Starz is a network that's just starting to expand its original programming. Gritty sword-and-sandal adventurer Spartacus has been the show's biggest hit to date, but it will be coming to an end after it's third season (fourth if you count prequel Gods of the Arena). Boss, while one of the best on TV, is a low-rated show that will have to work hard to get a third season. And while freshman period piece Magic City was renewed before its first season aired, its ratings are just as bad (if not worse) than Boss's. It too will have to work for a third season.
So what does Starz have coming down the pipeline of original programming? Some pretty intriguing stuff, as it turns out. Five new series in various stages of development have been announced, and some of them actually sound really, really promising.
First is Black Sails, an eight-episode pirate series headed up by Transformers director Michael Bay. With Bay's name attached, you probably shouldn't expect too much character development, but work is being put into making the show look good. While Starz's Spartacus is shot entirely indoors against a green screen, actual sets have been constructed for filming in South Africa. "We have the opportunity to create an actual water set outside that will allow us to build a boat and another part of a boat," Starz president Chris Albrecht said. While that's all good, we bet Michael Bay's asking a different question: Can we blow the boats up? Black Sails is eying a 2014 debut.
Then we've got Noir, a live-action version of the anime series of the same name. Like the CW's Nikita, it's a show about female assassins fighting a mysterious organization. The project has Robert Tapert and Josh Donen attached as writers, but the big name here is Sam Raimi, the director of Spider-Man and The Evil Dead. He'll also be serving as a writer and presumable executive producer of the show, which doesn't have a ballpark premiere date yet.
There's a very promising-sounding series called Incursion, which is headed up by Spartacus creator Steven S. DeKnight. The concept is a little Falling Skies, but with a bigger focus on the military angle: "It's Band of Brothers meets Halo... with a lot of creature work," according to Albrecht.
Two character-centric shows are also on their way. Da Vinci's Demons features Tom Riley as a young Leonardo da Vinci. It's a period piece that sounds like it has the potential to be great -- after all, da Vinci as a man was just as fascinating as any of his artwork or inventions. It's the show that's closest to premiering; Starz is planning on bringing us the show in spring 2013.
Then there's Marco Polo, produced by the Weinstein Company, that examines the young life of the titular character in the court of Kublai Khan. "The scripts are absolutely fantastic," Albrecht promises, though problems have arisen from attempting to shoot in China. (Well, yeah.)
It's a solid bunch of new programming, with a lot of it that could really go either way. Of these, Da Vinci's Demons sounds the most promising, though I'm quite interested to see what Incursion looks like, too. What do you think? Which of these shows are you most interested in seeing?