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The people, programmes and businesses that are changing the game.

Hot Properties for your shopping trip to London

LONDON SCREENINGS: Some of the world’s biggest distributors are unveiling new slates as part of several screenings taking place this week, with this year’s event expanding to include BBC Studios and major content companies from Europe and North America. Here, C21 picks out some hot properties from the new programming on offer.

Dark Hearts (6×52’)
Producer: Mandarin Télévision
Distributor: Newen Connect
They say: “The leader of an elite French commando unit has his sights set on returning to Paris but, days before his departure, he captures a high-ranking jihadi, who’s prepared to do a deal.”
We say: Created by Corinne Garfin and Duong Dang-Tha, two writers who worked on hit series The Bureau, and directed by Ziad Doueiri (West Beirut), this series tackles France’s military activities in the Middle East, a topic that isn’t often depicted in drama. The show debuted on Amazon’s Prime Video this month, with France Télévisions taking the second window.

Thanks a Million (format)
Producers: B17 Entertainment, Nuyorican Productions
Distributor: Sony Pictures Television
They say: “…a show that celebrates the people who have made a positive impact on others through acts of kindness.”
We say: This one is interesting not just for tapping into the demand for feelgood entertainment as the world deals with further fall-out from war and what looks set to be a year of economic crises, but also for being a show for Roku, underscoring the trend for AVoD players moving into original content. Having Jennifer Lopez involved is a plus. SPT is shopping global rights (excluding Canada, Mexico, the US and China).

Stranded on Honeymoon Island (format)
Producers: Snowman Productions, PIT
Distributor: Red Arrow Studios International
They say: “Couples matched by experts are stranded on a deserted island; isolated and pitted against the forces of nature, will true love blossom?”
We say: Airing in Belgium on VTM2, this format offers a twist on the tropical-island elimination formula by mixing in dating and extreme challenges. The show could see true love blossom or a relationship crash and burn for our entertainment. I know which would make better telly…

The Man Who Stole the Scream (1×90’)
Producer: Curve Story
Distributor: Abacus Media Rights
They say: “The remarkable story of the theft of one of the most iconic paintings in history, Edvard Munch’s The Scream.”
We say: Exec produced by Asif Kapadia (Senna, Amy, Diego Maradona) and directed by Sunshine Jackson (Dead Asleep) and Nigel Levy (The Da Vinci Detective) for Sky, this film has good auspices. It mixes art heist and cat-and-mouse crime-solving with an analysis of the mind of perpetrator (and former professional footballer) Pål Enger, resulting in a Scandi-noir psychological crime caper.

Ancient Powers (6×50’)
Producer: BBC Studios Productions
Distributor: BBC Studios
They say: “…the remarkable story of the social, technological and physical challenges faced by five powerful civilisations in their battle for survival and domination of the ancient world.”
We say: This doc compares and contrasts five of the world’s biggest ancient civilisations – Egypt, China, Greece, Rome and India – to see how they found different solutions to the same problems. A mix of science, archaeology and lashings of CGI, the series is made for Chinese streamer Bilibili.

Wolf (6×60’)
Producers: APC Studios, Hartswood Films
Distributor: About Premium Content
They say: “In an isolated house in Monmouthshire, a wealthy family find themselves the victims of a psychopath’s cruel games, trapped and terrorised.”
We say: Based on Mo Hayder’s Jack Caffery novels, this crime thriller for BBC One, BBC Wales and BBC iPlayer is written and adapted by Megan Gallagher (Borderliner, Suspicion) and stars Ukweli Roach (The Midwich Cuckoos). HBO Max has pre-bought rights for Iberia, the Nordics, and Central and Eastern Europe, while Australia’s SBS has taken first-run rights for Australia.

Waco: A British Tragedy (2×60’)
Producer: MultiStory Media
Distributor: ITV Studios
They say: “…will explore the untold story of the sizeable British contingent of David Koresh’s Branch Davidian cult, and their experiences during the 51-day ordeal at Waco.”
We say: This documentary is produced for ITVX by MultiStory’s new doc unit, headed by Mike Blair, whose credits include Code Blue: Murder, Red Arrows: Kings of the Sky and The Other Side of Jimmy Savile. It is directed by Stuart Bernard (The Man Who Bought Cricket, The Mighty Redcar).

Whale with Steve Backshall (4×60’)
Producers: True To Nature Productions, Sky Studios
Distributor: Fremantle
They say: “…will uncover the truth about whales and dolphins in the three largest oceans, with input from scientists and conservationists.”
We say: This documentary comes soon after its predecessor, Shark with Steve Backshall, amassed an audience of 3.3 million across Sky Nature and Sky Showcase since it debuted in November 2021.

Tempting Fortune (10×60’, format)
Producer: Voltage TV
Distributor: Cineflix Rights
They say: “Twelve strangers are dropped in the heart of a vast, remote wilderness with an epic cash prize awaiting them… and a journey unlike any other.”
We say: What appears to be a straightforward survival format turns into a battle of willpower and discipline as, in order to keep the cash prize, those strangers must resist the various tantalising temptations they encounter along the way. Voltage is producing this for Channel 4 in the UK and Roku in the US.

The Spencer Sisters (10×60’)
Producers: eOne, Buffalo Gal Pictures
Distributor: eOne
They say: “Each week, a straight-up ex-cop from the big city and her mystery novelist mother tackle a new case springing from their small town.”
We say: With auspices including Alan McCullough as creator, exec producer and co-showrunner and Jenn Engels as exec producer and co-showrunner, this light crime series could fill the gap in the market for female-led procedurals. It debuted on Canada’s CTV in January.

Rise & Fall (format)
Producer: Studio Lambert
Distributor: All3Media International
They say: “This unique game is packed with drama, betrayal and power plays, where competitors will have opportunities to rise and fall from having everything to having nothing.”
We say: From the creative powerhouse that is Stephen Lambert (pictured), whose credits include Wife Swap, Faking It, The Secret Millionaire, Undercover Boss and Gogglebox, this Channel 4 format taps into the same vibe as scripted hit Succession so should be worth a look.

This Town (6×60’)
Producers: Kudos, Nebulastar, Mercury Studios, Kudos North, Stigma Films, Nick Angel
Distributor: Banijay Rights
They say: “Tells the story of an extended family and four young people drawn into the world of ska and two-tone music, which exploded from the grass roots of Coventry and Birmingham in the late 1970s and early 1980s.”
We say: This new drama from Peaky Blinders and SAS Rogue Heroes creator Steven Knight (pictured) looks set to be a winner, combining family saga, the politics of the era plus great music. Acclaimed producer Dan Carey, and Brit and Mercury nominated musician, novelist and poet Kae Tempest have written the songs.

Three Mothers, Two Babies & a Scandal (3×60’)
Producer: Firecrest Films
Distributor: Blue Ant International
They say: “Follows the internet adoptions of twin babies by two separate families on two different continents, and the transatlantic custody battle and media storm that ensued.”
We say: This docuseries launched on Amazon Prime Video in the UK and Ireland last November. Blue Ant International also struck deals for the series with Prime Video in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the Nordics, with distribution rights available for the rest of the world.

Prosecuting Evil (1×83’)
Producer: Melbar Media
Distributor: TVF International
They say: “A portrait of Ben Ferencz, the last surviving Nuremberg Trial prosecutor, who continues to wage a lifelong crusade for law and peace.”
We say: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it, said philosopher George Santayana. Given the current state of the world, with Russia bringing war back to Europe and atrocities being committed on a daily basis, a documentary on how we dealt with things 80 years ago might be worth an airing.