Small screen, big pictures
Published 08/10/2011 | 05:00
Spielberg's sci-fi series 'Terra Nova; is the latest in a long and illustrious list of TV hits backed by modern cinema legends.
You can't turn on your telly these days without seeing some of the biggest names in movies plastered over new and existing TV shows.
It will have been hard to ignore the heavy advance publicity for 'Terra Nova', the new mega-budget sci-fi series, starring Dubliner Jason O'Mara, which has just started on Sky.
This new time-travel/dinosaur adventure has cinema's most commercially successful director of all time, Steven Spielberg, serving as executive producer, which would go some ways to explaining how the series was granted a reported budget of $20m (Â¤15m) for its CGI-drenched pilot alone.
Hollywood heavy-hitters such as Spielberg are not stupid.
While he may have made his fortune helming blockbusters such as 'Indiana Jones' and 'Jurassic Park', TV has become an increasingly popular nixer for Tinseltown types looking to expand their commercial interests.
If, for instance, 'Terra Nova' is a success, and runs for a minimum of five years -- apparently the show's out-of-nowhere creator Kelly Marcel has mapped out the overall plot to run that long -- then Spielberg looks set to bank tens of millions of dollars in profit. Of course, Spielberg and others like him will no doubt protest that venturing into TV is all about finding new creative outlets for "story-telling" and "their vision", but, hey, even mega-successful movie millionaires have to worry about the pension pot.
It's not Spielberg's first foray into television, either.
He also has another TV show on air, the apocalyptic sci-fi series 'Falling Skies', starring 'ER' alumnus Noah Wyle, which, despite ho-hum reviews, has been renewed for a second series due to start next year.
He was also involved as an executive producer on the just-finished drama series 'United States of Tara', written by stripper-turned-Oscar-winning-screenwriter Diablo Cody.
Furthermore, Spielberg has producer credits on two other upcoming TV shows: a paranormal adventure set in the Amazon entitled 'The River', as well as 'Smash', a Glee-inspired series set backstage in a Broadway show, starring Anjelica Huston and former 'Will and Grace' star, Debra Messing.
Spielberg was also heavily involved in the production of the classic Second World War series 'Band of Brothers', along with double Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks.
Since then, Hanks has served as producer on the Mormon drama series 'Big Love', now on Sky Atlantic, as well as producing a pair of highly acclaimed mini-series, 'John Adams', and 'The Pacific'.
Elsewhere, Ron Howard, also an Oscar-winning director producer of the likes of 'A Beautiful Mind' and 'Frost/Nixon', is heavily involved with several TV shows -- fittingly enough, as he himself started out on television playing Richie Cunningham in 'Happy Days'.
Alongside his successful movie career, Howard is producing the TV version of 'Parenthood', which is just about to go into its third series. He previously helped to bring the acclaimed comedy series 'Arrested Development' to the small screen.
He also provided the knowing voiceover narration for every episode. What's more, the TV wing of Howard's company, Imagine Entertainment, has been behind some of the biggest critical and ratings hits of the past decade, among them 'Felicity', '24', 'Lie to Me', and 'Friday Night Lights'.
Elsewhere, Ridley Scott -- director of classics such as 'Alien', 'Blade Runner', and 'Thelma and Louise' -- is the unlikely executive producer of the classy, glossy TV series 'The Good Wife', as well as the medieval mini series 'The Pillars of the Earth'.
Though director JJ Abrams has since graduated from producing TV hits such as 'Alias' and 'Lost' to the heights of directing massive movies such as 'Star Trek' and 'Super 8', he hasn't forgotten his telly roots.
He's still putting his name to new series every year, such as the short-lived 'Undercovers', but also the eagerly awaited upcoming series 'Person of Interest' and 'Alcatraz'.
It's not just those best known from behind the camera who are getting involved either.
Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, hot from their 'Good Will Hunting' success, took time out in the early Noughties to produce 'Project Greenlight', a TV competition to find a filmmaker to direct a new movie, which ran for three series.
Similarly, long before he landed his reputed $1m-an-episode deal to replace Charlie Sheen on 'Two and a Half Men', Ashton Kutcher was the respected producer of a raft of TV series such as 'Punk'd', 'Beauty and the Geek', 'Adventures in Hollyhood', and 'The Real Wedding Crashers'.
After the momentous 2008 election, Edward Norton, star of 'Fight Club' and 'The Incredible Hulk', threw his producer weight behind the HBO documentary, 'By the People', about the start-up Obama campaign, while comedian Will Ferrell is currently the producer of the comedy series 'Eastbound and Down', starring Danny McBride.
Rapper-turned-actor Mark Wahlberg was one of the first movie stars to get in on the TV producing game.
His concept for a series based on his own wild early years in Hollywood along with his best friends from home was spun into the smash hit comedy 'Entourage', which just ended a hugely popular eight-year run.
Wahlberg provided cameo appearances in the show on numerous occasions along the way. Since then, he has donned the producer cap for three other HBO shows: the critically adored psychotherapy drama 'In Treatment', starring Gabriel Byrne; the fledgling recession-era comedy-drama 'How To Make It In America'; and the multi-award-winning 'Boardwalk Empire'.
Indeed, the latter also boasts Martin Scorsese as a producer; the bushy-browed director won an Emmy award last month for directing the pilot episode.
Now, other actors are getting in on the act too. Best Actress Oscar winner, Natalie Portman, is developing a TV series that would be a sequel to a 1980s mini-series 'Scruples', about the rags-to-riches life of a Beverly Hills boutique owner named Wilhemina "Billy" Winthrop.
Ryan Reynolds, meanwhile, in between pouting moodily for Marks & Spencer, has just formed a TV production company, and the first project to get the green light is sitcom 'Guidance', which is pitched as a buddy comedy set in an American high school.