Paramount+, like other streamers from legacy media brands, is tapping into its storied library for original content.
On Wednesday, during its Investor Day presentation, the ViacomCBS-backed streamer revealed a slate of original TV series based on some of its iconic brands. In the works are new takes on Paramount features Love Story, Fatal Attraction, Flashdance, The Italian Job and The Parallax View. All five shows — which are in various stages of development — join the previously announced Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies (now a script-to-series commitment) and series pickup for the making-of The Godfather entry The Offer and hail from Paramount Television Studios.
The slate brings into focus how the Nicole Clemens-led Paramount TV Studios will function as part of the streamer as the platform transitions from CBS All Access to Paramount+ on March 4. It also sheds new light on how ViacomCBS will harness its internal studios to provide content for the broad-focused streamer. Clemens, in an exclusive interview with The Hollywood Reporter, says her studio will supply high-end premium titles that are both based on well-known Paramount titles as well as original ideas. Clemens also noted that PTVS will serve as one of the streamer’s main content suppliers while also continuing to sell to third-party buyers.
“My job is to find Paramount+ The Handmaid’s Tale, the Mad Men, The Walking Dead — the show that helps define them,” she says. “It’s really ambitious and it’s an offering that is going to be incredibly appealing and compelling to people who are in the market for another streamer.”
As for Wednesday’s new projects, Love Story — a script to series commitment — is based on the beloved 1970 feature film that ranks as one of AFI’s most romantic titles. Based on the Erich Segal novel, the film starred Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal and ranks is one of the highest-grossing films of all time in North America. The new take on the tragic love story will be an ongoing series and be executive produced by YA masters Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage (The O.C., Gossip Girl) and is a co-production between Paramount TV Studios and CBS Studios. The project stems from the relationship Clemens, Schwartz and Savage built while working on Hulu’s Looking for Alaska. Longtime collaborators Schwartz and Savage have two overall deals, with their CBS Studios pact originally conceived as a broadcast-only set-up. (Their other deal is a streaming pact with Apple.) Schwartz and Savage’s Fake Empire banner now has four shows, with Love Story joining HBO Max’s Gossip Girl update and The CW’s Dynasty and Nancy Drew updates. (A spinoff of the latter, Tom Swift, is also in the works for The CW.)
“From the main title theme to the class conflict and classic American style, Love Story is truly iconic,” Schwartz and Savage said in a joint statement to THR. “We’re beyond excited to update it for the next generation, and to be working again with Nicole and the Paramount Television Studios team as well our friends at CBS Television Studios.”
Fatal Attraction — also a a script to series commitment — is described as a deep-dive reimagining of the psychosexual thriller that starred Glenn Close and Michael Douglas. The new take will be told through the lens of modern attitudes when it comes to strong women, personality disorders, victim shaming and coercive control. Dirty John duo Alexandra Cunningham and Kevin Hynes will pen the script and exec produce alongside Amblin Television’s Justin Falvey and Darryl Frank. Stanley Jaffe and Sherry Lansing, who produced the 1987 feature, will also exec produce. This is the second recent attempt to bring Fatal Attraction to TV. Fox tried in 2015 with a limited series from Mad Men’s Maria and Andre Jacquemetton but the project — which would have been titled Obsession after rights issues — failed to move beyond the script stage.
The Parallax View — currently in development — is a scripted take based on the 1974 film from David Giler and Lorenzo Semple Jr that was based on the 1970 novel of the same name by Loren Singer. The film revolves around a reporter’s investigation into a secretive organization, the Parallax Corp., whose primary focus is political assassination. It’s the second in director Alan J. Pakula’s “Political Paranoia trilogy” that also included 1971’s Klute and 1976’s All the President’s Men. The film, which starred Warren Beatty, Hume Cronym and William Daniels, has drawn renewed interest in the past few years. A writer has not yet been determined. Paula Wagner (Mission: Impossible) is attached to executive produce.
Flashdance, meanwhile, was put in development in October and remains in the early stages with a script to pilot commitment. Based on the 1983 feature that helped rocket Jennifer Beals to stardom, Tracy McMillan (Amazon’s Good Girls Revolt) will pen the script for the drama. The new take will again focus on a Black woman struggling to make her mark in the ballet world and will pick up from where the story left off — but in present day. Angela Robinson (The L Word) will exec produce and direct the pilot for the potential series. Original Flashdance associate producer Lynda Obst is attached and will also exec produce. (Beals is not expected to be involved.)
Rounding out the news is The Italian Job, which is a script to pilot order, is based on the 1969 Michael Caine action thriller that was remade in 2003 with Mark Wahlberg, Charlize Theron, Ed Norton and Jason Statham. The drama, from writer Matt Wheeler (Hawaii Five-0), revolves around the grandchildren of the legendary Charlie Croker (Caine in the original) who inherit his old safety deposit box and reignite the quest for the infamous Italian bullion. Donald De Line, who produced the original movie, is on board in the same capacity. “It’ll be a big, fun, international show,” Clemens said.
The five projects join previously announced Godfather making-of series The Offer (which recently parted ways with star Armie Hammer) and Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies. The latter musical, originally picked up straight to series at HBO Max before moving to Paramount+ last year, has now changed its premise for a third time. The new incarnation is still a prequel to the beloved Grease but now revolves around Frenchy’s older sister, Jane, and how she founded the Pink Ladies. Annabel Oakes (Atypical) remains on board as an exec producer alongside Picturestart and Temple Hill.
The rebranding of Paramount+ is designed to fully integrate brands like Paramount, MTV, Comedy Central and more from under the ViacomCBS umbrella. To that end, a new incarnation of MTV’s The Real World — titled Homecoming and featuring the original New York cast — will be available at when CBS All Access is relaunched as Paramount+ on March 4. The Paramount TV Studios slate was but one of many announcements unveiled during Wednesday’s presentation to investors.
Below, Clemens talks with THR about the slate and her studio’s role when it comes to Paramount+ and beyond.
How has your role changed in the past year with the rebranding of the streamer and post ViacomCBS merger?
I’m focused on bringing great content to Paramount+ but my role hasn’t changed in terms of my agenda to continue to sell externally. It behooves all of us for Paramount+ to do well. Having them be a robust buyer is beneficial to us. While The Offer is original, our goal — and they want this from us — is to be selling them original, high-end premium titles that don’t have to be from the film library. Our slate just happens to be a lot of those titles right off the bat but it’s not going to be limited to that. We’ll definitely be taking originals to them, too. When HBO Max passed on Grease, we took it everywhere and had other bidders. Grease on Paramount+ makes more sense than Grease on any other platform. The stars aligned with Paramount+ across the board.
These seven shows are all based on Paramount property. Does Paramount+ get the first crack at any content coming from Paramount TV Studios and then you can take it out elsewhere if they pass?
Because Paramount+ is ramping up, and yes, they are our home platform and we are motivated to see them succeed, but there is great synergy. When you’re talking about iconic titles, it’s a great brand match and there’s so much momentum to get that service going. We’re definitely going to take them there and hope we can make the best deal because it’s mutually beneficial. But it’s less about, “Oh, you have to sell it to them.” We have titles on other platforms; it’s not every title goes there first or they only buy titles from us. We took Flashdance everywhere, for example, and it made sense with the rebrand for Paramount+. With Fatal Attraction, Kevin is working on The Offer for us and has known [Paramount+ head of programming] Julie McNamara.
So how do you determine what makes a Paramount title right for Paramount+ vs. taking it elsewhere? The platform is, with its name, leaning hard into the brand history of Paramount. And I remember talking to Kevin Kay when Spike TV was rebranded as Paramount Network the value that execs at ViacomCBS saw in embracing the storied Paramount brand that’s associated with tentpole properties like Mission: Impossible.
As a seller, there are Paramount titles that might not be the right brand match for the type of audience Paramount+ wants to reach that maybe another platform could. The common denominator between Flashdance, Grease, Fatal Attraction is that it’s populist literature. It’s elevated, it’s big, it’s iconic but it also still has a real draw for popular culture. So, if you took something small and niche, that might be right for somebody else.
What conversations and with whom have you had them about what Paramount+ wants in terms of originals?
The Offer was all the way up to [ViacomCBS CEO] Bob Bakish when we sold that and he was involved with conversations about the level of execution that was expected, what the budget would be, etc. Then Tom Ryan came in. But Julie McNamara has been our entry point for selling material but it’s a fluid conversation with all the stakeholders. I asked Julie this the other day when there was a show that was in the His Dark Materials zone. For them, it’s broad demographics but it’s elevated and populist. There’s a big Venn diagram that can encompass that. It’s not FX and it’s not the early days of Amazon with niche content. It feels much more broad but not broadcast. It’s its own brand; it’s not CBS All Access rebranded. They want big and splashy content and need to make a lot of noise.
How closely will studio fare be presented on Paramount+? Will it have its own content channel like Marvel on Disney+ or FX on Hulu?
I don’t think we are a label as much as a major supplier. These guys do the big, splashy, premium, high-profile A-list shows and we want to make sure that we’re delivering a steady stream, whether it’s original or based on IP. It’s so good to have another robust buyer in the marketplace. From Paramount TV Studios’ point of view, it’s the best of both worlds. I am still a seller, there’s just a level of communication that I don’t get at a WarnerMedia company.
How are you working with Paramount’s film division and Jim Gianopulos when it comes to which film titles are remade for TV vs. what can be done on the feature side? In success, a new take on Love Story will fuel interest in the original movie.
I can’t say if every feature film we are revisiting as a series will stream alongside the show on as part of Paramount +’s library but I’d imagine eventually will be. The concept isn’t driving the desire to do it, but the added benefit of what you’re talking about is certainly factored in. As titles come back and things can be re-acquired, that’s a Paramount+ strategy, but there’s an amazing renewal of synergy there that benefits the company if those films are on the service at the moment or not. It keeps everything rejuvenated. But I report to Jim. I’m in a lot of meetings with Jim and Emma Watts every week and we are aware of our development and transparent. If somebody calls with an idea for a title, we’ll talk about it and decide if it’s something we should do for TV, film or film on streaming. It’s an ongoing, fluid conversation.
Will there be a Mission: Impossible TV series?
There are still more films to make. That’s the focus for now.
You’ve not been a major player when it comes to signing top producers — like Seth MacFarlane, Donald Glover, etc. — for overall deals. Does having a streamer to supply content change your strategy about locking in talent for overall deals?
We have a few deals that are premium but for the most part, I’ve chosen to break up the pie in a way that’s more in a Moneyball model.
Armie Hammer was originally poised to star in The Offer. What happened?
This interview has been edited for clarity.
Update 2:50 p.m: This story has been updated to reflect the five new projects are in development.