|TRUTH ABOUT MURDERTHE VOICEOBSESSED|
Mike Darnell was in London this week to help Warner Bros International Television Production impress international buyers as part of the UK Screenings. He talked up new shows, including Ellen’s Game of Games, and Warner’s monster franchises, not least The Bachelor, which is poised to go all A Star Is Born with its latest spinoff The Bachelor: Listen to Your Heart.
Darnell knows that if he can get a show away in the U.S., it makes the job of his international colleagues that much easier, but it was the contrasting fortunes of The Bachelor and Love Island in America and Britain that got him thinking when Deadline caught up with Warner’s president of unscripted and alternative television.
The Bachelor returned to ViacomCBS’s UK network Channel 5 after a seven-year hiatus in 2019, but it struggled to make an impression. By contrast, Love Island has been extended to two seasons a year on ITV2 and its winter edition is entertaining more than 3M viewers a night — six times The Bachelor‘s audience. Over in the States, it’s the opposite story: ABC’s The Bachelor is the long-running and dominant force, while CBS premiered Love Island to a mixed reception last year, although it did renew the dating show for a second season.
Darnell has a theory that the two shows can’t co-exist in the same market. “It does appear that Love Island has taken over the space in the UK. I notice that Love Island didn’t really work over in the U.S. and it feels like maybe the two, once one is established, it’s hard to get a foothold [for the other],” he said. And on the prospect of Love Island putting down roots beyond a second season, Darnell was not convinced. “I’m just going to be really honest. I love CBS and I work with them, but I think based on those numbers last year, it will have to grow an awful lot to continue,” he added.
Listen to Your Heart is the latest in a conveyer belt of Bachelor franchise extensions, which makes it all the more remarkable that Darnell is yet to expand The Voice universe for NBC. There are other iterations of the format overseas, most notably The Voice Kids, but NBC has yet to be persuaded. Darnell remains enthusiastic about getting a kids’ version off the ground.
“I would love to do a Voice Kids in the U.S. It’s going to be ultimately NBC’s decision — it’s been talked about here and there, but we’re still not there with them. Voice Kids has done well everywhere, so I’d like to see one in America,” he explained.
Before the world premiere of Bad Hair at Sundance, Justin Simien stepped out on in front of a packed house at the Ray Theater and gushed about his love for films like Carrie and Rosemary’s Baby. That said, his latest feature can be described as many things: a psychological thriller, a satire and a horror, but he reveals that he made this film with one group of people in mind: black women.Justin Simien with the cast of ‘Bad Hair’
In the film, he names characters after the strong black women in his life. His mom Anna, and his aunts Virgie, Edna and Zora. And with these characters, he wanted to “shine a light on the absurdities we are living in reality sometimes.”
With that, he used one of his favorite genres, his culture and personal life to tell a story that is more than just a horror film. “I hope I can do this genre that I am absolutely in love to interrogate the system that is obsessed with black culture but doesn’t give a fuck about black lives,” he said. “I hope I can use this genre to interrogate a system that mines black women for their culture, ideas, compassion, wisdom and perseverance but does not give them enough options to shine in this light.”
The film gives off some Brian De Palma energy mixed with B-movie delight is set in 1989 Los Angeles in which Simien said was “the year of the weave.” In it, newcomer Elle Lorraine plays Anna Bludso, who had a traumatic experience during her childhood when her scalp was burned from a mild relaxer perm. Fast forward to her adult life and she is working at a music video TV show called Culture, which is drenched in synthetic fabrics, ’90s hip hop flair and New Jack Swing. Amidst women in broad-shouldered blouses, her life is turned upside down when her dreadlocked boss is replaced by Zora Vanessa Williams, a vicious ex-supermodel who looks to switch things up. When she warns Anna about her natural hair, she goes out and gets a weave from a bougie, yet mystical hairdresser Laverne Cox. She looks good and starts excelling at work with her new hair, but after a while, it begins to have a bloody mind of its own — literally.“The movie took on something bigger than me and I went with that,” said Simien after the screening during the Q&A with the cast. Lena Waithe, who stars in the film, was involved with it from the very beginning and she adds to that sentiment saying that Simien made a beautiful blueprint for the women in the film to work with. “We were able to come in and give thoughts and ideas and the way it sort of morphed into this film is a testament to the way [Simien’s] brain works and how talented you are and how dedicated you are to not colonize stories of black women…and that’s why it feels so fresh and so special.” Lorraine, who...