You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

MGM TV Rides High With ‘Vikings’ and ‘Fargo’

With a muscular catalog of some 4,000 feature film titles and 10,500 TV episodes, MGM Television has a bounty of material from which to draw in fashioning its development slate, and prexy Roma Khanna, at the helm of TV and digital distribution since 2011, is using it to her advantage. All while touting original series such as the top-rated “Teen Wolf,” now in its fourth season on MTV, and the highly anticipated “Fargo” on FX, to pad the growth of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s smallscreen arm.

“We have great jewels in our library, from the ‘Rocky’ films to the James Bond franchise to ‘Legally Blonde,’ and they are a huge advantage to us in the marketplace,” notes Khanna of the production company’s key to financial and critical success.

“But we also don’t just want to be a company that reinvents our library. We haven’t gone into this thinking about how (these movies) have been done and how they should have been done, but rather we’re focusing on the smartest way to re-create them for the future.”

This philosophy came into play when partnering with cabler FX and scribe Noah Hawley (“Bones”) to adapt the Coen brothers’ Oscar-winning 1996 film “Fargo,” pictured above, as a 10-episode limited series starring Martin Freeman, Colin Hanks and Billy Bob Thornton.

“We didn’t set out with the network to do something that was derivative but something that was reverential,” says Steve Stark, president, television production and development at MGM. “The question became how do we develop a whole new story and all new characters that are in tone with what we loved about the movie?”

Eric Schrier, president, original programming & FX Prods., echoes that message. “We were always hoping to do something inspired by the movie rather than a re-telling of the movie. I don’t think we would have succeeded had we gone that way.”

The primary thrust of MGM TV, says Khanna, is not to “redo” movies, but to “redesign” them for modern times.

“The idea behind ‘Fargo’ was to reframe it for our current history,” she says. “ ‘Fargo’ is a state of mind and that is what this show is about.”
Khanna credits the MGM TV exec team, which includes John Bryan, president, domestic television distribution, for keeping the focus on smart and aggressive growth.

“We’ve really created an entrepreneurial environment built on decades of collective experience,” she says. “The one thing we all have in common is our spirit.”

That gusto and dedication has helped drive the net’s first major scripted skein, “Vikings,” a sprawling family saga set in medieval Scandinavia. Chris Ottinger, MGM’s prexy of international television distribution and acquisitions, hails the one-hour drama as “lush, big, real, and rich like a feature film.”

“We filmed it a year ago and by the time we were finished at MIP (in 2013), the show was pretty much sold everywhere — to more than 125 countries,” says Ottinger of the Michael Hirst-created skein, now in its second season. “It flew off the shelf in a way that I had never seen before.”

MGM TV’s strategy for expansion on both the domestic and international levels includes continued sales for such syndicated programs as “Paternity Court” (which the company brought to syndication in 92% of the U.S. through its finance and distribution entity Orion TV Production), the gameshow “Let’s Ask America” and the viral video show “Right This Minute,” which airs on the basic cabler HLN.

But scripted series will remain the heart of MGM TV’s ramp-up efforts.

“Our goal is to double, if not triple, our production slate in the next couple of years,” says Khanna. “We have projects in development with literally every broadcaster out there. We have half-hours in development, but the core of our portfolio will be one-hour cable dramas. There is a real appetite for that type of programming and we want to create the best.”

More TV

  • American Son review

    'American Son' Set for Netflix Adaptation With Kerry Washington, Original Broadway Cast

    The Broadway play “American Son” is set to be adapted for Netflix. Kerry Washington, Steven Pasquale, Jeremy Jordan, and Eugene Lee will reprise their roles in the Netflix production. Kenny Leon returns to direct and produce, with Jeffrey Richards and Rebecca Gold serving as producers. Washington and Pilar Savone of Washington’s Simpson Street banner will [...]

  • Anthony Scaramucci to participate in the

    Anthony Scaramucci Light on Trump Talk in 'Celebrity Big Brother' Premiere

    CBS reality show “Big Brother” loves to tell its audience to “expect the unexpected,” but things went pretty much according to the assumed with Anthony Scaramucci on the second season premiere of the celebrity edition of the show. Right from his introductory package, Scaramucci had to acknowledge he was fired from the White House, “for [...]


    Tyler Perry: 6 Lessons He Shared at NATPE's 'Living the Dream' Summit

    MIAMI — Tyler Perry took time out of his “Madea’s Farewell” live stage tour and spent his Martin Luther King Jr. holiday giving an inspiring speech to aspiring producers and students gathered here for the annual NATPE convention. Perry was the keynoter Monday at the conference’s first ever “Living the Dream: A Career in Content” session [...]

  • Why Megan Mullally Won't Talk Politics

    Q&A: Why Megan Mullally Won't Talk Politics While Hosting the SAG Awards

    Megan Mullally is funny. The “Will & Grace” star can also sing and dance. While she’s not picking up the Oscar hosting gig after the Kevin Hart fiasco, Mullally will take center stage on Sunday, Jan. 27 when she makes her debut as the host of the 25th annual SAG Awards. Variety caught up with [...]

  • New England Patriots running back Sony

    CBS and Fox Cheer Big Turnout for NFL Conference Championships

    Sunday’s AFC and NFC championship games were nail-biters that went into overtime and sent viewership into overdrive. CBS harvested a whopping 53.9 million viewers as New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady led his team to their third consecutive Super Bowl berth in a hard-fought primetime game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Viewership for the AFC [...]

  • RENT: Top L-R to Bottom L-R:

    TV Shows to Watch the Week of Jan. 21, 2019: 'Rent,' 'Celebrity Big Brother'

    Welcome back to Tune In: our weekly newsletter offering a guide to the best of the week’s TV. Each week, Variety’s TV team combs through the week’s schedule, selecting our picks of what to watch and when/how to watch them. This week, “Rent: Live” airs on Fox and “Celebrity Big Brother” returns for a second [...]

  • Black Monday: How Showtime Dusted Off

    'Black Monday': How Showtime Dusted Off An Old '80s Logo For Its New Comedy

    Cocaine’s a hell of a drug, but you’re not seeing things: That, indeed is Showtime’s old 1980s-era logo pasted all over marketing materials and promos for “Black Monday,” a tongue-in-cheek tale of the excesses exhibited by Wall Street traders in the lead-up to the stock market crash of 1987. The logo, which hasn’t been in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content