J.J. Abrams Sets 3 HBO Max Shows: Justice League Dark, 'The Shining' Spinoff, 'Duster'

J.J. Abrams - Getty - H 2020
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J.J. Abrams has set his first three series at HBO Max.

WarnerMedia's forthcoming streaming service has handed out straight-to-series orders for Duster, The Shining offshoot Overlook and what is described as a "major" show based on DC Comics characters in the Justice League Dark universe. All three projects will be executive produced by Abrams and his wife and Bad Robot partner Katie McGrath and Warner Bros. TV Group.

Duster will be co-written by Abrams and LaToya Morgan (The Walking Dead, Parenthood) and was conceived by the former. It is set in the 1970s Southwest and revolves around the life of a gutsy getaway driver for a growing crime syndicate who goes from awful to wildly, stupidly, dangerously awful. 

Overlook, a spinoff of sorts based on the iconic hotel featured in Stephen King's 1977 novel and subsequent 1980 feature The Shining, features characters from the horror thriller. It explores the untold, terrifying stories of the most famous haunted hotel in American fiction. The project reunites Bad Robot, King and Warner Bros. TV following the Hulu anthology Castle Rock. The 10-episode drama, sources say, is being written and exec produced by Dustin Thomason and Scott Brown, who both previously worked on Castle Rock. The series has, per sources, also opened a mini writers room to get a jump on scripts during the industrywide production shutdown.

The third show is an untitled drama based on characters in the so-called Justice League Dark universe, details of which are being kept under wraps. JLD debuted in DC Comics in 2011 and is a team featuring magic-based characters such as Zatanna, Deadman, Swamp Thing and John Constantine. Over the years, Warner Bros. has attempted to get a big-screen version off the ground, with filmmakers such as Doug Liman and Guillermo Del Toro coming and going. Warners-backed streamer DC Universe also had a short-lived drama series based on Swamp Thing and produced a Constantine TV series for NBC with the character ultimately folded into The CW's Arrow-verse. (The fate of DC Universe as a home for scripted originals remains murky at best.)

"What an amazing start to our association with the wildly imaginative Bad Robot team under J.J. and Katie," Kevin Reilly, chief content officer at HBO Max, said Thursday in a statement. "What could be better than an original J.J. idea and then Warner Bros. letting them loose on iconic IP from Stephen King and the DC Universe and to provide more must-have programming on HBO Max." 

All three series will be executive produced by Abrams, Bad Robot's head of television Ben Stephenson, with the company's exec vp TV Rachel Rusch Rich serving as a co-EP. Warner Bros. International TV Distribution will handle global distribution on all three programs.

Based on the King novel, the 1980 film The Shining was written and directed by Stanley Kubrick and starred Jack Nicholson as an aspiring writer who accepts an off-season role as the caretaker of the isolated yet historic Overlook Hotel in the Colorado Rockies and moves in with his family. The psychological horror pic follows the family's son as he can see into the hotel's terrifying past.

Warner Media's film arm previously put Overlook Hotel into development as a feature project back in 2014, with former Walking Dead showrunner Glen Mazzara having penned the script and Mark Romanek attached to direct. Described as a prequel to The Shining, it never moved beyond the development stage. A sequel to The Shining, Doctor Sleep — revolving around the son — was released last year from director Mike Flanagan (Netflix's Haunting of Hill House). Ewan McGregor starred as the grown-up son.

For Bad Robot, meanwhile, Overlook, Duster and the JLD show are the first three series to stem from the company's newest overall deal with Warners. The sweeping deal, which was in the works for more than a year with other media titans pursuing Abrams and company, brings Bad Robot's film and TV work under the same roof for the first time. All told, this is Bad Robot's latest streaming series and joins Apple's Lisey's Story, Little Voice and My Glory Was I Had Such Friends, as well as Hulu's Castle Rock, with the latter awaiting word on its future. The company also exec produces HBO's Westworld and the premium cable network's forthcoming Lovecraft Country and Demimonde, with the latter having been created by Abrams.

HBO Max is poised to launch next month at a date to be determined. The platform will be the exclusive streaming home for libraries of Friends and The Big Bang Theory, as well as originals from across the Warner Media brand including HBO, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim and more. The service, which will cost $15 a month, will also feature scripted originals including new takes on Dune, Gossip Girl, The Boondocks, Gremlins, Grease and Green Lantern as the platform leans hard into IP.