Producer creates new shows for int'l auds

BUENOS AIRES With “Lalola” chalking up international sales, the creator of the comedy about a womanizer trapped in a woman’s body is hoping to repeat its success.

Sebastian Ortega of Underground Contenidos is in pre-production on “El exitoso Sr. Pells” (The Two Lives of Mr. Pells) to bow later this year on a yet-to-be-identified network.

The comedy follows a lookalike struggling actor hired to take the place of a celebrity newscaster, beaten into a coma by the network boss. The actor must maintain the newscaster’s relationships, including hisboyfriend.

“The audience is looking for change. They are looking for stories that take risks and have different characters and different punchlines,” Ortega says. “Daily fiction has been repeating itself in Argentina with tales about everyday events.”

Ortega made a name with transvestite-starring comedy “Los Roldan” (The Roldans) and cultist favorites about hackers, prisoners, psychos, thirtysomethings and whores that have broken away from the comedies and dramas about ordinary families popular since the 1990s.

Mike Amigorena, who has a supporting role in Francis Ford Coppola’s upcoming film “Tetro,” will star as the struggling actor.

“Mr. Pells,” penned by Alejandro Maci and Esther Feldman of “Lalola,” is part of Underground’s drive to produce series that travel, helping improve profits. It is difficult to break even — or even get on the air — in Argentina, a highly competitive market that pays low programming prices.

“They have to be universal tales that can be adapted for other countries,” Ortega says.

“Lalola,” which airs on America TV, has sold to more than 40 territories in tape and format versions, with Sony Pictures Television picking up U.S. remake rights in a deal managed by Israel-based Dori Media Group. It is the second Argentinean telenovela acquired for adaptation for that territory after “Resistire,” which 20th Century Fox Television remade as “Watch Over Me” starring Dayanara Torres.

Argentina’s the Latin Flower Co. is handling international sales of “Mr. Pells.”

Ortega “has an intuition of what audiences want. He doesn’t rely on worn-out formulas,” says Silvana D’Angelo, head of Latin Flower. “Viewers want stories that are challenging and new and different and sophisticated. He achieves this.”

Latin Flower will work with Underground on adapting “Mr. Pells” to shorter formats like a 26-episode weekly version that may sell better to networks in Asia, Western Europe and the U.S. that generally don’t schedule daily fiction or series of more than 60 episodes, D’Angelo says.

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