Television is a fast-paced business, where a show can be written, developed, ordered, cast, produced, and aired all within the course of a year. But sometimes, executives get ahead of themselves and shows are announced prematurely, or circumstances change, forcing delay.
IndieWire combed through some high-profile TV announcements from the past few years that haven’t yet seen the light of day, and asked their status. Some are still in the works; some are still “in development,” which could be code for “we don’t want to admit yet that this show is dead”; and some have quietly faded away.
“Tales from the Crypt” (TNT)
TNT announced an ambitious new “Tales from the Crypt”-branded horror block executive produced by M. Night Shyamalan last year, including a 10-episode order of the anthology series, “guided by a newly reinvented Crypt Keeper.”
Also announced for the horror block: “Time of Death,” an anthology series from IM Global Television, to be written by Guy Busick (“Watch Over Me”) and R. Christopher Murphy, with Season 1 paying tribute to 1980s slasher films. The block also was announced with “Creatures,” written by Dominic Mitchell (“In the Flesh”), about an internet bogeyman called Mr. Corgi. (Sue Naegle, now at Annapurna TV, was listed as executive producer, with Tom Shankland directing.)
TNT teased the return of “Tales from the Crypt” last May at its upfront presentation in New York. But then the cable network hit a snag to bring back the franchise, which is based on the original EC Comics and spawned a long-running HBO show.
In December, TNT told the site Bloody Disgusting that “the underlying rights to the classic, vintage property are complicated. TNT and others have been pursuing a solution for more than a year, with significant progress being made. We look forward to the potential for further active development of this valuable franchise once the clearance process is fully resolved.”
When asked about “Tales from the Crypt” this week, TNT sent the same statement, and said the status remains unchanged.
“MTV Unplugged” and the Mark Burnett hip-hop competition show (MTV)
Just a year ago, MTV president Sean Atkins unveiled his big plan to revive the network: Bring back the music. That included dusting off “MTV Unplugged,” a popular franchise from the 1990s that periodically pops back and quickly disappears again. “The conditions are right in 2016 to do it again,” the network said. “The revitalized Unplugged will restore key elements that made the franchise so groundbreaking in the first place, while resetting the show in the multi-platform video world of today.”
Similarly, Burnett’s competition show promised to throw out the “shiny floor stage” and show fresh hip-hop talent face off in the recording studio for a chance at a record contract.
Both shows were slated for a 2016 launch. And then, Atkins was axed in October. VH1 boss Chris McCarthy was given added oversight of MTV to attempt yet another network makeover.
That would seem to mean bad news for “Unplugged” and the Burnett show, but the network said both are still in the works — and might now show up in fall 2017.
Mark Burnett’s Live Nativity event (NBC)
Uber producer Mark Burnett confirmed in January 2016 he was developing a live musical special for NBC based on the Nativity tale of the birth of Christ. (At the time, it was described as a mashup between his NBC singing competition “The Voice” and “The Bible,” the longform event he and wife Roma Downey produced for History in 2013.)
“This is something we looked at last year, a big live stage performance around the Nativity, something that is near and dear to my and Roma’s hearts,” he said at the time. “A lot of contemporary music fits the Nativity, but also traditional music.”
Burnett also said he hoped to turn it into a larger enterprise: “What we do is only limited by the scale that NBC and we decide. It could be in an arena or in the streets of a city. It could turn into a large annual event for millions of people. There are already Christmas parades; it’s not a big stretch to create a big live event around a TV special.”
Christmas 2016 came and went without Burnett’s “Nativity,” however. But NBC confirmed that the special is still on the docket – and could potentially show up this Christmas.
“Ten Commandments” (WGN America)
When first announced in 2014, the anthology event series from the Weinstein Co. would be made up of different stories, inspired by each of the Ten Commandments. New casts would star in each episode, from directors such as Lee Daniels, Michael Cera, Gus Van Sant and Jim Sheridan. (Wes Craven was also attached, before his death.) The logistics of pulling off “Ten Commandments” were difficult, however, and even though it received a series order, it has remained in pre-production mode.
“Ten Commandments” is still on the WGN America docket, but the network has made several major changes recently, which means the fate of the program is unclear. Just this week, Tribune Media president/CEO Peter Kern canceled the network’s highest-rated series, “Outsiders,” as part of the programming shift. (Kern replaced Peter Liguori, who exited the company earlier this year.)
“A Ribbon of Dreams,” “Utopia” (HBO)
Unlike most networks, HBO is known for its lengthy development process, with some shows in the works for years. “The Sopranos” creator David Chase has been working on the six-part miniseries “A Ribbon of Dreams” for several years, going back to at least 2009. HBO has gone through several programming heads since then, but “A Ribbon of Dreams” remains in development, HBO said this week.
Chase told Deadline last year that the show would be produced as three two-hour episodes, and take place from 1915 to present day. It would focus on “three people who go through their lives in Hollywood and Hollywood isn’t the backdrop, it’s actually the environment.”
As for “Utopia,” production on the David Fincher series, based on the underground graphic novel and subsequent U.K. Channel 4 series, was scrapped in 2015 over budget concerns. The show’s original stars – including Rooney Mara, Eric McCormick, Jason Ritter, Dallas Roberts, Brandon Scott, Agyness Deyn and Colm Feore – were then let go. The ultimate fate of a “Utopia” project at HBO remains uncertain.
Freeform first gave a series order to “Nicki,” a single-camera comedy based on Nicki Minaj’s life, in September 2015 – when the network was still known as ABC Family.
Based on Minaj’s experience as a kid moving from Trinidad to Queens, the original cast was confirmed by the end of that year, with production to commence in January 2016. But the show was postponed over creative concerns, Minaj told the syndicated radio show “The Breakfast Club” in October.
Freeform said this week that “Nicki” remains “in active development.”
“Shogun,” “Billy the Kid,” “Blood Brothers” (Fox)
When longform fever took off at the networks a few years ago, Fox quickly announced a flurry of “event series” in 2013, including “Wayward Pines,” which eventually premiered in 2015, and “The People v. O.J. Simpson,” which later moved to FX and aired in 2016.
But the network also announced other ambitious event series: “Billy the Kid,” from “Oz” producers Tom Fontana and Barry Levinson, would explore the origins story of the Old West outlaw. “Blood Brothers,” written by Bruce McKenna (“Band of Brothers”), was a Civil War drama based on the true story of the West Point Class of 1861. “Shogun,” a retelling of the novel set in feudal Japan, came from Michael DeLuca, Michaela Clavell and writer Nigel Williams (“Moby Dick”).
Those projects all eventually went by the wayside after Kevin Reilly left the network in 2014, and Fox confirmed that they are no longer in development.