'Persons Unknown' in line at NBC
Fox TV Studios' third internationally produced pickup
NBC has picked up "Persons Unknown," a 13-episode Fox TV Studios drama series from Oscar winner Christopher McQuarrie.
The pickup for "Unknown," a collaboration with Mexico's Televisa and Italy's RAI, makes it 3-for-3 for FtvS, which was able to sell domestically all three of its internationally produced series. "Mental" went to Fox, "Defying Gravity" to ABC and "Unknown" to NBC.
All three networks have options to order additional episodes, in which they would be very involved creatively. Renewals in the U.S. also will determine whether FtvS will produce additional seasons of each show. "Mental" has been drawing modest ratings, while "Gravity" is slated to premiere Aug. 2. It is not clear when "Persons" will debut.
"Unknown" is exec produced by showrunner Remi Aubuchon, McQuarrie -- who won an original screenplay Oscar for "The Usual Suspects" -- and Heather McQuarrie. Starring Jason Wiles and Daisy Betts, it revolves around a group of strangers who wake up in a deserted town with no recollection of how they got there; to escape, they must work together to solve a surreal puzzle.
Some expected the show, which is heavily serialized, to go to a cable network, but NBC also has such serialized fare as "Heroes" and the upcoming post-apocalyptic drama "Day One."
FtvS president Emiliano Calemzuk believes each of the three series found their right U.S. home.
He declined comment on the financials of the deal with NBC but noted that "both the studio and the network will make money."
By filming its series in foreign locales where the production costs are lower and preselling them to international broadcasters, FtvS only needed a modest license fee from U.S. nets to break even on its investment. Meanwhile, a lower license fee made them attractive to U.S. outlets.
NBC has been active in pursuing lower-license internationally produced series, most recently with the acquisitions of the British "Merlin" and recently canceled Canadian drama "The Listener."
FtvS is looking to make a few tweaks to its model for international series production, including a "closer cooperation with the U.S. networks at early stages," Calemzuk said. "We clearly want to take this to the next level. We've now established strong relationships with the domestic networks and want to keep raising the bar in terms of quality and quantity."
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