HBO Max, Amblin Ink Deal for Series Inspired by ‘Rashomon’

Amblin Television and HBO Max have entered into a deal to develop a show inspired by the acclaimed Akira Kurosawa film Rashomon.

Oscar nominees Billy Ray (Captain PhillipsThe Hunger GamesThe Comey Rule) and Virgil Williams (MudboundA Journal for Jordan) will be writers on the series.

The series will not be an adaptation but will retain the key plot device of the Kurosawa film — a drama centering around a grisly sexual assault and murder, and the unraveling mystery seen through multiple characters’ competing narratives — to explore the themes of truth and subjective point of view, in a modern setting, according to a release. Each episode will present the perceived truth of an individual character — putting each, in turn, at the center of the story and telling the events surrounding the murder from their unique, self-serving point of view.

Amblin Partners’ co-presidents of television Darryl Frank and Justin Falvey (The AmericansHaunting of Hill House) will executive produce, along with Mark Canton (Power300) of Atmosphere Entertainment, Leigh Ann Burton of Opus7 Entertainment, and David Hopwood (Den of ThievesImmortals). Todd Cohen, SVP, television development, will oversee the day-to-day development of the project for Amblin, with Frank and Falvey.

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In 2018, Amblin announced that they had secured the blessing of the Kurosawa family to create a new series inspired by the iconic 1950 film, after Burton and Canton approached them.

“I am delighted to work with Amblin Partners and HBO Max to reimagine Rashomon for today’s audience,” said Hisao Kurosawa in a statement. “I am excited to see my dad’s vision through this inspirational story kept alive and made accessible to a new generation,”

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“Truth has become increasingly fractured in this age of cable news and social media’s ‘say it and it’s true’ culture,” said Frank and Falvey in a statement. “Akira Kurosawa’s masterpiece was not just a murder mystery; it was a revolution in storytelling, as cinema’s most impactful and influential early exploration of subjective points of view and flawed narration. Seventy years after the film’s release, the legacy of Rashomon is indisputable and its central themes more relevant than ever. Our series will honor the impact of the original work and explore the age-old concept of objective truth versus subjective perspective in our modern times.”

“It takes a lot of hard work to make the stars align and I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to create an original take on Rashomon – a masterpiece from a true genius of cinema – for new audiences, with the full support and blessing of the Kurosawa family,” said Canton in a statement. “Not only that, but to be doing so in partnership with my friends and colleagues at Amblin Television, as well as the brilliantly talented Billy Ray and Virgil Williams, is truly the convergence of hard work and good fortune that every producer hopes for.”

“We are excited to work with Amblin Partners and our incredible writing team. Everyone involved understands the caliber and cache of Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon and his legacy,” said Burton in a statement.

“Our partnership on Rashomon is based on our mutual pledge to make every single episode, every scene, and every character of this show a loving homage to Kurosawa’s talent as an artist. That’s our true north,” said Williams and Ray in a state

Patricia Arquette to Star in ‘High Desert’ on Apple TV+

Apple TV+ has ordered the half-hour comedy “High Desert,” produced by Apple Studios and starring Academy, Golden Globe and Emmy Award winner Patricia Arquette (“Boyhood,” “Escape at Dannemora,” “The Act”), who will also executive produce.

The project reunites Arquette with Ben Stiller (Escape at Dannemora), who will direct the first episode and executive produce through Red Hour Films alongside Nicky Weinstock. Molly Madden and Tom Lassally executive produce on behalf of 3 Arts Entertainment.

“High Desert” follows Peggy (Arquette), a former addict who decides to make a new start after the death of her beloved mother, with whom she lived in the small desert town of Yucca Valley, Calif., and makes a life-changing decision to become a private investigator.

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The series is created and written by Nancy Fichman (“Nurse Jackie,” “Damages”), Katie Ford (Miss Congeniality) and Jennifer Hoppe (“Grace and Frankie,” “Nurse Jackie,” “Damages”), who will also serve as executive producers.

“High Desert” marks Apple’s second partnership with Arquette and Stiller following the series order for “Severance,” an upcoming workplace thriller starring and executive produced by Arquette and Adam Scott, and directed and executive produced by Stiller. Arquette and Stiller both received Emmy Award nominations for their most recent collaboration: the limited series Escape at Dannemora, for which Stiller won the DGA Award and Arquette won Golden Globe, SAG and Critics Choice Awards.

‘West Wing’ Cast to Reunite for Voting Benefit Special on HBO Max Oct. 15

A “West Wing” reunion to benefit Michelle Obama’s When We All Vote organization will  premier on HBO Max on Oct. 15, two weeks prior to the national election.

The special marks the first time in 17 years that the original cast of the Emmy- and Peabody Award-winning Warner Bros. Television drama series will come together with creator Aaron Sorkin and executive producer-director Thomas Schlamme for a special theatrical stage presentation of the “Hartsfield’s Landing” episode from the show’s third season. “The West Wing” stars Rob Lowe, Dulé Hill, Allison Janney, Janel Moloney, Richard Schiff, Bradley Whitford and Martin Sheen will reprise their roles from the episode.

The special will include act breaks with guest appearances from When We All Vote co-chair Michelle Obama, President Bill Clinton and Lin-Manuel Miranda.  Emmy Award–winning composer W.G. Snuffy Walden will play the iconic score for “The West Wing.”  Folk rock band The Avett Brothers will also close out the special.

The creative team and cast organized the production to raise awareness for and support When We All Vote, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that was founded to increase participation in every election in America. In honor of the special, WarnerMedia will make a donation to When We All Vote.

The production will strictly follow COVID Safe Way Forward Protocols.

Spanning seven seasons, “The West Wing” provided a behind-the-scenes look at the lives of an eclectic group of frenzied staffers in the Oval Office and the West Wing of the White House. Emmy winner Sorkin created the series and served as an executive producer with Emmy winners Thomas Schlamme and John Wells (“ER,” “Shameless”). “The West Wing” won 27 Primetime Emmy Awards (including one for The West Wing: Documentary Special), two Peabody Awards, two Humanitas Prizes, two Golden Globe Awards, seven Screen Actors Guild Awards, two Writers Guild of America Awards, two Directors Guild of America Awards, and five Television Critics Association Awards, among many others.

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In the “Hartsfield’s Landing” episode, original air date Feb. 27, Bartlet (Martin Sheen) engages both Sam (Rob Lowe) and Toby (Richard Schiff) in intricate chess matches that mirror the wily game of brinksmanship that Bartlet is playing with the Chinese, who are conducting war games in the Taiwan Strait. The Chinese threaten real war if Taiwan begins test firing its new U.S.-made Patriot defense missiles. Meanwhile, Josh (Bradley Whitford) is nervous about the 42 votes in a remote New Hampshire town’s election, which are counted immediately and always predict the winner of that state’s primary. Mischievous C.J. (Allison Janney) tries to upset Charlie (Dulé Hill) by hiding his copy of the President’s top-secret daily schedule — prompting a spate of playful tricks. The episode was written by Aaron Sorkin and directed by Vincent Misiano.

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When We All Vote is a national, nonpartisan, non-profit launched by co-chair Michelle Obama in 2018 on a mission to change the culture around voting by bringing together citizens, institutions, brands, and organizations to increase participation in every election. They are also on a mission to close the race and age voting gap and empower all eligible voters to cast their ballot by harnessing grassroots energy, establishing strategic partnerships, and implementing digital organizing strategies. Learn more here.

Starzplay Available Through Apple TV in Middle East, North Africa

Starzplay, Starz’s video-on-demand streaming service, is now available to customers across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region through Apple TV channels on the Apple TV app on iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, iPod touch, Mac, and select Samsung and LG smart TVs.

The service offers Hollywood and Arabic movies, TV shows, documentaries, kids’ entertainment and original content. Customers in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt can sign up for a seven-day free trial and subscribe directly to Starzplay on the Apple TV app for $11 per month (prices vary by region).

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“Online streaming in the region is growing faster than ever,” said Danny Bates, CCO and co-founder at Starzplay, in a statement. “As the region’s leading video streaming service, we constantly look for innovative avenues to offer quality content to hungry audiences. Offering Starzplay through Apple TV channels will open up a whole new customer base and further drive the growth of the video streaming market in MENA. We are proud to be the first major content partner for Apple TV channels in the MENA region and look forward to unveiling more compelling content on the platform.”

Subscribers through Apple TV channels can watch online on demand or watch offline downloads of on the Apple TV app. With Family Sharing, up to six friends or family members can share subscriptions to Apple TV channels using just their Apple ID and password.

‘Ratched’ Top Rising Show, ‘Lucifer’ Again Top Binge on TV Time Charts

Netflix’s “Ratched” was the top rising show, while the service’s “Lucifer” was again the top binge on the TV Time charts for the week ended Sept. 20.

Inspired by the iconic nurse in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, “Ratched” is a suspenseful drama series from Ryan Murphy and Ian Brennan that tells the origin story of asylum nurse Mildred Ratched (Sarah Paulson). The series debuted on Netflix Sept. 18. It also came in at No. 6 on the binge chart.

Taking the silver on the rising show chart was “Des,” a British drama miniseries from ITV based on the 1983 arrest of Scottish serial killer Dennis Nilsen while coming in at No. 3 was Netflix’s “Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous.” The animated adventure series based on the movies hit screens Sept. 18.

Season five of top binge “Lucifer” hit Netflix Aug. 21. The fantasy series follows Lucifer’s exploits on Earth. No. 2 on the binge chart was another series from Netflix, “Baby,” about two wealthy teen girls from Rome who are drawn to the city’s underworld and start leading double lives. “Baby” also came in at No. 7 on the binge chart.

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TV Time is a free TV viewership tracking app that tracks consumers’ viewing habits worldwide and is visited by more than 1 million consumers every day, according to the service. The weekly “Binge Report” ranks shows with the most binge sessions. A binge session is when four or more episodes of a show are watched and tracked in the app in a given day. The “Shows on the Rise” chart is calculated by determining the week-over-week growth in episodes watched for a given program. The network displayed is the network where the show first aired (e.g. “Friends” on NBC).

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Top “Shows on the Rise” Week Ended Sept. 20 by Rise Ratio:

  1. “Ratched” (Netflix) — 100%
  2. “Des” (ITV) — 99.9%
  3. “Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous” (Netflix) — 99.9%
  4. “We Are Who We Are” (HBO) — 99.8%
  5. “The Third Day” (Sky Atlantic UK) — 99.8%
  6. “Close Enough” (HBO Max) — 98.3%
  7. “Baby” (Netflix) — 97.7%
  8. “Clem” (TF1) — 95%
  9. “Criminal: United Kingdom” (Netflix) — 94%
  10. “PEN15” (Hulu) — 93.4%

 

 Top Binge Shows Week Ended Sept. 20 by Share of Binges:

  1. “Lucifer” (Netflix) — 3.14%
  2. “Baby” (Netflix) — 2.99%
  3. “Modern Family” (ABC) — 2.09%
  4. “Grey’s Anatomy” (ABC) — 1.64%
  5. “The Office” (NBC) — 1.60%
  6. “Ratched” (Netflix) — 1.59%
  7. “The Boys” (Amazon) — 1.54%
  8. “Friends” (NBC) — 1.43%
  9. “One Piece” (Fuji TV) — 1.28%
  10. “The Umbrella Academy” (Netflix) — 1.27%

Apple TV+ Bowing Kids’ Series ‘Doug Unplugs’ and ‘Stillwater’ This fall

Apple TV+ will release two new kids’ series, “Doug Unplugs” and “Stillwater,” globally this fall.

“Doug Unplugs,” premiering Nov. 13, is from DreamWorks Animation and based on Dan Yaccarino’s “Doug Unplugged” book series. It follows a young robot named Doug who senses there’s more to life than just the facts. While other robots plug in for their daily download, curious Doug unplugs and journeys into the human world, and with his best friend Emma, experiences its wonders firsthand.

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“Stillwater”

“Stillwater,” premiering Dec. 4, is based on the Scholastic book series “Zen Shorts” by Jon J Muth and is produced by Gaumont and Scholastic Entertainment. It centers on siblings Karl, Addy and Michael, who are typical kids with typical kid challenges — meaning that sometimes even the smallest things can feel insurmountable. Fortunately for these three, they have Stillwater, a wise panda, as their next-door neighbor. Through his example, stories and gentle humor, Stillwater gives the children a deeper understanding of their feelings as well as tools that help them face their own day-to-day challenges.

Also, following it 18 Daytime Emmy Award nominations and win for Outstanding Children’s or Family Viewing Programming, “Ghostwriter” will have its second season premiere on Apple TV+ Oct. 9, and the second season of “Helpsters” will premiere Oct. 16. Both series hail from the makers of “Sesame Street.”

Hulu Launches Watch Party Promo for ‘Pen15’ Season Two Premiere

To celebrate the Sept. 18 premiere of season two of “Pen15,” for the next 10 days, Hulu users will be able to stream the Emmy-nominated comedy together through a series-branded Hulu Watch Party feature.

In keeping with the theme of the show, the Watch Party experience resembles a classic online chat room, complete with screen names taken from the series.

Viewers can launch the Hulu Watch Party through the details page for the series on Hulu.com. Clicking on the Watch Party icon will trigger a shareable link that a user can then share with their friends or family. Hulu Watch Party supports up to eight people per session and viewers must be 18 years of age or older to access the feature.

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Viewers can also call 1-855-HULU-FAN to hear a pre-recorded conversation between the show’s lead characters Maya and Anna. Callers can listen in on a conversation between the two best friends, provide their cell phone number when prompted and receive a link to download a digital pack complete with Zoom backgrounds, GIFs, exclusive behind-the-scenes footage and phone wallpapers. Fans (who are 18 years or older) can dial 1-855-HULU-FAN starting at 11 a.m. PST/2 p.m. EST through Sept. 30.

HBO Max Picks Up ‘Raised by Wolves’ for Second Season

“Raised by Wolves,” which HBO Max reports is its top-performing original since the platform’s launch, has been picked up for a second season.

The serialized sci-fi series from filmmaker Ridley Scott (The MartianGladiator, Alien) debuted with three episodes on Sept. 3 and has continued to be a strong performer in its second week on the platform, growing its audience by nearly 50% week over week, according to the service.

“Raised by Wolves” centers on two androids tasked with raising human children on a mysterious virgin planet. As the burgeoning colony of humans threatens to be torn apart by religious differences, the androids learn that controlling the beliefs of humans is a treacherous and difficult task.  Scott serves as an executive producer on the series and directed the first two episodes. The series was created by Aaron Guzikowski (Prisoners).

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“When I think of ‘Raised by Wolves,’ I think of artistry; artistry in crafting a compelling storyline, artistry in the out-of-this-world production design, special effects and cinematography, artistry in our actor’s portrayals of these memorable characters, and artistry attached to the legendary work of Ridley Scott, Aaron Guzikowski and our phenomenal crew,” said Sarah Aubrey, head of original programming at HBO Max, in a statement. “This chart-topping series beautifully weaves together Ridley’s hallmarks of sci-fi and horror while offering fans one of the most original storylines they’ve seen in some time.  I can’t wait to see what’s in store for season two.”

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“Being a dyed-in-the-wool advertising man, I was knocked out by the extraordinary campaign done by HBO Max marketing, which conveyed the ambitious storyline in such a provocative and tactile manner, and deftly positioned our first season of ‘Raised by Wolves’ as a ‘must watch’ show,” said Scott in a statement. “It must have been a notable challenge to selectively plumb the riches In Aaron’s storylines. We were even happier that audiences have responded so enthusiastically. We are already deep into the ‘layers’ of season 2, as Aaron has begun to shape what we think will be another brilliant season to inspire the imagination.”

‘Wonderful World of Mickey Mouse’ Shorts Coming to Disney+ Nov. 18

Mickey Mouse and friends are heading to Disney+ in the new animated shorts series “The Wonderful World of Mickey Mouse.”

From the team behind Disney Channel’s Emmy Award-winning “Mickey Mouse” cartoon shorts, the new Disney+ original series will debut on Mickey’s birthday, Nov. 18, with two new shorts rolling out every Friday beginning Nov. 27. Ten shorts will premiere this year, with 10 additional shorts set for summer 2021.

“The Wonderful World of Mickey Mouse” follows the adventures of Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Goofy and Pluto. Each seven-minute short features the classic art style of the “Mickey Mouse” shorts and will include stories inspired by various lands at Disney parks and cameos by classic Disney heritage characters.

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Marked by a contemporary art style that harkens back to Mickey’s 1928 beginnings, the “Mickey Mouse” cartoon shorts premiered on Disney Channel in 2013 and ran for five seasons, consisting of a total of 96 episodes, and garnered seven Primetime Emmy Awards, two Daytime Emmy Awards and 21 Annie Awards. The shorts inspired a global line of consumer products, toys and clothing as well as the new attraction, Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, the first ride-through attraction in Disney history starring Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse, now open at Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida. All five seasons of the shorts are currently available to stream on Disney+.

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“The Wonderful World of Mickey Mouse” is produced by Disney Television Animation with Emmy Award-winning artist and director Paul Rudish serving as executive producer and supervising director. Christopher Willis, the Emmy Award-winning composer of the “Mickey Mouse” shorts, also provides the music for this series.

Netflix Picks Up Zendaya Film ‘Malcolm & Marie’

Netflix has acquired the worldwide rights to Sam Levinson’s romantic drama Malcolm & Marie starring Zendaya and John David Washington.

“I am so grateful to this cast and crew, many of whom are my ‘Euphoria’ family, for coming together during such uncertain times,” director-writer-producer Levinson said in a statement. “We felt privileged to be able to make this film together and we did so with a lot of love. We are all thrilled that it has ended up with Netflix which is unparalleled in allowing filmmakers the freedom to tell their stories that reach audiences all over the world.”

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The story follows a filmmaker (Washington) and his girlfriend (Zendaya) who return home following a celebratory movie premiere as he awaits what’s sure to be imminent critical and financial success. The evening suddenly takes a turn as revelations about their relationships begin to surface, testing the strength of their love.