Gamers, rejoice! The Last of Us is getting series treatment from HBO. Taika Waititi is joining forces with Netflix for two animated series based on Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate factory, Christopher and Bobby will host a Sopranos podcast, and the coronavirus strikes TV — all in this week’s top headlines.
“From the first time I sat down to talk with Craig, I was equally blown away by his approach to narrative and his love and deep understanding of The Last of Us,” said Druckmann, creative director of Naughty Dog, the game development studio behind The Last of Us and Uncharted game series and a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sony Interactive Entertainment.
“With Chernobyl, Craig and HBO created a tense, harrowing, emotional masterpiece. I couldn’t think of better partners to bring the story of ‘The Last of Us’ to life as a television show. I’m beyond excited to collaborate with them,” Druckman said in a statement.
Originally planned as a film from Sony and Screen Gems, that effort was abandoned as even Druckmann expressed his own disenchantment with the project.
HBO provided the series description in a statement:
The story takes place twenty years after modern civilization has been destroyed. Joel, a hardened survivor, is hired to smuggle Ellie, a 14-year-old girl, out of an oppressive quarantine zone. What starts as a small job soon becomes a brutal, heartbreaking journey, as they both must traverse across the U.S. and depend on each other for survival. The HBO series will cover the events of the original game, which was written by Druckmann, with the possibility of additional content based on the forthcoming game sequel, The Last of Us Part II, which will release on May 29, 2020.
Druckmann and Mazin will write and executive produce; Carolyn Strauss (Emmy-winner for HBO’s Game of Thrones and Chernobyl) also executive produces along with Naughty Dog President Evan Wells. The project is a co-production with Sony Pictures Television and in association with PlayStation Productions. The Last of Us is the first television series from PlayStation Productions.
Netflix has found the golden ticket: The streaming service will host two animated series from JoJo Rabbit Oscar winner Taika Waititi, both offering fresh takes on the Roald Dahl classic Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
The first series will be set in the world of Willy Wonka, with characters from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, while the second ‘toon will specifically feature Waititi’s version of the Oompa Loompas, those singing Wonka delights.
“If (Roald) Dahl had created a character of a filmmaker to adapt his work, I’m pretty sure he would have created Taika,” Netflix Vice President of Original Animation Melissa Cobb said in a statement.
The Wonka projects are far from Waititi’s only upcoming works on TV. He will also reportedly return to work on season 2 of Disney+’s The Mandalorian (after directing the first season finale), and will also return for the sophomore season of FX’s comedy What We Do in the Shadows, after serving as co-writer, director, and executive producer on the series’ debut season.
As previously reported, he’s also working with Jude Law to develop The Auteur, a half-hour horror-comedy series for Showtime, about a movie producer whose last release flopped, sending him into a desperate state during which he accidentally traps his cast and crew on a backlot with serial killer.
The coronavirus (Covid-19) not only has film studios rescheduling their features, it is leaving its mark on the TV industry, as well.
First Amazing Race halted production on its 33rd season, and European content conference MIPTV 2020 has been canceled. Now SWSW — which lost presenters in Apple, Netflix, Amazon Studios, Twitter, WarnerMedia, Facebook, and TikTok and celeb attendees including Trent Reznor and Ozzy Osbourne — also canceled its March events.
“We are devastated to share this news with you,” SXSW organizers wrote in an event update on SXSW.com. “’The show must go on’ is in our DNA, and this is the first time in 34 years that the March event will not take place. We are now working through the ramifications of this unprecedented situation.”
Fox News has canceled its upfront presentation for later this month in New York. Disney has canceled its European launch of Disney+ in London. And Japan’s Olympic minister has suggested the Summer Games could be postponed until later in 2020. (Deadline)
As of now, PaleyFest 2020 – featuring cast members and showrunners from The Mandalorian, The Boys, Star Trek: Picard, Schitt’s Creek, Outlander, Ozark, and more – is still on for March 13-22 in L.A.
Courteney Cox is headed back to primetime via Starz’s Shining Vale, a horror-comedy series from Divorce creator Sharon Horgan and Jeff Astrof, co-creator of NBC’s Trial & Error. Cox will play the mom of a dysfunctional family who leaves the city to move to a small town. They take up residence in a house where a lot of bad things have happened, but mom Pat is the only one who notices. That leads her to believe she’s either possessed or depressed — the symptoms are the same for both.
And two sure-thing C.C. sightings ahead: that Friends reunion we’re all living for on HBO Max, and, as part of its Red Nose Day fundraiser, NBC will air the special Celebrity Escape Room, with Jack Black hosting contestants Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Ben Stiller, and Adam Scott. The special will air on May 21, followed by a two-hour variety show telethon that will raise money for childhood poverty charities.
It’s Oprah Winfrey’s multimedia world we live in, and she’s going the Apple TV+ route to address the recent controversy surrounding author Jeanine Cummins’ bestseller American Dirt, and Oprah’s own role in the literary drama. At midnight ET on March 6, Winfrey will premiere a two-part interview with Cummins, plus authors Reyna Grande, Julissa Arce and Esther Cepeda, and members of the Latinx community, followed by a discussion with Latinx people “who saw themselves reflected in the book and share their insights into real-life migrant experiences,” according to Apple.
American Dirt, which tells the story of a Mexican mother and son who try to make their way to the American border after the rest of their family is murdered by a cartel, has drawn the ire of readers who accuse Cummins – who identified as white before revealing she has a Puerto Rican grandmother, Vulture reports – of being “appropriative” in telling the story. The book has sparked discussion about who has the right to tell stories outside their own cultures and experiences, and Winfrey found herself pulled into the mix (and the target of anger from some of those readers) after she selected the book for her Oprah’s Book Club.
For all the latest TV and streaming trailers, subscribe to the Rotten Tomatoes TV YouTube channel.
Silicon Valley star Thomas Middleditch will star in Chuck Lorre’s CBS comedy pilot B Positive, about a recently-divorced dad, Drew, who needs a kidney donor. Sara Rue – a vet of three Lorre series: The Big Bang Theory, Mom, and Two and a Half Men – and You’re the Worst star Kether Donohue will also star in the series. Rue will play Drew’s ex, while Donohue will play a party girl friend of Drew, and the previously announced Annaleigh Ashford (Masters of Sex) will play the woman who donates a kidney to Drew. (Variety)
The Handmaid’s Tale star Ann Dowd has been cast as the titular POTUS in Showtime’s pilot for the adaptation of The President Is Missing, the novel by James Patterson and Bill Clinton. Dowd plays President Jillian Stroud, who goes missing halfway through her first term in office, thrusting her veep, played by David Oyelowo, into her job. (Deadline)
Orange Is the New Black star Lorraine Toussaint will play the aunt of Queen Latifah’s Robyn McCall on the CBS reboot of drama The Equalizer.
ra Sedgwick is starring in the ABC comedy pilot My Village, about a recently widowed Midwestern woman who moves to Los Angeles to be near her adult children, but doesn’t exactly fit in with the hipster L.A. lifestyle.
Warcraft star Ben Schnetzer has replaced Barry Keoghan as main character Yorick Brown in FX’s drama Y: The Last Man. The series adaptation of Brian K. Vaughan’s comic revolves around Yorick’s quest to find out what wiped out all male chromosomes on the planet, leaving him … what the title says. The rest of the cast includes Diane Lane, Marin Ireland, and Amber Tamblyn. (THR)
Without a Trace star Anthony LaPaglia will play Trevor, the widower who moves in with his son, Jim Jeffries’ character, in the NBC comedy pilot Jeffries. (Deadline)
Veep star Reid Scott will star in the high-concept NBC drama pilot Echo, about a team of undercover FBI agents who go into the past, assume the identities and bodies of the victims, and try to prevent crimes before they happen. Scott will also be a producer on the series, which has signed True Blood star Janina Gavankar as the female lead, playing a cop. (Deadline)
Schitt’s Creek star Emily Hampshire has been cast as the co-lead in EPIX’s Chapelwaite, opposite Adrien Brody. The 10-episode drama is based on Stephen King’s Jerusalem’s Lot, and is planned for a fall 2020 premiere. Hampshire will play Rebecca, an aspiring writer who applies for the job of governess to Captain Charles Boone’s (Brody) children, and hopes to use them as inspiration for the book she’s writing. “In doing so,” according to EPIX, “Rebecca will not only craft the next great gothic novel, she’ll unravel a mystery that has plagued her own family for years.”
Taxi and Back to the Future star Christopher Lloyd is guest starring on NCIS, playing a Navy veteran of the Pearl Harbor attack who gets caught up in a Gibbs (Mark Harmon) investigation. (TVLine)
The Facts of Life and Living Single star Kim Fields has joined the cast of the Netflix comedy The Upshaws, about a working class African American family in Indiana. Fields will play a mother of three, married to a character played by Mike Epps and sister of a character played by Wanda Sykes.
Succession star Ashley Zukerman will star in NBC’s drama pilot Langdon, about the Robert Langdon character at the center of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code novel and its sequels. Tom Hanks played the character in the movie versions of Brown’s books.
Brandon McKnight, who plays Chester P. Runk on The Flash, has been promoted to series regular for season 7 of The CW series. (Deadline)
R&B star Usher will executive produce and serve as a judge on the Quibi dance competition series The Sauce. (Deadline)
Doctor Who and Years and Years star Maxim Baldry has been cast in Amazon’s Lord of the Rings series. No details about his role have been announced, but the series has already been renewed for a second season before the first premieres.
Suits alum Gina Torres will play one of the titular roles in the ABC drama pilot The Brides, a “sexy, contemporary reimagining of the Dracula story.” From producer Greg Berlanti and Riverdale creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, the series revolves around three immortal women – led by Torres’ Cleo Phillips – who go to great lengths to maintain their family’s power.
Wayward Pines and Sleepy Hollow star Shannyn Sossamon will play the lead in the Fox drama pilot The Cleaning Lady, about a doctor who moves to the U.S. from the Philippines to get medical treatment for her son. When things go badly, she has to go into hiding, and becomes the on-call cleaning woman for the mafia. (Variety)
Rumer Willis has been cast in a “pivotal” role on Fox’s firefighter drama 9-1-1. No specifics are available on who she’ll play, but the Empire and Masked Singer alum, and Dancing with the Stars champion, is said to be involved in “one of the show’s biggest emergencies yet.” (TVLine)
Tony-nominated Broadway star Hailey Kilgore (Once on This Island) has signed on for the Power prequel series Power Book III: Raising Kanan, where she’ll play Jukebox, the Kanan Stark corrupt cop confidant played by Anika Non-Rose in the original series. The teenage version of Jukebox is one of Kana’s best friends, and an aspiring singer.
HBO Max has cast its Gossip Girl reboot stars: Whitney Peak (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina), Eli Brown (Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists), Emily Alyn Lind (Code Black), Johnathan Fernandez (Lethal Weapon), and Jason Gotay (Peter Pan Live!). Kristen Bell will return as the narrator, a role she performed in the original CW series. Lind will play a character with a long-time boyfriend whose eye may start wandering, but the rest of the characters’ descriptions are being kept under wraps.
How to Get Away with Murder vet Kendrick Sampson will play Brad, the boyfriend of Odette Annable’s Janey Steadman in ABC’s pilot for the thirtysomething sequel, thirtysomething(else).
The Good Doctor star and executive producer Daniel Dae Kim will join New Amsterdam in the recurring role of the hospital’s new head trauma surgeon. He debuts in the April 7 episode. (TVLine)
Brett Gelman, whose conspiracy theorist and Hopper pal Murray Bauman was introduced during season 2 of Stranger Things, has been promoted to series regular for season 4.
Kirstie alum Eric Petersen will play the title role in AMC’s Kevin Can F*** Himself, about the secret life of what we think of as the typical sitcom TV wife (played by Schitt’s Creek star Annie Murphy). Mary Hollis Inboden (The Real O’Neals) has also been cast as the couple’s neighbor, Alex Bonifer (Superstore) plays Kevin’s best friend.
Pitch star Kylie Bunbury will star with Katheryn Winnick (Vikings) in David E. Kelley’s ABC thriller The Big Sky, about a PI and an ex-cop who partner to locate two sisters who have been kidnapped by a truck driver in Montana. Ryan Phillippe and Chicago P.D. alum Brian Geraghty also star. (Variety) (Deadline)
Star Trek: Discovery alum Jason Isaacs has joined the cast of the Sophia Bush CBS medical drama pilot Good Sam. He’ll play the surgeon father of Bush’s Sam, and, after waking up from a month-long coma, he finds out Sam is now his boss. (Variety)
Grace Gummer (Mr. Robot) and Prodigal Son’s Molly Griggs will join Alec Baldwin, Jamie Dornan, and Christian Slater in the Peacock limited series Dr. Death, based on a podcast about a sociopathic doctor (Dornan). (Deadline)
Burn Notice star Coby Bell will play Texas Ranger captain Larry James on The CW’s Walker, Texas Ranger reboot, Walker, with Jared Padalecki. (Deadline)
Netflix will host its first comedy festival – the Netflix Is a Joke Fest — in Los Angeles in April and May, including performances by Dave Chappelle, David Letterman, Jerry Seinfeld, Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Amy Schumer, Jamie Foxx, Ali Wong, Wanda Sykes, Sebastian Maniscalco, Mike Birbiglia, and Hannah Gadsby. Tickets for the weeklong, multiple venue fest go on sale on March 6.
Josh Gad and Luke Evans will reprise their roles as LeFou and Gaston, respectively, for a six-episode musical prequel to Beauty and the Beast on Disney+, EW reports. Once Upon a Time creators Eddy Kitsis and Adam Horowitz will develop the project and showrun the series along with Gad. Producers are reportedly in talks with composer Alan Menken to return.
Podcasting with Christafuh: Fans of The Sopranos will soon have the opportunity to get new, behind-the-scenes scoop on the classic HBO drama, straight from the mobsters’ mouths, when stars Michael Imperioli and Steve Schirripa — that’s Christopher and Bobby — launch the Talking Sopranos podcast. The two will bring fellow cast members, writers, and directors into the mix as they break down each episode of the show — that’s 85 installments before we get their opinions about whether or not Tony survived the series finale. Talking Sopranos will debut in April on Apple, Spotify, and YouTube.
A&E has scheduled a two-night salute to country music superstars. On April 12, the network will debut Biography: Dolly, documenting the life of the legendary Dolly Parton, followed by Willie Nelson: American Outlaw, a Nashville concert in honor of Nelson, featuring performances by George Strait, Chris Stapleton, Dave Matthews, Jack Johnson, Emmylou Harris, Sheryl Crow, Norah Jones, and Vince Gill. The following night, Biography: Kenny Rogers unfolds the life and career of the singer best known for his hit song “The Gambler.”
British novelist and Chaplin screenwriter William Boyd is writing a miniseries about the 2019 fire in the Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris, based on The New York Times coverage of the devastation. (Variety)
Fresh Off the Boat writer and co-producer Cindy Fang and executive producers Melvin Mar and Jake Kasdan are developing the comedy Asian Descent for Freeform. The dark comedy is about an aspiring musician who has to move back home with her immigrant parents when her dreams aren’t working out. (Variety)
Jessica Alba will host the docuseries Parenting Without Borders for Disney+. Based on the 2014 book of the same name written by Christine Gross-Loh, the series will find Alba travelling all around the world to spend time with families and learn about their parenting customs. Deadline says the series is described as “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown for parenting.” (Deadline)
Quibi has ordered a trio of non-scripted series: Sex Next Door, which will follow the lives of four sex workers in Seattle; Hot Off the Mic, a daily show where comedians will give their takes on the headlines of the day; and How We Met, which will follow a new couple’s origins story each episode. (Deadline) (Deadline)
Judge Judy will end after its upcoming 25th season, but Judith Sheindlin announced she’s developing a new series, Judy Justice, which will premiere the following year.
Comedian Atsuko Okatsuka will host the Quibi game show Let’s Go, Atsuko! A Woke Japanese Game Show. Two contestants will be asked to name something they love and something they fear, which will be used to tailor challenges for them that take place in the “surreal universe inside [Okatsuka’s] grandma’s fridge.” (Deadline)