More than 18 months after he arrived at Starz, Chris Albrecht is poised to put a bigger stamp on the pay cabler’s original programming with the rollout of a slate of original series, starting next month with the Kelsey Grammer starrer “Boss.” Albrecht likes “Boss” so much that he gave the Lionsgate TV/Grammnet Prods. drama a second-season pickup nearly a month before its series preem.
The series stars Kelsey Grammer as a powerful Chicago mayor who’s hiding a deteriorating mental condition. Drama hails from Grammer’s Grammnet Prods. and Lionsgate TV. Farhad Safinia (“Apocalypto”) is the creator and exec producer. Gus Van Sant helmed the pilot episode, marking his TV directorial debut, and also exec produces with Grammer, Lyn Greene, Richard Levine, Brian Sher and Stella Bulochnikov.
“Boss” is set to bow Oct. 21 for an eight-episode run. The second-season order is 10 segs, with production targeted to start early next year. Grammer has been generating strong early buzz for his dramatic turn in the King Lear-esque role that is a 180-degree turn from the short-lived sitcom fare he’s tried since “Frasier” ended its run in 2004 (though he nabbed a Tony nom last year for “La Cage aux Folles”).
With Grammer in an attention-getting role and feature film talent like Van Sant and Safinia on board, “Boss” is reminiscent of the high-wattage fare Albrecht became known for during his tenure at HBO. The early renewal is clearly a statement of the boss’s faith in “Boss.”
“The first time we read Farhad’s script, we knew we had to make ‘Boss,’ ” Albrecht said. “With each episode, the story grew richer, and the cast continued to turn in breakthrough performances. Led by Kelsey and Farhad, this creative team is giving us dramatic storytelling at its very best.”
(Albrecht was unavailable for additional comment Tuesday, as he’s on his honeymoon after tying the knot earlier this month.)
Following “Boss,” Starz has period drama “Magic City,” set in 1950s Miami, slated for premiere early next year. “Noir,” a live-action series based on an anime property, is also on tap for 2012 from exec producers Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert.
Starz has done other scripted series and minis since Albrecht took the reins of Liberty Media’s cluster of pay cablers in January 2010 — including BBC co-production “Torchwood: Miracle Day” — but it’s clear that “Boss” is the centerpiece for a big original programming push.
The pre-premiere second-season renewal is not unprecedented, particularly in pay cable. Starz did it two years ago, just before Albrecht’s arrival, with its sword-and-sandal drama “Spartacus.” In recent years, HBO and Showtime have renewed such skeins as “Boardwalk Empire,” “Treme” and “Nurse Jackie” after one or two airings.
Lionsgate TV topper Kevin Beggs said it was “gratifying” to get such an “early vote of confidence” from Starz. Grammer gave Starz a thumbs up for the move. “Good thinking, I love this show,” he said.