Starz picks up British show 'Torchwood'

Network to share prod'n costs in exhange for distrib'n rights

British cult TV favorite "Torchwood" is getting a U.S. upgrade courtesy of Starz.

The premium cable outlet will share production costs on the show's upcoming season in exchange for domestic distribution rights. The 10-episode run will debut on BBC One and Starz next summer and take on a more international scope.

The bulk of the story will shift from the U.K. to North America, and key U.S. actors will join the cast. Stars John Barrowman and Eve Myles will return.

"This gives 'Torchwood' the chance to feel like a real global drama," BBC Worldwide Prods. executive vp Jane Tranter said. "The story of 'Torchwood' will impact worldwide humanity and not just a small area of the U.K. This will scale it up."

The most recent edition of "Torchwood" was a five-episode miniseries titled "Children of Earth" that was nominated for best miniseries by the Television Critics Assn. The show chronicles a group that keeps Britain safe from hostile aliens and is led by an immortal named Captain Jack (Barrowman).

Like "Children of Earth," but unlike the show's two previous seasons, the international edition of "Torchwood" will be serialized rather than using the show's original "monster of the week" format.

"It's not a new version, it's not a reboot," creator Russell T. Davies said. "It's not going to be 'Lost' and take 20 years to find out what's going on. It's going to have a most remarkable conclusion after 10 episodes."

"Torchwood" previously aired in the U.S. on BBC America. The idea of boosting "Torchwood" into a co-production with a major network partner was previously developed at Fox, which recently passed on the project. The Starz edition of "Torchwood" will debut next summer and be a co-production of Starz, BBC Cymru Wales and BBC Worldwide.

"It was too good an opportunity to pass up," Starz president and CEO Chris Albrecht said. "I thought 'Children of Earth' evolved the franchise to a place where it could continue to evolve on pay TV with an American partner that could bring more production resources. I'm interested in doing sci-fi, and what I like a lot about 'Torchwood' is it's a classic sci-fi entry. It's all about the story, not about big effects."

Starz is evolving too. Along with its freshman hit "Spartacus," the upcoming "Camelot" series and its "Pillars of the Earth" miniseries, the premium network is carving out a niche as a genre-friendly network.

"It puts us as an entry in the pay category that makes us different, and it's something that will continue," Albrecht said.

Albrecht added that the previously announced "Spartacus" prequel is on track and that reports from star Andy Whitfield (who is undergoing treatment for cancer) continue to be positive. The network has not yet made a decision on the fates of bubble series "Gravity" and "Party Down."