Apple Confronts Show Business Reality

February 8th, 2018

One thing that’s certain when a show business project is under development, and that is that there very well may be staff changes and script changes aplenty before it’s released, not to mention reshoots. That is, if it’s released. Producers may depart, screenwriters may depart, directors may depart, and parts may be recast, or even eliminated.

Most of the key changes are usually covered in the trades, but a high profile project may generate some mainstream press too. Consider that “Wonder Woman,” the DC Comics super hero movie, went through other directors before Patty Jenkins came onboard. Most of you who’ve seen the film will agree she did a truly spectacular job.

But sometimes individual producers seem to develop a reputation, and end up leaving various projects citing “creative differences” and other reasons.

Take Bryan Fuller. I don’t know much about him personally,  but he’s well known for his previous creator and producer roles with “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” “Star Trek: Voyager,” “Pushing Daisies,” a cult classic, “Heroes,” and, most recently, “Hannibal,” the reimagining of the literary character Hannibal Lecter, created by novelist Thomas Harris.

Fuller’s genre credits are first rate.

When CBS planned to bring back fan favorite Star Trek in a new form, “Discovery,” as the flagship for its All Access streaming service, Fuller was brought in as a creator. The show’s deadlines came and went, and just a couple of months before its debut, it was announced that Fuller had left.

It’s reported that CBS and Fuller couldn’t come together over the presentation. He evidently envisioned an anthology series, meaning each episode might have a different story with a different cast. The compromise focused on a serialized show, with a single overall premise each season. According to the trades, there were also differences over the choice of directors, budgets and casting. Indeed, it appeared that Fuller and CBS had very different visions for the new series, with the former choosing to be more adventurous. Eventually he departed.

Now I’m not about to suggest it was all Fuller’s fault, that he was just someone difficult to work with. It may have been a case of oil and water, so maybe the show is better for having him give it a start, and better for continuing in a different direction. Since I am not interested in subscribing to a streaming service for exactly one show, I’m not inclined to want to watch “Star Trek: Discovery” right now.

That takes us to Apple and its plans to produce original TV dramas. Although Apple has yet to officially announce anything, though such an announcement is promised in the near future, it appears that Fuller and producer Hart Hanson, best known for the Fox TV series “Bones,” teamed to work on the Amblin Television reboot of Steven Spielberg’s “Amazing Stories.”

This week came the report that Fuller and Hanson have left the project. Fuller was signed on as showrunner, the person who has creative authority and management responsibility for a television show. In other words, the person who handles the day-to-day production chores.

Again, the reason cited is “creative differences.”

“Amazing Stories” had a two season run in the 1980s. Similar to “Twilight Zone,” and “Outer Limits,” it was an anthology series that featured sci-fi, fantasy and horror stories.

It does appear that Fuller hasn’t had good luck working on TV programs lately. Fuller and producer Michael Green have also been fired from “American Gods,” a drama featured on the Starz premium cable network. But don’t count him out. He’s now reported at work with Paramount Television on an adaptation of Anne Rice’s “Vampire Chronicles.”

Now I’m not about to consider whether such staff turmoil is normal or a little over-the-top. Clearly CBS has made a major commitment to bringing Star Trek back to the small screen. The last series, “Star Trek: Enterprise,” crashed and burned after just four seasons, and it was thought that it was going to be the last.

But you can’t keep Star Trek down. A reboot of the original series has resulted in three movies so far, but a fourth’s prospects are hit or miss after the so-so box office for “Star Trek Beyond.” CBS wanted to take a conservative approach with its new TV series, whereas Fuller apparently had other ideas. With “Amazing Stories,” part of the dispute may have involved the fact that Apple wanted something more family friendly. I suppose we’ll see as the other shows move further along in the development process.

But it’s still not certain how they’ll be distributed. Will they be presented as part of an expanded Apple Music service, will they be offered strictly on iTunes, or as part of a new streaming channel that’ll be featured on Apple TV and other Apple gear?

While I would probably not be averse to considering a subscription to Apple Music if TV shows were also added, I would not be interested in subscribing to yet another TV service. That’s the dilemma competitors to Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu are inevitably confronting. Consider the plight of the cord cutter who signs up with a streaming service or two as a way to ditch the cable or satellite habit, and cut down on expenses. Do they really want to spend even more money on loads of separate services?

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