Rodriguez gives it to viewers straight with El Rey
This image released by the El Rey Network shows director Robert Rodriguez on the set of "From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series," premiering Tuesday, March 11, 2014, at 9 p.m. EDT. (AP Photo/El Rey Network)
NEW YORK (AP) — In the past year, Netflix, with its online, all-at-once D.C. thriller "House of Cards," has jolted the medium we used to know as "television."
Now TV could be rocked by another game changer. Say hello to Robert Rodriguez, who, down in the Lone Star State at his aptly named Troublemaker Studios, is ready to rewrite some more rules.
It's not just that Rodriguez, a prolific, much-admired filmmaker, has recently launched a TV network. Cable networks with a big name attached (remember Oprah Winfrey's?) don't inevitably rock the world.
But El Rey, Rodriguez's gift to the 500-channel universe, could prove radically different. And disruptive. Here's a channel spawned by a demonstrated, multifaceted auteur; a boutique network that could leverage its founder's rambunctiously personal vision into a mainstream outlet carrying a chorus of other independent voices.
The revolution, if that's how it turns out, could be sparked by El Rey's first scripted original, "From Dusk Till Dawn: The Series," which premieres Tuesday at 9 p.m. EDT. (El Rey is now available in 40 million TV homes.)
This supernatural crime series is a reimagining of his 1996 cult classic of the same name written by Robert Kurtzman and Quentin Tarantino with a cast including George Clooney and Salma Hayek.
The series (Rodriguez is directing several of the 10 episodes) centers on the brutish bank-robbing Gecko brothers (played by D.J. Cotrona and Zane Holtz), who are sought by a pair of Texas Rangers (Don Johnson and Jesse Garcia) after a bank heist leaves several people dead. The brothers flee to Mexico and take refuge in a stripper bar. But the bar turns out to be the lair of vampires.
Judging from the premiere, made available for preview, this could be a fascinating ride. But it's just the beginning, Rodriguez said.
El Rey is billed as a channel for young men "and what we call 'kick-ass females,'" he said during a chat far removed from his Austin, Tex., headquarters as snowflakes fell outside a mid-Manhattan restaurant. El Rey has also been described as an English-language network catering to Latino viewers and a general audience that might not even realize it has a Spanish name.
But what Rodriguez seems to really have in mind is much more basic: a network that programs stuff he gets off on (whether masterminded by him or by others), aimed at any viewer who shares his cool wavelength — or might be ready to take the plunge into this culture.
"I don't really want the network to be niche," he declared. "With us doing a show like 'Dusk Till Dawn,' people say, 'Is that the kind of shows you'll be doing?' But our next (original) series will be a little broader."
That series is "Matador," created by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman ("Sleepy Hollow," ''Fringe"). It focuses on a globe-trotting soccer champ and playboy who, unbeknownst to his adoring public, is also a top-secret CIA operative. It's set for a July debut.