- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 4, 2008

‘Spartacus’ on Starz

Starz is bringing “Spartacus” to life on the small screen, greenlighting a 13-episode series from executive producers Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert and Joshua Donen, the Hollywood Reporter says.

Steven S. DeKnight “Smallville”) has signed on as head writer of the hourlong series, set in the brutal world of gladiators, says Stephan Shelanski, executive vice president of programming for Starz Entertainment.

“Spartacus” marks Starz’s second original drama after “Crash.” The series will start production in New Zealand early next year, targeted for a summer debut on Starz and its suite of channels. The network touted the series’ production values; it’s estimated that the budget will be north of $2 million per episode.

“Spartacus” was inspired by a slave in the Roman Republic who in 73 B.C. led a slave revolt that grew to more than 120,000 fighters. Starz says the story will be re-imagined for what it calls a generation of TV viewers raised on graphic novels and cutting-edge production technology.

“This is not going to be at all like the 1960s Kirk Douglas film,” Mr. Shelanski says. “We didn’t want your typical sword-and-sandals. It’s going to be fun, fast-moving, full of action and interesting characters and have a little more depth to it than the 1960s film.”

Mr. Shelanski adds that the show will be produced specifically for a premium cable audience, with “R-rated” action and storytelling. The goal is to accomplish the graphic-novel look and feel of such movies as “300” and “Sin City.” As with “300,” producers also will be looking to cast “Spartacus” with a group of fresh-faced, unknown actors, THR says.

Beatles game to MTV

The Beatles are entering the digital age in a way few would have predicted: through a video game.

The single most important catalog in music, one that has never been licensed for any digital sales, is being opened up for MTV Games to create a video-game set for release just in time for the 2009 holiday season, Variety reports.

The partnership marks the first time Apple Corps, EMI Music, Harrisongs and Sony/ATV Music Publishing have agreed to present the Beatles’ music in a video-game presentation. Executives from Apple, MTV and the game developer Harmonix announced the game Thursday in London, giving few details beyond its existence.

Game developers will be able to select 45 songs from the Beatles catalog recorded during the band’s 1962-69 tenure within EMI for inclusion in the game.

“The game is in development,” says Apple Corps Chief Executive Officer Jeff Jones. “We don’t want to talk about how it will turn out a year from now. We’re in the process of creating the game.”

Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Olivia Harrison and Yoko Ono Lennon have been part of the conversations regarding the design, layout and rollout of the game.

Whitford returning

Emmy winner Bradley Whitford is returning to NBC as star-producer of the single-camera comedy pilot “Off Duty.” According to the Hollywood Reporter, Romany Malco has been tapped as the second lead in the UMS-produced buddy comedy, which has been greenlighted for production following a cast-contingent pilot order in July.

Written by Upright Citizens Brigade comedian Jason Mantzoukas, “Off Duty” centers on a once-legendary police detective (Mr. Whitford) on his way down who complicates the life of his new partner (Mr. Malco) — a straight shooter on his way up — both on duty and off.

“Off Duty” marks a change of pace for Mr. Whitford, who starred for seven seasons on NBC’s “The West Wing,” for which he won an Emmy, and “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.”

Mr. Malco’s credits include “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” “Blades of Glory,” “Baby Mama” and a starring role on Showtime’s “Weeds.”

‘Unexplained’ back

Popular syndicated radio host George Noory is returning to ScI Fi late at night with five episodes of “Unexplained With George Noory” at 11 p.m. Nov. 16 through 20, Thefutoncritic.com reports.

Each half-hour episode will feature one-on-one, in-depth interviews with experts on such compelling subjects as reincarnation, witchcraft and alien abduction, seeking new insights into the realm of the unknown.

Mr. Noory is host of “Coast to Coast AM,” a radio program nationally syndicated by Premiere Radio Networks and heard by an estimated 3 million listeners each week on more than 500 stations in the United States, Canada, Mexico and Guam. His program regularly features discussions on such topics as paranormal phenomena, time travel, alien abductions, conspiracies and all other things curious and unexplained.

Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse from Web and wire reports

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