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Jonathan Ames’ forthcoming Starz comedy is in many ways an ode to Network.
The subversive comedy, titled Blunt Talk, centers on Patrick Stewart’s Walter Blunt, a British transplant intent on conquering the world of American cable news. But while Blunt is on a mission to impart his wisdom and guidance on how Americans should live, think and behave through his UBS news show, which is also called Blunt Talk, he’s besieged by network bosses, a dysfunctional news staff, numerous ex-wives and children of all ages. The series, which is set to bow Aug. 22, will follow the fallout from Blunt’s well-intentioned, but mostly misguided decision-making both on and off the air.
Ames, who’s best known to TV viewers as the creator of former HBO comedy Bored to Death, told a room full of reporters gathered for the Television Critics Association summer press tour Friday that he found himself richly inspired by the Network character of Howard Beale, who Peter Finch played to heavy acclaim in the 1976 movie from writer Paddy Chayefsky and director Sidney Lumet. So much so, in fact, that Ames’ show-within-the-show airs on UBS – the same network that aired Beales’ show in Network – and the Blunt Talk stained glass logo is a callback to Beale’s UBS set.
“In preparation for writing this [show], I rewatched Network and I thought, ‘Network was wonderful, but I want more Howard Beale.’ At some point it switched to the William Holden, Faye Dunaway story, [but I wanted to be] behind the scenes with Howard Beale,” Ames explained, adding of a series he insists will remain uplifting: “I sort of saw this as: if Network had continued, let’s find out how Howard Beale continued his broadcast — slightly less mad, of course.”
Ames was joined on stage by his cast — Stewart, Jacki Weaver, Adrian Scarborough, Timm Sharp and Dolly Wells — along with executive producer and Family Guy mastermind Seth MacFarlane, who was responsible for pairing Ames and Stewart for the project. “At this point, one of the pleasures of my career is the ability to connect people for whom I am a fan,” said MacFarlane, who added of the Star Trek actor: “It always stuck me as criminal that nobody has cast him in a single-camera comedy.”
The series’ 10-episode first season will launch as part of the network’s comedy block alongside Survivor’s Remorse. Starz picked up the Ames entry — which, like MacFarlane’s Ted, hails from Media Rights Capital — straight to series with a 20-episode order, which will be split over two seasons.
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