New projects include a remake of the Swedish series "Humans," about robot servants, with U.K. broadcaster Channel 4
Michael Cera, Seth Green and Sarah Silverman are among the newest notable names Xbox Entertainment Studios is turning to as it fills out a slate of original series it will start releasing across Microsoft’s video game platforms and mobile devices this summer.
Seth Green is set to produce a stop-motion animated show in the vein of “Robot Chicken” through his Stoopid Buddy Stoodios, while Michael Cera and Sarah Silverman are behind a sketch comedy show through their popular JASH comedy network on YouTube whose creators also include comedians Tim and Eric, and Reggie Watts.
The two shows, first revealed to Bloomberg, are among a growing number of projects Xbox has given the green light to or is developing and will promote to advertisers at the upcoming NewFronts, the digital version of the annual Upfronts presentations in New York City in which entertainment networks hype their projects in an effort to lure the marketing dollars of big brands. The NewFronts, which Microsoft helped launch, take place April 28-May 8 this year.
Microsoft is specifically developing shows for 18-34-year-old males, a highly sought after demo for Madison Avenue.
So far the Xbox slate consists of a significantly diverse group of projects including:
■ “Humans,” a remake of the Swedish TV series, about humanoid robot servants, some of whom want their freedom. Xbox is partnering with U.K. broadcaster Channel 4 on the hour-long, eight-episode series to be produced by Kudos (“The Hour,” “Broadchurch”) and written by Sam Vincent and Jonathan Brackley (“Spooks”). Show will bow in 2015.
■ “Halo:” Microsoft has two series planned around the Xbox’s biggest game franchise. One is a big-budget “Game of Thrones”-like project that Steven Spielberg will executive produce, while the other is a more modestly budgeted series, to be produced by 343 Entertainment and Ridley Scott’s Scott Free TV in the vein of the “Halo: Forward Unto Dawn” episodes that were released around the fourth “Halo” game in 2012. Sergio Mimica-Gezzan (“Battlestar Galactica”) will direct.
■ “Every Street United:” A reality show about street soccer that’s time around the World Cup.
■ Filmmakers Simon Chinn (“Searching for Sugar Man” and “Man on Wire”) and Jonathan Chinn (“30 Days” and “American High”) will produce a documentary series that explores the events and colorful characters that established the digital age, with each segment helmed by a different director. “X-Men 2”-scribe Zak Penn will direct the first installment that investigates Atari’s now legendary burial of millions of unsold copies of “E.T. the Video Game” in a landfill in Alamogordo, New Mexico, in the middle of the night in 1983. The filmmakers’ shingle Lightbox will film the excavation of the landfill by Fuel Entertainment to determine whether the incident is an urban myth or a true tale that led to the demise of Atari.
■ “Fearless:” Paul de Gelder, the Australian Navy bomb diver who survived a shark attack and has since become a motivational speaker, will star in the show that aims to inspire people to improve their lives.
■ “Street Dreams:” A half-hour series loosely based on the life of hip hop artist Nas, during the 1990s when he grew up in Long Island City, New York’s Queensbridge housing complex. Series is produced by Electric City Entertainment’s Jamie Patricof and Lynette Howell and written and directed by Jonathan Levine (“The Wackness”). Nas is helping develop the project.
■ Live Music Events: Xbox plans to produce a live broadcast of events like Manchester, Tenn’s Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival, in July. Microsoft’s Skype video software will be used for backstage interview segments.
■ And Ian Edelman, writer of “How to Make It in America,” has written a comedy series about pro-skateboarders.
Given that the shows will launch on the Xbox consoles first, each series was developed to include interactive elements through which viewers can access more content.
Nancy Tellem, the former CBS exec who was hired by Microsoft in September 2012 to run Xbox Entertainment Studios, has spent the past year and a half coming up with the company’s first batch of series.
She recently hired former WB Network founder Jordan Levin to oversee the development of Xbox’s scripted and unscripted series.
Tellem, herself, has a new boss in Phil Spencer, who now heads up the Xbox console business as well as Microsoft Game Studios.