You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Mipcom: Sony Pictures Television World Premieres ‘The Halcyon’ at Cannes

The big U.K. period drama play, from ‘The Crown’s’ Left Bank Pictures, unspools at a luxury hotel in WWII London

CANNES, France — Set in the lap of luxury at the Halcyon Hotel in World War II-era London, Sony Pictures Television’s “The Halcyon” may prove catnip to some of the same audiences that warmed to “Downton Abbey” or, longer ago, “Upstairs, Downstairs.”

But if the early stretches of the first episode are anything to go by, “The Halcyon,” which world premiered Sunday evening at Cannes Mipcom trade fair, is faster-paced, music-laced and more multi-stranded than either of the series with which it will inevitably be compared.

Moreover, rather than showing how aristos adapt to changing times, “The Halcyon” looks set to chronicle how the occupants of a hotel — from the imperious owner, Lord Hamilton, to the minions toiling downstairs — get through the Blitz, just five months away when Episode 1 kicks in. Olivia Williams (“Anna Karenina”), who plays the cheated-on Lady Hamilton, said at a Q & A before Sunday’s screening that “The Halcyon” shows the intensity of life lived when there is no tomorrow.

The central relationship is the enmity between Lady Hamilton and the hotel manager, Richard Garland (Steven Macintosh, “Luther”), who share a dark secret. Other storylines that will play out through the first season is the initially unspoken love between Freddie, the Hamiltons’ elder son and a young Spitfire pilot, and Emma, Garland’s daughter, the hotel receptionist. The younger son, Toby, is secretly gay. Sonny Sullivan, the black leader of the band that plays at the hotel bar, carries a torch for its extrovert white chanteuse. The band’s songs take in jazz and soul, endowing the series with strong musical heft.

Then there’s the backstory, seen right at the outset, of a pro-appeasement cabal of big wigs who meet in secret at the hotel, worrying about the impact of war with Hitler on the British economy.

Commissioned by ITV, “The Halcyon” is distributed worldwide by Sony Pictures Television. It marks the latest drama offering from Andy Harries’ SPT-owned Left Bank Pictures, one of the U.K.’s heaviest drama hitters, producer of “Outlander” and Netflix’s upcoming first U.K. original series “The Crown.”

In industry terms, “The Halcyon” is also “in many ways emblematic of a new [TV] world  and the way in which we produce and distribute TV shows,” said Keith Le Goy, president of distribution at Sony Pictures Television. “Historically for a U.S. studio, we would make shows for U.S. consumers and treat the rest of the world as an export market. In this case, we are making a show with ITV, where the U.S. is an export market.”

Also embodying the new TV age, “The Halcyon” forms part of a drive by Sony to increase its drama footprint in response to a perceived rising demand for high-quality shows. Currently, SPT is producing somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 scripted series around the world, outside the U.S, under the leadership of Zack VanAmburg and Jamie Erlicht, presidents of SPT.

Le Goy said: “We are producing more drama now than we have ever produced, investing more in drama development in the U.S and around the world. We believe strongly in the strength of drama in the global market.”

SPT backing can help a U.K. company score an essential licensing deal in its home market, an increasing challenge as ever more drama producers target a finite number of primetime slots.

The studio’s support allowed Left Bank Pictures to go to ITV and offer something which has far more value than a series made just with the U.K. in mind, Harries said at the Q & A.

Le Goy agreed. “If you are ITV,” he said, “this allows you to have something in which you can take a lot of pride of ownership and get all the benefits associated with that: a budget level and a production level that is way in excess of anything they could do without the partnership of a global studio.”

More TV

  • Westworld Season 3 Trailer

    'Westworld' Season 3 Trailer Focuses on New Cast Member Aaron Paul

    Ahead of the final episode of “Game of Thrones,” HBO released the first trailer for the new season of another flagship show: “Westworld.” The first look at the third season of the sci-fi show puts the focus on new series regular Aaron Paul, best known for his run on “Breaking Bad.” The trailer doesn’t reveal [...]

  • Adam Lambert Libertine show, Front Row,

    Adam Lambert Does Double Performing Duty on 'Idol' as New Winner is Crowned

    A new “American Idol” winner was crowned Sunday night, but not before Adam Lambert returned to the stage for the season finale for a pair of performances that included his new single and a duet with eliminated contestant Dimitrius Graham Sunday. The show concluded with Louisiana teen Laine Hardy showered in confetti as he was [...]

  • Beyonce Emilia Clarke

    Emilia Clarke Worried Beyonce Would Hate Daenerys After 'Game of Thrones'' Final Season

    After eight seasons as the Mother of Dragons, “Game of Thrones” star Emilia Clarke has a lot of celebrity fans. But the most impressive? Probably Queen Bey. In a New Yorker interview posted after Sunday night’s series finale, Clarke revealed that she met Beyonce at an Oscars after-party hosted by the musician and her husband, [...]

  • Game of Thrones Finale

    Why the 'Game of Thrones' Finale Couldn't Have Satisfied Everyone

    The “Game of Thrones” finale may have achieved a strange feat: Aiming for fan service while being constrained, by its very nature, to the reality that it would end up pleasing only very few. The episode was larded with character touches designed for devotees — from a title, at long last, for fan favorite Bronn, [...]

  • Game of Thrones Finale

    'Game of Thrones': Celebrity Fans Have Mixed Reaction to Series Finale

    SPOILER ALERT: Do not keep reading if you have not seen the series finale of “Game of Thrones,” titled “The Iron Throne.”  Whether you loved it or hated it, the series finale of “Game of Thrones” was one for the history books. After the final episode aired Sunday night, fans across the globe took to [...]

  • ‘Game of Thrones’: 8 Shocking Moments

    ‘Game of Thrones’: 8 Shocking Moments From the Finale

    SPOILER ALERT: Do not keep reading if you have not seen the finale of “Game of Thrones.” Well, that’s it. After the “Game of Thrones” finale, many of us will likely emulate Jon Snow and just retire North of the Wall. It was billed as one of the biggest events in TV history, and showrunners [...]

  • Front row: CBS THIS MORNING co-hosts

    CBS Hurls New Anchor Team Into TV's Morning-News Wars

    News Team: Assemble. CBS News plans to hurl a new anchor squad into TV’s morning-news wars Monday when a different trio – Gayle King, Anthony Mason and Tony Dokoupil –  takes the helm at “CBS This Morning.” The A.M. effort that has won critical plaudits by focusing on harder news topics, like international affairs and [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content