Starz Scores Coup By Nabbing ‘Torchwood’

There weren’t five better hours on U.S. television in 2009 than the BBC America telecast of “Torchwood: Children of Earth,” a miniseries that represented the third flight of episodes featuring John Barrowman as the ageless Captain Jack Harkness.

Now Starz has nabbed rights to the fourth season of the show for summer 2011, with Barrowman and Eve Myles reprising their roles. “Additional key cast, reflecting the more international scope of the series, will be announced soon,” per Starz. (For more details, check out Variety’s “On the Air,” which actually does real reporting and stuff so I don’t have to.) 

Although many viewers have doubtless never heard of “Torchwood” (an anagram for “Doctor Who,” from which it was spun off), this is an enormous coup for Starz, inasmuch as the series will bring a rabidly loyal cult following with it. The deal should also officially scuttle plans to create a U.S. version, which always sounded painfully misguided, in much the way that “Life on Mars” — despite some good moments — had difficulty translating to ABC.

Starz has already made original-programming inroads with “Party Down” and “Spartacus: Blood and Sand” (and no, I still don’t like the latter), but the deal for “Torchwood” reflects a very shrewd realization that such cultish confections can be powerful assets for pay TV. Look no further than HBO’s happy experience with “True Blood,” which not incidentally begins its third round of supernatural sucking and assorted mayhem this weekend.

At any rate, I look forward to the fourth season of “Torchwood.” And attention, Starz execs: If you haven’t experienced it before, get ready for a very warm welcome at next summer’s Comic-Con.

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