Intl. TV Newswire: Gay Jesus Unbanned, Crime Pays, STV’s Tale of Two Cities

The First Temptation of Christ

In this week’s International TV Newswire Brazil’s supreme court overturns Netflix holiday special ban, Variety catches up on Mediamétrie’s 2019 Glance Scripted Series Report, STV acquires stake in Two Cities Television, Wildscreen revamps it’s prizes and the La Liga animation collective opens a new call to Ibero-American projects.

Brazilian Supreme Court Overturns Ban on Netflix Gay Jesus Holiday Special

Brazil’s Supreme Court president Dias Toffoli has overturned Rio de Janeiro judge Benedicto Abicair’s ban from earlier this week of the Netflix Christmas special “The First Temptation of Christ,” in which Jesus is depicted as a gay man. The series has faced criticism from Brazil’s Catholic right and many conservative public figures, including President Bolsonaro’s son who tweeted that the show was “garbage.” Offices of the special’s producers Porta dos Fundos were even firebombed on the morning of Dec. 24. Supreme Court president Dias Toffoli claimed this week’s ban was unjust and against ideals of freedom of speech, saying that a humorous satire cannot weaken the values of the Christian faith, whose existence is traced back more than two thousand years, and which is the most popular religion in Brazil.

Free-To-Air Scripted Series: Crime Rules, Co-productions Up, says Glance Report

Analysts diss Europe’s broadcast networks. Over the last four-to-five years, for instance, bastions of European free-to-air TV such as France’s TF1, the U.K.’s ITV, Germany’s RTL Group and Spain’s Mediaset España have all lost broadly half of their stock value. Yet they all still post operating profits, sometimes reaching hundreds of millions of dollars per annum for larger operators, and their shows are still seen by millions. So audience trends, some profiled by Mediamétrie’s Glance in its 2019 Scripted Series Report, still matter hugely. According to its latest worldwide findings, three trends are key. Primetime series often drive audiences. “Almost 60% of the channels studied have seen their audiences boosted by a primetime series,” said Candice Alessandra, Glance international research manager.

“National crime dramas remain unbeatable in the hearts of viewers,” she added. Crime series alone account for 41% of the prime-time series offer (up three points vs. 2017-18). Human drama series, including medical series) come second with 19% of the offer.

“Last, the supremacy of local creations remains indisputable,” said a Glance press statement. But it isn’t growing, challenged by the presence of imported programs (21 in top rating shows compared to 17 last season) and co-productions (18 compared to 12 previously). Of channels scheduling more co-productions this season, Arte France was 70% up on 2017; TV4 in Sweden 400% up; HBO in the U. S. broadcast five co-produced series in 2019 compared to none the year before.

Regarding imports, three U.S. medical series that have travelled particularly well beyond their borders are “The Good Doctor,” which alone accounts for almost one third of consumption of imported human drama series, followed by “Grey’s Anatomy” and the recent “New Amsterdam.”

Among other shows performing well at home and abroad, the 2019 Scripted Series Report “Manifest,” from the U.S., Sweden’s the Swedish “A Wedding, a Funeral and a Christening,” and the U.K.’s “Manhunt.”

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STV Productions Acquires Stake in Two Cities Television

Scottish Television, the ITV franchise for Central Scotland, has acquired a minority stake in Northern Ireland and London-based Two Cities Television, best known for the critically acclaimed Sky Atlantic, CBS Showtime series “Patrick Melrose” starring Benedict Cumberbatch. The deal offers STV the option to increase its initial 25% stake to a majority interest over the next three years. Two Cities was founded by Michael Jackson, a former executive at BBC One and BBC Two, Channel 4, USA Entertainment and Universal Television, and creative director Stephen Wright, former head of drama for BBC Northern Ireland. Two Cities is currently developing series based on Michael Wolff’s Donald Trump book “Fire and Fury” and “The Spy who Came in from the Co-op: Melita Norwood and the Ending of Cold War Espionage” from author David Burke, with other projects in the pipeline.

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Justin Downing/SHOWTIME

Wildscreen Festival Revamps Panda Awards and Adds Two Prizes

U.K.-based award-winning non-profit conservation organization Wildscreen, creators of the world’s largest wildlife-focused film and photography festival, have revamped its Panda Awards for the global wildlife and environmental films industry. This year’s Wildscreen Festival will host an official selection program and a new award given to the production that demonstrates the best sustainable shoot practices. Two other new prizes have been added for this year’s festival: the Producer/Director Award and the Production Team Award. The company also announced that Emmy-nominated filmmaker David Allen will chair this year’s jury. Wildscreen Festival 2020 will focus on the craft and impact on audiences with a selection of 11 categories, running Oct. 17-25 in Bristol, U.K.

Ibero-American Animation Awards Circuit La Liga Announces New Prize, Open Call

La Liga, a trans-Atlantic collaboration of key animation festivals and markets, with support from the Annecy Film Festival, has opened the call for Spanish, Portuguese-language and Andorran animation projects from film and TV in the development or pre-production stages. Co-productions including at least one of the territories are also eligible to apply. Up to five submitted projects will be invited to this year’s Quirino Awards’ Co-Production Forum in April. There, the projects will pitch to a jury which, in a new development, will select one to participate at Annecy’s La Liga in Focus in June – a significant prize. Additionally, the projects will be granted accreditation to B2B meetings and workshops at the Quirino Co-Production and Business Forums. The open call closes on Jan. 30.

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Juan Pablo Zaramella