British TV Attempts to Invade U.S. Programming

downton abbey-upstairs downstairs-sherlock-misfits

British TV networks are lining up their schedules in hopes of bringing another hit, like Downton Abbey, to the U.S., reports

ITV Studios is adapting Lindy Woodhead’s Shopping, Seduction & Mr. Selfridge, a biography about American retail magnate Harry Gordon Selfridge and his eponymous London department store. Selfridge is remembered as the person who brought entertainment and sex appeal to the shopping experience. His grand plans revolutionized shopping, making it an act of luxury rather than something done out of necessity. Selfridge widely implemented novel ideas, such as having store toilets and restaurants, and having a bargain basement. His life was similarly flamboyant, full of mistresses, gambling and overspending. This project will be written by Andrew Davies.

PBS’ Masterpiece is gearing up for several projects!

From March to July, the second season of ITV’s DOWNTON ABBEY will shoot on location at Highclere Castle in Berkshire. It will premiere on Masterpiece on January 8, 2012.

While no date has been set for a U.S. premiere, the second season of the BBC’s UPSTAIRS, DOWNSTAIRS goes into production in September. The series depicts the lives of the servants downstairs and their employers upstairs.

BBC’s adaptation of Charles Dickens’ GREAT EXPECTATIONS starts shooting in August, to air in time for Christmas. Sarah Phelps will be the writer for this new three-hour miniseries.

On July 17, Masterpiece plans to air BBC’s police drama ZEN. The project, which will be three episodes, centers on Rome detective Aurelio Zen, the only honest cop in town. Other detective shows, long-running series POIROT and MISS MARPLE, will also be returning to Masterpiece in June/July.

The second season of SHERLOCK, BBC’s updated version of the Sherlock Holmes stories, already has begun shooting. Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman reprise their roles as Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson, respectively. Steven Moffat, Mark Gatiss and Stephen Thompson will co-write the script. Three 90-minute films will air on Masterpiece in spring 2012.

BBC America has its own plan of attack!

In late summer, BBC America will present the U.S. with THE HOUR, a spy drama set in a 1950s BBC newsroom. Dominic West, Romola Garai and Ben Whishaw star as three journalists working on a weekly investigative news program, The Hour. Their competitive love triangle is heightened against the backdrop of the Cold War paranoia. Abi Morgan penned this six-part series.

LUTHER, starring Idris Elba, returns to BBC America for four hour-long specials, airing this fall. In this psychological thriller, the impulsive detective Luther comes up against a serial killer carrying out ritualistic murders in historic locations, working up to one final masterpiece. The show also stars Ruth Wilson, Steven Mackintosh, Warren Brown and Indira Varma.

As part of its Supernatural Saturday lineup, BBC America’s co-production of THE FADES is set to air in the U.S. in early 2012. The drama will consist of six episodes, and is about a teenager who is haunted by apocalyptic dreams and starts to see spirits of the dead, referred to as The Fades. Jack Thorne (Skins) will write the series, while Lily Loveless, Daniel Kaluuya and Iain De Caestecker will star in it.

Other British networks are determined not to be left behind!

Channel 4 is in discussions with U.S. networks about airing MISFITS, a comedy-drama that follow a group of youthful offenders working in a community service program, where they attain supernatural powers after a strange electrical storm. U.S. networks are reportedly interested in remaking this show.

Sky, which provides digital satellite services, is still scouting for a deal in the U.S., but is hopeful about original Sky UK shows, such as THORNE, a crime show centered on Detective Inspector Tom Thorne, and MAD DOGS, a black comedy and psychological thriller that follows four friends who get together in a villa in Majorca to celebrate the early retirement of a fifth friend, Alvo. However, the group finds themselves caught up in crime and corruption after Alvo is murdered.

Sky and Cinemax are co-producing the second season of STRIKE BACK, which will feature Sullivan Stapleton and Philip Winchester as its main characters this time around. The show was originally based on the novel of the same name, written by Chris Ryan, a former soldier of the Special Air Service. Season 2 will focus on a United States special forces operative, working to stop an international terrorist organization. Cinemax is expected to air the series later this year.

Another Sky series is HIT AND MISS, a new six-episode drama, created by Paul Abbott, about a pre-op transsexual contract killer whose life is turned upside down when he finds out he has a son to a past lover who is now dying of cancer. He moves to Yorkshire to look after his new-found son. Airing on the Sky Atlantic/HBO channel, Hit and Miss begins filming this summer.

The original series SINBAD (as in the sailor) begins filming in Malta soon. It will be a family action adventure, which is a first for Sky; and it consists of 13 episodes. The project will be co-produced with BBC Worldwide.

Which shows catch your fancy?