The ABC has commissioned a spinoff to its legal drama Crownies. In the eight-part legal-political thriller Janet King, Marta Dusseldorp will reprise her Crownies role as the titular senior Crown prosecutor. Several other ''established characters'' from Crownies will return for the series, although their identities have not been confirmed. The series will be produced by Karl Zwicky, Jane Allen, Lisa Scott and Hilary Bonney, and be written by Greg Haddrick, Kris Mrksa and Shaun Grant. ABC1 channel controller Brendan Dahill says the ABC is revisiting Crownies because ''so many ingredients [in the series] resonated with our audience''. The spinoff is a ''powerful new series'', he says. The ABC's head of fiction, Carole Sklan, says the story will hurl King into ''a shocking prosecution that involves layers of intrigue played out at the highest levels of power''. The project will go into production early next year.
Hacking into Assange's past
The Ten Network's Julian Assange telemovie is generating enormous interest overseas, particularly in light of the recent debate in Britain about Assange's request for asylum in Ecuador. Underground will premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival next month, which is an unusual move for an Australian telemovie. It explores Assange's life as a teenage hacker and stars West Australian Academy of Performing Arts graduate Alex Williams in the pivotal role. It also stars Rachel Griffiths and Anthony LaPaglia. It is written and directed by Robert Connolly and based on a book of the same name by Suelette Dreyfus. It will air on Ten later this year.
Dale's US career just got hotter
Australia's most employable actor, Alan Dale, has signed on for a guest role in the US comedy Hot in Cleveland. The former Neighbours star has been based in Los Angeles for the best part of a decade and has a string of US credits, including ER, Lost and Ugly Betty. He is starring in the US drama Once upon a Time, playing King George. His role in Hot in Cleveland will be filmed around his schedule for Once upon a Time.
More Britcom for US
America's appetite for remaking British comedies continues, with news from the US that plans are under way to turn the Jo Brand's black hospital comedy Getting On into a US series. The network involved is HBO, which might allay fears that the show's razor-sharp take on Britain's public health system would be diluted. The series was developed for digital channel BBC4 from a production budget earmarked for experimental comedy. It was written by and starred Brand, Joanna Scanlan and Vicki Pepperdine. All three serve as executive producers on the US version, working with Los Angeles-based executives Jane Tranter and Julie Gardner. The US version will be written by Big Love creators Mark V. Olsen and Will Scheffer.
Dance steps get reset
Ten moved last week to contain the damage from its unsuccessful launch of Everybody Dance Now. The series, fronted by former Australia's Next Top Model host Sarah Murdoch, was introduced on the final day of the London Olympics, landed soft and struggled to gain a foothold in an immensely competitive week. Ten has cut it back to one hour a week. The chief programmer at Ten, David Mott, says the network still believes in the format. ''We have listened to the feedback from viewers and we are working with production company FremantleMedia to reset the show and make it more engaging for viewers,'' he says.