The Ventura County Star has a very interesting article about “The Tudors” timeslot and how it came into production. Thanks to Sheila for the following article.
Originally from the Wall Street Journal:
Showtime’s Henry goes up against mob
By Brooks Barnes, The Wall Street Journal
March 8, 2007
Showtime is sending a monarch to take on the mob.
On April 1, the pay-cable channel will debut a lavish, sex-drenched soap chronicling the wild escapades of a young Henry VIII.
“The Tudors,” starring buff up-and-comer Jonathan Rhys Meyers as the king of England, is Showtime’s most expensive series ever.
And in a bold move, the network slated the drama for Sunday night — territory that HBO’s “The Sopranos” and “Entourage” will easily dominate when they return after a long hiatus on April 8. Showtime, still trying hard to catch up to long-dominant HBO, hopes the move will position “The Tudors” to fill the void once the mobster drama leaves the air for good later this spring. Even the raw tone of “The Tudors” is similar to that of “The Sopranos.”
Showtime, owned by CBS, is certainly pulling out all the stops for the series. Over the next few weeks it will roll out a megawatt marketing campaign estimated to cost $7 million to $9 million, on par with what the big broadcast networks spend to launch promising new shows. To rev up “The Tudors,” the cable network hired a “Desperate Housewives” veteran to direct episodes. And the first two installments feature an over-the-top sex scene about every eight minutes.
“Henry is usually depicted as a fat guy with a beard who spends his time chewing on chicken wings,” says creator Michael Hirst. “We weren’t interested at all in that guy. Our Henry is a total rock star.”
Although it’s rare for a network to go up against proven behemoths — almost everybody concedes the middle of the week to Fox’s “American Idol,” for instance — Showtime has a limited number of slots in which to launch new shows. Sunday night, when more people are watching TV than on any other night, is one of them.
“You can worry about the competition or just believe in your programming,” says Showtime chief Robert Greenblatt. “We’re putting the show where we think it has the best chance to find an audience.”
HBO’s been there, done that
As far as HBO is concerned, Showtime doesn’t even register as competition. To some degree they have a point: HBO, owned by Time Warner, has 29 million subscribers compared with Showtime’s 14 million, according to media consultancy Kagan Research. HBO also has already mined history for hits — its “Rome” just wrapped up a successful second season.
Under the leadership of Greenblatt, Showtime has launched a flurry of buzzy shows over the past two years, including “Dexter,” a drama about a congenial serial killer, and “Weeds,” an off-kilter comedy about a suburban mom who sells pot.
But the months Greenblatt had to spend convincing Rhys Meyers and his representatives to consider the title role is evidence of how far Showtime still has to climb.
The 30-year-old Irish actor has been sought after for movie parts since his breakthrough role in 2002 as a soccer coach in “Bend It Like Beckham,” but he is still far from a household name. Yet Showtime had to agree to a short, 10-episode season and a four-year commitment instead of the usual five before his handlers would support his signing on for “The Tudors,” Greenblatt says.
To woo the actor, Showtime also agreed to film the series in Ireland instead of the cheaper Czech Republic. The network and its producing partners are spending more than $2.5 million per episode, about 25 percent more than the industry average for a one-hour show, say people familiar with the production.
A manager for Rhys Meyers, Stacy Boniello, didn’t return calls. His agent, Sharon Sheinwold, referred a call to Boniello.
‘Edgy and visceral’
Greenblatt, a former independent producer who got to know Rhys Meyers after casting him as Elvis Presley in the 2005 CBS miniseries “Elvis,” finally got his way after sending the actor some early scripts by Hirst. “I think people worry that period shows will feel like PBS,” Greenblatt says. “After Johnny read the scripts, he realized we wanted something that was edgy and visceral.”
In an e-mail coordinated by his publicist, Rhys Meyers said: “Michael (Hirst) has written a version of Henry that is unconventional and goes against most preconceived notions people may have, which completely drew me to playing this character.”
The idea to focus on Henry VIII as a sex-starved 20-something came from Ben Silverman, a prolific producer whose other credits include NBC’s “The Office” and ABC’s comedy “Ugly Betty.” Hirst — who wrote the screenplay for the 1998 film “Elizabeth,” which starred Cate Blanchett as a 25-year-old Elizabeth I — says Silverman called him up one day five years ago and invited the British writer to lunch at London’s Claridge’s Hotel.
Coming up with a show similar in tone to “The Sopranos” was part of Silverman’s vision from the beginning, the writer says. “We discussed telling Henry’s story as sort of a Tony Soprano soap opera,” Hirst says. “Henry very much functioned like a mob godfather. He wasn’t polite; he lived a raw medieval life.”