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3
2 YEARS

Starz Orders Eight-Episode Pirate Drama From Michael Bay

"Black Sails," created by "Jericho's" Jon Steinberg, will be a prequel to the classic "Treasure Island" story and air in 2014.

Michael Bay
Jason Kempin/Getty Images
Michael Bay

Michael Bay is setting sail with Starz.

The premium cable network has ordered straight to series Black Sails, an eight-episode drama revolving around the tales of Treasure Island's most feared pirate, Captain Flint, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.

The project, slated to air in 2014, takes place 20 years before Robert Louis Stevenson's classic tale and centers on Flint, a fast-talking pirate, and his adventures with new crewmember John Silver as they fight for survival of the New Providence Island -- a paradise filled with pirates, prostitutes, thieves and fortune seekers.

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Jericho and Human Target creator Jon Steinberg created the drama and will serve as showrunner. Bay will exec produce alongside his Platinum Dunes partners Brad Fuller and Andrew Form (2009's A Nightmare on Elm Street). Touch's Robert Levine will co-exec produce.

The project marks Starz's latest big swing in its bid to compete with premium cablers including HBO and Showtime and is Bay's first series television gig. 

"I'm excited to branch out into television, especially doing a longform series for Starz, a network known for supporting cutting-edge programming," Transformers director and executive producer Bay.

Black Sails is Starz's latest drama ordered directly to series following Boss and Magic City, both of which earned second-season renewals before their premieres. While the respective Kelsey Grammer and Jeffrey Dean Morgan projects have met with critical acclaim, they've struggled to attract the breakout success the network had hoped to achieve.

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"If we think the work is good, and if the team in place has the capacity to continue to do that work, then we’re going to stand behind a [show]," Starz chief Chris Albrecht told reporters in January of his "M.O." for the network. 

The Bay effort joins Starz's Marco Polo scripted drama from Young Guns' John Fusco at the network, which was also ordered straight to series. The cabler also is developing Harem, a potential six-hour miniseries exploring the Ottoman Empire with scribe Ann Peacock (The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe) and based on an original idea by Gina Gershon.

Like Spartacus and Magic City, Starz will retain all domestic and international rights to the series, including for TV, home video and digital. Black Sails will begin production later this year at Cape Town Studios in South Africa. It also stands as the latest in Starz's love affair with the sword-and-sandals genre, joining the channel's Spartacus franchise.

Starz also has David Goyer's Da Vinci's Demons, a historical drama about the Renaissance artist-inventor as a 25-year-old, due next year.

Bay is repped by WME and Sloane Offer. For Steinberg's part, the scribe also has Beauty and the Beast drama pilot in contention at ABC. He's also with WME.

Email: Lesley.Goldberg@thr.com; Twitter: @Snoodit