Starz greenlights 'Camelot' series


Chris Albrecht is building "Camelot" at Starz.

In its first series order since Albrecht took the reins as president and CEO, the pay cabler has greenlighted a contemporary retelling of the Arthurian legend from a producing team that encompasses four countries -- the U.S., U.K., Ireland and Canada -- and is led by Oscar-winning producer Graham King and "The Tudors" masterminds Morgan O'Sullivan and Michael Hirst.

The 10-episode "Camelot," slated to premiere in first-half 2011, marks the first project from King's recently launched GK-TV. It uses Thomas Malory's 15th century compilation, "Le Morte d'Arthur," often considered the definitive work on the legend of King Arthur, as a starting point for a take on the tale that looks to weave authenticity into a narrative relatable to contemporary audiences in the vein of Showtime's "The Tudors."

"The story of Arthur isn't history, it's mythology, and Camelot isn't a place but an idea of hope that has resonated at different times throughout history," Albrecht said. He called "Camelot" "a highly entertaining and distinctly original TV program that fits in perfectly with our lineup." That includes the breakout original hit "Spartacus: Blood and Sand," the returning comedy "Party Down" and the recently acquired eight-part miniseries based on Ken Follett's "The Pillars of the Earth."

Described as a romantic adventure series, "Camelot" is being written by British TV scribe Chris Chibnall ("Torchwood").

King called the series a perfect choice as GK-TV's maiden project, given the company's mandate for "producing compelling cinematic quality programming for television."

King, GK-TV president Craig Cegielski and King's business partner, GK Films' Tim Headington, are executive producing "Camelot" with the "Tudors" team of executive producer O'Sullivan and creator/executive producer Hirst as well as James Flynn of Irish production company Octagon and Douglas Rae of U.K.'s Ecosse Films. John Weber of Canada's Take 5 Prods. also will serve as a producer.

"Camelot" was originated by Ecosse; an early incarnation from O'Sullivan, Hirst, Ecosse and Octagon was set up at Showtime in 2008.

Casting is under way for "Camelot," which will start production in June in Ireland, where "Tudors" and HBO's upcoming "Game of Thrones" also are filmed. Postproduction will be done in Canada.

Albrecht has made ramping up original production a priority at Starz, with an early focus on costume dramas based on global properties.

Starz has all U.S. rights to "Camelot," including home entertainment and digital distribution, in line with recent comments by Albrecht on parent company Liberty Media's earnings call that he plans "innovative" financing approaches which allow the company to retain certain non-Starz distribution rights.

GK-TV will handle distribution in the rest of the world, capitalizing on Cegielski's expertise in the global TV market. Cegielski most recently launched and ran Lionsgate TV's international distribution division until he left in November to join GK-TV.

The goal with the series is "to tell the universal story of Camelot on a global scale," he said.

The project reunites O'Sullivan with Albrecht, who worked together during the latter's tenure as head of HBO.

Chibnall, who was head writer on "Torchwood" and showrunner on "Law & Order: UK," has ties to the Camelot legend. In 2005, he developed a fantasy series involving the mythical magician Merlin for the BBC.