to worry about being responsible for concluding the story on their own.
2020 may go down in history as the year that the streaming wars officially began. With the launch of Disney+ in November of 2019 and HBO Max and Quibi right on the horizon, consumers have never had more choice for places to stream content. Well, they’re about to get one more as Comcast unveiled details of its streaming service, Peacock, to the world. Comcast hopes to lure in its share of the market with content from NBC and Universal (along with some exclusive new series) in three different tiers. Peacock Free is the AVOD tier that will provide a small sample of the full library in the hope that users upgrade to get full access. Peacock Premium starts at five dollars a month and will include the full library with ads. For an extra five, users can upgrade Peacock Premium to a version with no advertisements. Studios often debate over whether AVOD or SVOD services are better for their brand, but Comcast is dipping its toes into both waters and letting consumers choose which versions works best for them.
Say goodbye to 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight, and say hello to 20th Century Studios and Searchlight Pictures. Disney has started removing the Fox name from the assets it purchased last year and the big rebranding has begun. New logos were released, and the upcoming film Downhill’s poster proudly presents it as a "Searchlight Pictures" film. The phasing out of the Fox name seems to only be on the film side for now, as both 20th Century Fox Television and Fox 21 Television Studios have managed to keep their names for the time being. Just don’t be surprised if next fall you see new shows produced by 20th Century Television and 21 Television Studios.
One month after getting a massive $25 million from Apple for a documentary about her, and two months after earning six Grammy nominations (of which she is frontrunner in every category), singer Billie Eilish isn’t stopping any time soon. The new Bond movie, No Time To Die unveiled Billie Eilish as the singer for the movie’s theme song. No film franchise in history has had such fanfare surrounding the theme song, and besides performing at the Super Bowl halftime show, it’s one of the few feats a musician can achieve to cement their place in pop culture. Eilish will be teaming with her songwriter brother, Finneas, on the project. Even more impressive, is there also doesn't seem to be any backlash around the choice, something that is exceedingly rare in today's day and age.
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.