International Insider: BBC Studios’ Stuttering CEO Search; BAFTA Voting; Netflix’s UK Reality Show Binge

Jake Kanter
·9 min read

Welcome International Insider readers, Jake Kanter with you today. Take a walk with me through some of the biggest stories of the week. Want to get in touch? I’m on jkanter@deadline.com, or my DMs are open on Twitter. And sign up here to get this delivered to your inbox every Friday.

BBC Studios’ Stuttering CEO Search

Doctor Who
Doctor Who

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Friday must-read: Top of your agenda this week is an International Insider exclusive on BBC Studios’ hunt for a new CEO. The bottom line is this: After an ambitious and wide-ranging six-month search, sources say that BBC director general Tim Davie is no closer to landing the big name he desires.

Who’s said no: Running Doctor Who producer BBC Studios remains one of the most prized jobs in the British industry, but it has proved to be the wrong role or the wrong time for a number of high-profile candidates, including former Endemol Shine Group boss Sophie Turner Laing, YouTube’s EMEA head Cecile Frot-Coutaz, and All3Media CEO Jane Turton.

What’s putting people off? While BBC Studios insiders say they are comfortable with how the recruitment process is progressing, several sources said there have been two major sticking points in attracting a high-caliber external candidate: The BBC Studios pay packet, and the fact the role has been removed from the BBC board. Go deeper here.

And while we’re on the BBC, we got our first sighter at the broadcaster’s incoming chairman, Richard Sharp, on Thursday when he was grilled by lawmakers. He’s very much in step with the BBC on a lot of its key agendas, including believing the license fee remains the most effective way of funding the institution. He loves his TV, namechecking Line Of Duty and Fleabag, but the Conservative Party donor couldn’t resist a dig at Tory-smearing series Roadkill. Our story.

BAFTA Voting Opens

Bafta
Bafta

Unprecedented times: An awards season set to be like no other is firmly underway on both sides of the pond, with round one of BAFTA voting now open. Deadline caught up with BAFTA chair Krishnendu Majumdar and film committee chair Marc Samuelson to discuss a series of rule changes the organization implemented last summer in a bid to “level the playing field” in its nominations after diversity questions were raised in 2020.

New-look process: The tweaks include introducing longlists for all categories, ensuring gender parity in the Best Director longlist, and allocating a selection of 15 films that each voting member must watch in a bid to democratize the overall process. The changes are not about being didactic, the pair insist. “We really respect our members and voters and we are not telling them how to vote, we’re just saying ‘be a bit more conscious.’ It’s your vote — think about it,” said Majumdar.

Promising early signs: Interestingly, BAFTA has received 258 entries this year, almost at parity with 2020, despite all of the delays to cinema releases. Voting now begins ahead of the ceremony on April 11. Tom Grater has the full story.

Netflix’s UK Reality Show Binge

Sexy Beasts
Sexy Beasts

Hot to trot: Following the soaraway success of Too Hot To Handle, Netflix is doubling down on UK-made reality series. We brought you news on Wednesday that the streamer is working with Lion TV to revive BBC Three/A&E’s high-concept dating show Sexy Beasts, in which singletons don Hollywood-grade prosthetics while looking for romance. Think of it as The Masked Singer of dating shows. Read our scoop here.

But wait, there’s more: As part of the UK reality push, we also revealed that Netflix was back on board for a third season of Wall to Wall’s make-up competition series Glow Up, which it co-produces with the BBC. This was confirmed by the BBC yesterday, when it was announced that Maya Jama is taking over from Stacey Dooley on hosting duties. There are two other new Netflix formats in the offing from The Circle producer Studio Lambert: Exotic location competition series Jet Set and a dance choreography contest, working titled All The Right Moves. Prepare for the British reality show invasion.

Big Talk Interview

Back
Back

A typically frank interview this week with Big Talk Productions boss Kenton Allen. He reflected on some of the torments of 2020, as well as how the Rev and Mum producer salvaged positives from a difficult year. Chief among them was securing a second season of Stephen Merchant comedy-drama The Offenders from the BBC and Amazon after having to abandon filming on Season 1 last March because of the pandemic. ITV Studios-owned Big Talk is now making both seasons back-to-back, with Christopher Walken ready to join the shoot in March once he’s had a vaccine.

Better for it: “We were able to rewrite Season 1 to reflect what we know is going to happen to the characters in Season 2. We were able to deepen it and layer it,” Allen said of Merchant’s scripts, which center on seven strangers observing their community payback sentence in Bristol, England. Season 1 is set to premiere later this year, while the second will follow in 2022.

Other new projects: After a three-year gap between seasons, during which filming was shut down twice because of Covid and a health scare for leading man Robert Webb, Simon Blackwell (Veep) comedy Back (pictured above) is returning to Channel 4 and Sundance Now from January 21. Big Talk is also making a documentary on Friday Night Dinner, which will mark the likely end of the Channel 4 comedy. Creator Robert Popper is working on a new project, titled I Hate You. Over in America, Big Talk is adapting ITV2 jazz band time-traveling comedy, Timewasters, for ABC. Allen also hinted at a new drama greenlit by one of the big streamers. Full interview here.

The Show Goes On

Top Boy
Top Boy

Still shooting: We brought you news last week of productions shutting down, so it feels only fair to also highlight some series that are soldiering on as coronavirus continues its unrelenting rampage in the UK, where an ugly milestone of 1,500 daily deaths was passed on Wednesday. The Offenders is one such show, while we hear that others include Netflix’s Top Boy (which restarted on Monday after a delay of a couple of days), BBC One’s Call The Midwife, Apple’s Slow Horses, and ITV entertainment juggernaut Saturday Night Takeaway.

Why it matters: As we saw last year, TV provides a vital public service in the dark days of lockdown, and with stocks of new shows starting to dwindle, it is down to the ingenuity of producers to make the magic happen. God speed to all involved.

Contenders International

Spotlight on foreign films: I’m not just telling you about this because I am duty-bound to do so, but because it’s genuinely worth the investment of your time. Following the continued success of Deadline’s Contenders events, we launched Contenders International to spotlight foreign-language features in the mix during Oscar season. Fifteen studios, streamers and distributors participated, with filmmakers and actors from across the world discussing their projects in front of an audience of voters. We had interviews with the likes of Mads Mikkelsen, Edoardo Ponti, Sophia Loren, and Philippe Lacôte. You can catch-up with them right here.

The Essentials

I May Destroy You
I May Destroy You

🌶️ Hot one of the week: Danny Boyle is collaborating with FX on a limited series based on the memoir of Steve Jones, the legendary Sex Pistols guitarist who helped usher in a punk revolution in Britain. Babyteeth actor Toby Wallace plays the old rocker, while Maisie Williams also features. Go deeper.

👨‍⚖️ Jury duty: The Venice Film Festival has appointed Parasite director Bong Joon Ho as 2021 jury president. Andreas Wiseman has the full story.

🍿 International box office: Warner Bros’ Wonder Woman 1984 is nearing the $100M mark from 40 overseas markets, with IMAX accounting for 9% of these takings. Nancy Tartaglione has the details.

🏆 Awards news: Michaela Coel’s critically acclaimed BBC/HBO show I May Destroy You (pictured) won Breakthrough Series at the Gotham Film and Media Institute’s 30th annual Gotham Awards on Monday night. One suspects plenty of other gongs will follow. Dino-Ray Ramos has the full winners.

🚚 On the move: Shine TV managing director Tanya Shaw is leaving the UK MasterChef producer after seven years. “I am saying goodbye to simply the finest team I have ever worked with,” she said.

📅 Diary date: David Schwimmer and Nick Mohammed talk about the second season of their Sky comedy Intelligence in front of a Royal Television Society audience on January 21.

🎦 Trailer dash: HBO Max announced on Monday that it had acquired Spanish-language original Perfect Life (Vida Perfecta) and has committed to co-producing a second season. The show debuts on January 21 and the trailer is here.

📺 One to watch: This time next week, Apple TV+ will debut its latest co-production: the Israeli drama Losing Alice. The neo-noir thriller comes from creator, writer and director Sigal Avin. Watch the trailer.

And Finally…

Turkey
Turkey

Turkey gate: Just when you thought Christmas and Thanksgiving was long gone, a row erupts over a turkey. It’s a grudge that has been simmering for more than 20 years, and for those involved, it is no poultry matter, as Richard Curtis went public with a claim that Friends ripped-off a turkey-on-the-head gag from Mr. Bean. Interviewed for ITV’s Happy Birthday Mr. Bean celebration documentary last weekend, Curtis said it was no coincidence that Bean’s 1992 antics were repeated by the hapless Joey in an episode of Friends around six years later. “I’m absolutely dazzled by the Friends thing. I only saw it the other day. I literally can’t believe that happened there. Bizarre,” Curtis said. “When we made the Bean movie in 1996, we decided to plagiarise ourselves and used the turkey on the head joke again. Also shooting in the 1990s was Friends, the famous American sitcom, and they stole the joke.” In the end, the Love Actually and Notting Hill writer struck a more conciliatory tone, noting: “Jokes are there to be stolen, or to inspire.” A similar Friends reflective is being planned by HBO Max, so perhaps we might get a riposte. On this they can agree though: With showrunners and stars ruminating on their success, neither Mr. Bean or Friends are themselves turkeys.

Tom Grater contributed to International Insider.

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