Somewhere under the Starfleet’s shadow, Paramount+ stretches for an image … and for an audience.
It has the pieces: In virtual press conferences with the Television Critics Association, it introduced a cartoon series for grown-ups, a “Star Trek” for kids (shown here), a drama from the “Yellowstone” creator and two comedy-dramas – one of which seems eternal.
“What is it – three different networks now?!?” Devvon Gregory said. He’s the new head “The Game,” a pro-football series that had three seasons on CW … took a year off … had six more on BET … then was dormant for six more. Now it starts a new season Nov. 11 on Paramount+.
The streamer began in 2014 as CBS All Access, with a great library – 30,000 rerun episodes and 2,500 movies– but a small impact. Six years later, it was listed as having 8 million subscribers; Disney+ listed 95 million, Netflix reportedly had 200 million worldwide.
The solution was to expand and become Paramount Plus, debuting in March. Tom Ryan, president of the new network, insists that it is youthful (the average viewer is 35) and growing. He also talks about a “linear eco-system,” with Pluto (a free online service that will top $1 billion in ad sales this year), the premium-cable Showtime and Paramount+. The latter two did a sci-fi swap, with “Halo” moving to Paramount+ and “The Man Who Fell to Earth” going to Showtime.
Launching a service during the pandemic has been complicated. Helping is the fact that several of the Paramount shows are animated:
– “The Harper House” debuts Sept. 16, with an eccentric family moving into a creepy house in small-town Arkansas. This was an ideal pandemic project, creator Brad Neely said, because the actors could work from home. “We had them actng into these really hot pizza boxes” for voice recordings.
– “No Activity,” a droll cop comedy, did its first three seasons live-action. This spring – after a 17-month gap – its fourth season arrived in animated form. There’s no word yet on a fifth.
– One “Star Trek” cartoon (“Lower Decks”) currently has new episodes on Thursdays. When it finishes its second season, a new one (“Prodigy”) will debut Oct. 21. This one will aim younger; until now, Alex Kurtzman said, the “Trek” world “has never really done the outreach to the younger viewers.”
Kurtzman is in charge of the entire “Trek” empire, with a general mission of “more.” He already has new seasons coming for “Discovery” (later this year) and “Picard” (2022). Also set for 2022 is “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds,” a prequel to the original, 1966 series.
Big-deal science-fiction seems crucial to many streamers. Disney+ has Marvel and “Star Wars” … HBO Max has DC superheroes and “Game of Thrones” … Amazon plans to launch a massive “Lord of the Rings” prequel a year from now … Paramount+ has all those “Trek” shows; it also had “The Stand” last year, with “Halo” coming early in 2022.
But streamers also need a broader audience. Paramount+ has revived or rebooted shows from CBS (“Twilight Zone,” “Evil,” “SEAL TEAM” soon and “The Good Fight.” a “Good Wife” spin-off) and from Nickelodeon (“iCarly”). Next year, it reboots “Frasier,” a Paramount production that ran on NBC.
And at the TCA sessions, it introduced:
– “Guilty Party,” which debuts Oct. 14. It blends drama and comedy with Kate Beckinsale as a disgraced journalist, trying to prove a woman was falsely convicted.
– “Mayor of Kingstown,” debuting Nov. 14. with a family running a for-profit prison in small-town Michigan. It’s from writer-producer Taylor Sheridan, who is also preparing “Y: 1883,” a prequel to his “Yellowstone” series.