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At the Edinburgh TV Festival on Thursday, Netflix unveiled four new unscripted original series and one original special that will debut later this year.
In a “Game Changer” session, vp unscripted originals & acquisitions Brandon Riegg announced that the streaming giant would launch the global culinary competition show The Final Table; Death by Magic, a series uncovering the stories of magicians who died performing the dangerous stunts; the game show Flinch; and a show about the soccer club Sunderland.
He also outlined his vision for reality and other unscripted programming offered by the streaming video giant and its expanding work with U.K. production firms and talent.
“We are looking for stories that resonate globally,” Riegg explained. “We are a U.S. company, but global network.” He added that the streamer was also typically leaning towards innovative projects or new angles and twists on known propositions. Beyond big-scale shows, niche projects with a passionate audiences are also of interest to the streamer, Riegg explained.
Ideas can come from around the globe, he emphasized. “We’re looking to do programming from around the world,” Riegg explained, adding that the U.K. was a particular focus area as it was the birthplace of some of the “most innovative” formats in the world.
Is anything missing from Netflix’s unscripted programming? “I don’t think there’s a category that’s missing,” the exec said. “We want to increase our volume” and ensure breadth. Asked if Netflix has had any failed unscripted shows so far, Riegg said no, just shows with varying degrees of success. He also shared that “we get on average 40 to 50 pitches a week.”
Asked about his team’s involvement in productions, Riegg highlighted that “Netflix prides itself on having a lighter touch,” meaning it mostly supports the producers as much as possible.
Some unscripted shows could get localized versions over time, the Netflix executive also told the Edinburgh crowd. Riegg said that Netflix is looking to localize successful unscripted formats in more than one country with the help of the original production firm, if it can work on them.
The exec also said that Netflix continues to like offering its unscripted fare for binge-viewing, but signaled the company would leave its options open to change the release strategy for certain projects, such as My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman.
Netflix’s recent production deal with Barack and Michelle Obama also came up during Thursday’s session. Has Riegg started working with them? “Not yet, but we are happy to start working with him and his team,” he replied.
Netflix has helped drive a renaissance in unscripted programming, ordering second seasons of unscripted series Queer Eye, Dope, Drug Lords, Nailed It! and The Toys That Made Us in late March.
It has also ordered a documentary series with racing circuit Formula 1 for 2019, of which Riegg showed a clip to the Edinburgh TV Festival crowd. The 10-part original from Academy Award winner James Gay Rees (Senna) promises “unparalleled access to the world’s fastest drivers, team principals and owners, as well as Formula 1’s own management team.”
One key appeal to producers has been Netflix’s focus on straight-to-series orders, bypassing what has increasingly led to a challenging development process elsewhere.
No return date for Queer Eye has been announced, but it is expected later this year.
Here is a closer look at the unscripted shows Netflix unveiled Thursday:
The Final Table
The global culinary competition show features “the world’s most renowned chefs fighting for a spot at the elite,” the streamer said. The series features 12 teams of two chefs each from around the world cooking the national dishes of Mexico, Spain, England, Brazil, France, Japan, the U.S., India and Italy. “Each episode focuses on a different country and its cuisine, with celebrity ambassadors, food critics and that country’s greatest chef eliminating teams until the finale,” according to Netflix. “In that last episode, only one of our competing chefs will win a place at the final table amongst the world’s best, joining … nine celebrity legendary culinary icons.” The Final Table was created and is executive produced by Robin Ashbrook (MasterChef, MasterChef Junior) and Yasmin Shackleton (MasterChef, MasterChef Junior). Riegg in his Thursday appearance called the show a “big, bold, ambitious swing.”
Death by Magic
British magician Drummond Money-Coutts, or DMC for short, will look to “uncover the stories of magicians who died performing the most dangerous stunts ever attempted.” He travels the world to track down where the fatal performances took place and to work out exactly what went wrong, sharing his magic with the people he meets along the way. “It’s a journey that spans four continents and eight cities around the world,” according to Netflix. “His aim is to pay homage to the craft by creating his own updated versions of the stunts that cost these magicians their lives, from being buried alive under tons of wet concrete, to playing a game of Russian roulette, to escaping from a collision with a speeding steam train.” Netflix promises “the most extreme magic show ever attempted.”
Sunderland Till I Die
“As its main industries of shipbuilding and mining have fallen by the wayside, SAFC (Sunderland Association Football Club) has become ever more important as the lifeblood of this unique city in the NorthEast of England,” Netflix said about the city’s club, which plays in the second-highest English soccer league. “In the era of multi-million dollar sponsorship deals and transfers, where the stakes have never been higher or the rivalries more fierce, this brand-new Netflix original series sets at its heart the unfailing passion of this U.K. Northern town.” The series will take audiences through the highs and lows of the team’s season. Riegg said he expects the show to resonate with viewers globally. “It touched on those human emotions that transcend” borders, he argued, but added that he would also be happy if the show mostly attracts an audience in Britain.
Netflix said the action comedy game show has only one simple rule: Do not flinch. “The show is set on a remote farm in the hills of Ireland, where brave and foolish contestants gather to test their nerve against three fiendish games,” according to the streamer. “If they flinch, there are painful consequences both for them, and for our hosts, who have each chosen a player to represent them in the games.” The series is hosted by comedians Desiree Burch, Lloyd Griffith and Seann Walsh.
Derren Brown: Sacrifice
Psychological illusionist Derren Brown returns with a new Netflix special, in which “he attempts to radically transform, through the use of covert psychological techniques, one man’s prejudices,” according to the streamer. “Spanning two continents and drawing on the expertise of actors, stunt coordinators and ballistic experts, Derren creates a scenario, in which his subject has to decide whether or not to make the ultimate sacrifice: laying down his life for a complete stranger he wouldn’t normally identify with.”
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