If you want to start a big-time streaming service, here’s a tip: It helps to have a movie studio.
That’s what Disney+ and HBO Max do. They have treasure hunts through the Disney and Warner vaults, finding films to re-make, revise or re-imagine. And lately, Paramount+ has done the same.
Once a modest streamer called CBS All Access, it has been renamed and re-vitalized, jumping from four million subscribers (four years ago) to closer to 50 million. At Television Critics Association sessions, it offered ambitious plans, many of them linked to past Paramount hits.
“Star Trek” has been a key. Paramount+ has launched two large series (“Discovery” and “Strange New Worlds” ), an intimate one (“Picard”), an animated one (“Lower Decks”) and “Short Treks.” Now the “Next Generation” cast is re-uniting on Feb. 16, for what will be the final “Picard” season – maybe. “There is still enormous potential for narrative, in what we’ve been doing,” said star Patrick Stewart, 82, (shown here with Levar Burton). “And there are doors left open.
Meanwhile, other shows are also being mined. There’s:
— “Grease” (April 6). Annabel Oakes said she rejected the idea of adapting it, then changed her mind. “I always did love those Pink Ladies and I really wanted to live in that sleepover in Frenchy’s bedroom.” She created “Rise of the Pink Ladies,” a music-stuffed series set in 1954.
— “Fatal Attraction” (April 30), now an eight-part mini-series. “Yes, it’s a remake,” said Lizzy Caplan, who plays the woman shattering a marriage. “But it’s really more of a jumping-off point.”
It’s about many things, said producer Alexandra Cunningham. They include the justice system and entitlement, plus “personality disorders, isolation, fathers and daughters and murder …. It’s about self-image and what we’ll do to protect it, and also what happens when someone doesn’t have one.”
From the beginning, Paramount has tried to mine familiar titles. Many have been CBS shows – “The Good Wife” had a spin-off … “Evil” and “SEAL Team” merely moved from broadcast to streaming … and now “Criminal Minds” has a mini-series-type season.
But it has also mined other Paramount-owned channels. MTV has yielded “Beavis & Butt-Head” and (on Jan. 26) a “Teen Wolf” spin-off called “Wolf Pack.” Nickelodeon has provided “SpongeBob” and more. And the Paramount Network’s only hit (“Yellowstone”) has produced a treasure trove: Its creator has given Paramount+ two prequels (“1883” and “1923”), plus “The Mayor of Kingstown” and Sylvester Stallone’s “Tulsa King.”
And yes, Paramount+ also does some things that are thoroughly new. Several have flopped, but it showed the TCA some promising ones:
— “At Midnight” (Feb. 10), part of a Netflix-type effort to produce shows globally. Diego Boneta produced and starred in the romantic comedy, shot in and near Mexico City.
— “School Spirits” (March 9), a thoroughly original tale, based on a graphic novel that hasn’t yet gone on sale. A teen who is disturbed to learn that she’s dead. Joining a support group for the departed, she tries to learn who killed her.
— And “Rabbit Hole” (March 26), an old-time conspiracy tale that gets a fresh twist.
The idea started, producer Glenn Ficarra said, when he and John Requa were told that Kiefer Sutherland was looking for a new project. “Within 30 seconds, John spits out: ‘What about a guy who manipulates reality for a living, who gets caught up in something that isn’t what it seems?’”
That will become a new show on a network that – from “Halo” and “The Stand” to SpongeBob and Butt-Head – keeps manipulating our reality.