It’s easy to get lost inside the sprawling Disney empire.
Today (May 14), many of Disney’s cable networks announced their plans for next season. There was big news – which would have seemed bigger, except it was at the same time as the fall-schedule news from Disney-owned ABC … and the news that Disney is buying full control of Hulu.
Once you get past all of that, however, key news included:
— “The Simpsons” will have a three-network home – Fox and FX and now Freeform. FX’s John Landgraf said he had a nine-year deal with the show; after using it for five years to propel the FXX channel, he was ready for a sub-lease.
— Freeform is getting used to sharing things. Tom Ascheim, the network president, said he’s happy to share “The Simpsons” with FXX; “there’s plenty to go around.” At Christmastime, he’s already been sharing Charlie Brown and the Grinch with broadcast networks; now, for the first time, he and CBS will both be showing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Frosty the Snowman.”
— Most of the Freeform shows had already been renewed, but now “Siren” (the mermaid thriller) will get a third season. New shows are “Motherland: Fort Salem” (three young witches use combat magic to help an emerging America), “Everything’s Gonna Be Okay” (a comedy-drama with Josh Thomas of “Please Like Me”) and a reboot of “Party of Five.” In the new version, the kids (born in the U.S.) carry on after their parents are deported.
— ESPN is ramping up its links with sports gambling. James Pitaro, the ESPN president, said Caesar’s will build a new Las Vegas facility and be “the official odds-supplier for ESPN.” What of the personal tragedies caused by sports gambling? Pitarl insisted this will be done “in a very responsible way.”
— National Geographic continues to take what Courteney Monroe, its president, calls “big, creative, ambitious swings.” One example (next January) is the five-part “China’s Hidden Kingdoms.” Another, sometime next year, is the third round of “Genius,” with Aretha Franklin.
The first two profiled Albert Einstein and Pablo Picasso, but Monroe said she “doesn’t want the world to think the only geniuses are men. I beg to differ.”
Alongside the big splashes, however, her channels also have series. NatGeo Wild is adding two new shows about veterinarians. One is “a more urban environment” in Atlanta, programmer Geoff Daniels said; the other is in the Midwest.
And three National Geographic series will seem familiar to viewers of broadcast networks:
— “Running Wild with Bear Grylls” moves from NBC. It starts Nov. 5 and will include Brie Larson (“Captain Marvel”) and Armie Hammer.
–”Brain Games” adds a celebrity edition, starting Dec. 1. It includes Kristen Bell, Anthony Anderson, Rebel Wilson, Dax Shepherd and pro quarterback Drew Brees.
— “Race to the Center of the Earth” starts in the summer of 2020. The “Amazing Race” people skip all the elimination parts and focus on the intensity of four teams, each starting in a different place, on 5,000-mile joureys to find a buoy with the $1 million prize.