Fun new TV publicity trend courtesy of NBC: Announcing “greenlights” for TV projects that it previously announced as either being “acquired” or “in development” so as to get a second wave of stories about a nascent project before milking a third wave of stories around casting.
Last week, NBC announced that it was giving a greenlight to “Rosemary’s Baby,” a four-hour event series that the network previously announced it was developing back in July. The only new pieces of information in last week’s NBC release were the involvement of director Agnieszka Holland and new co-writer James Wong, but we all dutifully wrote the story and, in some cases, attempted to cast the miniseries.
This week’s gratuitous NBC press release? The official greenlighting of “A.D.,” Mark Burnett and Roma Downey’s follow-up to their History Channel smash adaptation of “The Bible.”
NBC announced on Tuesday (December 17) that “A.D.” will be a 12-part miniseries and will “most likely” air in spring 2015. NBC had previously announced back in July that it had acquired the rights to the “Bible” sequel, but the number of parts in the miniseries is new information, as is the really tentative premiere date and the information that Simon Block (“The Shooting of Thomas Hurndall”) will write. Thus far, “A.D.” has neither a director or a cast, but those will be subject to additional press releases.
Putting a movie or miniseries into development is never a guarantee of a greenlight, of course. “Rosemary’s Baby” was announced at the same time as NBC’s Hillary Clinton miniseries, which sounded far further along the road to production as it had a star (Diane Lane) and a writer/director (Courtney Hunt). NBC didn’t anticipate the waves of negative publicity and ripples of potential conflicts-of-interest that ultimately doomed the project.
However, did anybody really think that NBC wooed Mark Burnett and “A.D.” away from History without a guarantee of a greenlight and production?
And, if we’re being forced to write effectively the same story twice, why are NBC Entertainment Chairman Robert Greenblatt and NBC Entertainment President Jennifer Salke being asked to make the effectively same canned statement twice?
Today, Greenblat blurbs, “Last year when Mark Burnett was launching ‘The Bible” on cable, I told him, without hesitation, that if he wanted to tell more of the story, we”d love to do it at NBC. We are firmly in the ‘event” business and nothing has more event potential than ‘A.D.” as it continues immediately after the ‘The Bible” ended. The heft of a broadcast network, combined with the promotional arms of NBCUniversal and Comcast, will push this miniseries to a mass audience. We value our relationship with Mark and Roma and know that no one could bring this story to life better than them.”
And Salke adds, “You might think the story is over at the Crucifixion, but as most of the world knows, that was only the beginning. Everyone”s lives were completely altered in an instant and the immediate aftermath of Christ”s death had an impact on his disciples, his mother Mary, and key political and religious leaders of the time. In the first episode alone you see the last moments of the Crucifixion, Judas taking his own life after betraying Christ, Peter denying Jesus three times, and then the miracle of the Resurrection. We feel so fortunate to be in the hands of Mark and Roma, who have proven that the greatest story ever told is still just that.”
If parts of those blurbs sound familiar, it’s because he’s what Greenblatt stated in July.
“I followed the development process of ‘The Bible’ closely with Mark and knew that the story was far from over after Christ’s Crucifixion. In fact, what happened in the aftermath — which is essentially the beginning of Christianity – is utterly fascinating. The day after ‘The Bible’ premiered, I told Mark we were on board with no hesitation for the follow-up miniseries. This will be attention-getting in every way, and we”re proud to continue our association with Mark which has just grown exponentially from ‘The Voice.'”
And yet, like a sheep, I wrote the story again.