Freeform President Tom Ascheim and Executive Vice President of Programming and Development Karey Burke will unveil today the new and returning projects for The Walt Disney Company’s young adult cable network at the combined Disney|ABC Television’s presentation for the national advertising community at Lincoln Center’s David Geffen Hall.
Freeform continues to dominate the young adult landscape in cable with the No. 1 comedy (“grown-ish”) and the No. 1 new drama (“Siren”) with young women (18-34 and 12-34). Also claiming the title of No. 1 most social cable network for the 7th year in a row and the No. 1 network in digital viewing, Freeform is delivering on its new tagline “A Little Forward.”
The recently re-branded network continues to build its roster of quality programming that speaks to the young adult consumer who has embraced its authenticity, evident in recent multi-platform hits “grown-ish,” “Siren” and the critically acclaimed “The Bold Type.” In addition to strong female representation on-screen, the network champions and has built an impressive, inclusive roster behind the scenes. Half of Freeform’s episodic directors are female, diverse, or LGBTQ, 60% of series writers are female or diverse, and every original series on the network has a female producer. The network also boasts placement as No. 1 in digital viewing, No. 5 entertainment network and the most social cable network for the seventh year in a row.
“In the past year, our commitment to quality has been reflected back to us with a rousing chorus of critical and fan acclaim,” says Ascheim. “Our young adult audience is the most important and influential generation in America and we want to be right there with them every step of the way.” Adds Burke, “We like changing the narrative at Freeform and are proud that our original programming resonates so strongly with this audience. We are grateful to all of our series creators who share our focus on challenging the status quo and telling stories with meaning.”
NEW SERIES PROGRAMMING
“Besties,” a half-hour multi camera comedy from co-creators Kenya Barris and Ranada Shepard has been ordered to series by Freeform following the enormous success of Barris’s breakout coming-of-age show, “grown-ish,” the No. 1 cable comedy season-to-date (women 18-34.) This multi-cam sitcom explores friendship, identity, race, and class as two lifelong best friends use each other to get through some of the toughest challenges that they will ever face – figuring out who they are and who they want to be. Kenya Barris and Ranada Shepard are executive producers; the series is produced by ABC Signature Studios.
“PRETTY LITTLE LIARS: THE PERFECTIONISTS”
I. Marlene King will expand the universe of “Pretty Little Liars” for Freeform with a 10-episode series order for “Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists,” featuring returning fan favorites Sasha Pieterse as Alison and Janel Parrish as Mona and starring Sofia Carson (Disney’s “Descendants”) as Ava. The drama also welcomes Sydney Park (“The Walking Dead”) as Caitlin, newcomer Eli Brown as Dylan, Graeme Thomas King (“The Widow”) as Jeremy, Kelly Rutherford (“Gossip Girl”) as Claire, and Hayley Erin (“General Hospital”) in an undisclosed role. In Beacon Heights, a seemingly perfect town, a group of three college friends struggle with the stress of being overachievers. In the aftermath of the town’s first murder, each Perfectionist hides behind a secret, a lie and an alibi. Like its predecessor, “Pretty Little Liars,” which was No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list, “The Perfectionists” is also based on a popular book series penned by Sara Shepard. “Pretty Little Liars: The Perfectionists” is produced by Alloy Entertainment and Long Lake Media, in association with Warner Horizon Scripted Television. I. Marlene King (“Pretty Little Liars,” “Famous in Love”) wrote the pilot and serves as executive producer on the series with Charlie Craig (“Pretty Little Liars,” “The 100”), Lisa Cochran-Neilan (“Pretty Little Liars,” “Famous in Love”), Leslie Morgenstein (“Pretty Little Liars,” “The Vampire Diaries”) and Gina Girolamo (“The 100,” “The Originals”). The pilot was directed and executive produced by Elizabeth Allen Rosenbaum (“Relationship Status”).
RETURNING SERIES PROGRAMMING
Following the news of “Siren’s” premiere as the No.
1 new cable drama with young women (18-34 and 12-34), Freeform announced a second season pickup for the mermaid thriller, whose season one finale airs Thursday, May 24th. The network also added six more episodes to next season’s order, up from ten this season. “Siren” is an epic tale about the coastal town of Bristol Cove, known for its legend of once being home to mermaids. The arrival of a mysterious girl, Ryn (Eline Powell), wreaks havoc on the small fishing town as she proves the folklore true. Using their resources, marine biologists Ben (Alex Roe) and Maddie (Fola Evans-Akingbola) must work together to find out who and what drove this primal hunter of the deep sea to land and if there are more like her. Xander (Ian Verdun) is a deep-sea fisherman looking to uncover the truth and Helen (Rena Owen), the town eccentric, knows more than she lets on. Eric Wald and Dean White co-created the story and serve as executive producers along with showrunner and executive producer Emily Whitesell. Brad Luff, Nate Hopper and RD Robb are also attached as executive producers.
The network will expand its holiday dominance with over 1000 hours of themed programming kicking off with “31 Nights of Halloween” on Oct. 1, an increase of the annual “13 Nights of Halloween.” The network also introduced Freeform Santa (“Shadowhunters” star Isaiah Mustafa) and November’s “Kick Off to Christmas.” Then the iconic “25 Days of Christmas” returns to the entire Disney|ABC Television on DEC. 1, the only major media network to offer a unified holiday programming initiative. During last year’s “25 Days of Christmas,” Freeform led the television group with 80MM unique viewers, accounting for more than half of the 151MM total unique viewers across all channels.
From the executive producers of the “Disney’s Fairy Tale Weddings” series, Ann Lewis Roberts, Simon Lythgoe and Jenny Daly, “Decorating Disney: Halloween” will be part of “31 Days of Halloween.” This behind-the-scenes special will reveal all the tricks and treats behind the transformation of the Walt Disney World and Disneyland resorts into the scariest, yet still magical, places on Earth!
Freeform will continue the spooktacular festivities with a celebration for one of the most beloved Halloween movies with the “Hocus Pocus 25th Anniversary Extravaganza.”
Two Freeform original holiday films, “Life Size 2” and “Sleeping Together,” will also be part of the holiday lineup. In the former, Tyra Banks, who will also executive produce, reprises her iconic role as a doll that comes to life; but in the sequel, Eve has grown up. This time she’s magically awakened to help a young woman learn to live and love again. Along the way, Eve experiences the ups and downs of real life in an edgy, fun, modern Christmas movie.
“Sleeping Together” is an unexpected and whimsical holiday rom-com about two insomniac strangers plagued by exhaustion. After a brief meeting, they discover that they can only fall asleep if they are sleeping next to each other. What seems like an odd coincidence, and frankly a disruption to their lives, might be more meaningful than they’d like to admit.
Freeform also announced last week a pilot order for “Everything’s Gonna Be Okay,” from critically acclaimed writer and comedian Josh Thomas. The pilot introduces Nicholas, a typical 25-year-old still living at home with his single dad and two teenage half-sisters, who is not particularly helpful in raising his siblings, one of which has autism. However, when their dad becomes terminally ill, the girls have to cope not only with a devastating loss but with the realization that Nicholas is the one who will have to hold it all together. Thomas created the concept and wrote and stars in the pilot with David Martin, Jon Thoday, and Richard Allen-Turner serving as executive producers for Avalon Television. Stephanie Swedlove and Kevin Whyte also serve as executive producers. Produced by Avalon Television and Freeform Studios, it will be distributed internationally by Avalon Distribution
No Question Mark Box Here; Super Mario Delivers a 1-Up in Theaters
If you were born in the ’80s, ’90s, or literally ANY decade after those, you know about Super Mario. A cultural phenomenon was brought to life on the big screen this last weekend. One that has not only stood the test of time but reinvented itself time and time again. This wasn’t even the first time it’s been made into a movie but, well, let’s be honest.. some of us choose not to acknowledge the LIVE action adaptation of the beloved game from 30 years ago.
It was pretty bad… But this was animation. ILLUMINATION animation at that. The Universal company that brought us Gru and his Minions, showed us the Secret Life of Pets, and gave us a reason to SING! Still, I had my reservations and even some concerns, especially when the casting was announced.
Eyebrows were raised. As big of stars as they were on paper, could they really deliver on voicing characters from a staple of our childhood? They did.
Chris Pratt and Charlie Day may not be Italian, and Jack Black may not be a King or Turtle creature from the Mushroom Kingdom, but they make the characters their own all while paying homage to the lore of a video game.
From the jump, the story reintroduces us to the brothers that just want to save Brooklyn one clogged sink at a time. We feel an instant connection and relate to these “underdogs of the plumbing world”. The movie is riddled with easter eggs, each of which tugs on the heartstrings of every generation of Mario fandom. And the soundtrack was beautifully put together to not only make us feel like we’re taking a walkthrough of the game but like an experience all its own with some familiar favorites thrown in.
Every word in the movie is pure eye candy for both those that are casual fans, and those analyzing every frame to see what they’ll catch next. Bowser’s ship, the Mushroom Kingdom, Kong’s arena, and the Rainbow Road.. They’re all meant to give us just enough of a “new” look at these amazing worlds, but stay true to how we remember them.
The movie itself moves along at the perfect pace. Although, if you don’t really know ANYTHING about the Super Mario Bros, you may have gotten a little lost and felt left behind in the green tunnel. But that’s ok! It’s an adventure of the imagination and a classic story of a boy that meets a girl and tries to save the world from a monster that wants to destroy it.
What’s funny is that you could easily say this is a story about two characters who couldn’t be more opposite if they tried, battling to win the heart of a princess. Who would’ve thought that the King of the Koopas was just trying to impress his crush?
And that song? Ohhh THAT song! It’s my new ringtone and deserves the Oscar for Best Original Song.
Back to the movie.
Universal and Illumination clearly understood the assignment. Is it missing some things or could things have been done differently or even better? Absolutely! We’re the worst critics of the things we hold nearest and dearest to our hearts. But if you’re up for going on a 90-minute adventure through amazing worlds, with awesome music, and characters that’ll make you smile and laugh, then this is the perfect movie to spring you into that warm summer feeling.
Plus there’s the whole part with karts and shells, and banana peels and oh my goodness how amazing was that?? It’s enough to make you want to stand up and cheer, then go home and destroy your friends and family on your favorite track haha.
The bottom line, it pays homage in all the right ways to the little guy with the mustache, while giving us something new and exciting. Take the kids and go see Super Mario Bros. You’ll be glad you did!
Warner Bros. Discovery Home Entertainment returns to WonderCon 2023
Justice League x RWBY: Superheroes & Hunters Opening Act Saturday, March 25 at 1:30 p.m. on North 200A. Talent confirmed so far to participate in the post-screening panel is Natalie Alyn Lind (Big Sky, The Goldbergs, Gotham) as Wonder Woman/Diana Prince and longtime RWBY cast member Lindsay Jones (Camp Camp) as Ruby, Kara Eberle ( RWBY: Ice Queendom) as Weiss, Arryn Zech (Detective Now Dead) as Blake and Barbara Dunkelman (Blood Fest) as Yang – along with Jeannie Tirado (Soul, Saints Row) as Green Lantern and Tru Valentino (The Rookie, The Cuphead Show!) as a cyborg. Also attending the panel will be producer/director Kerry Shawcross (series RWBY) and writer Meghan Fitzmartin (Supernatural, Justice Society: World War II).
Warner Bros. Discovery Home Entertainment returns to WonderCon 2023 with the big screen debut from DC Animated Films: highlights this year include the world premieres of the highly anticipated Batman: The Doom That Came To Gotham and Justice League x RWBY: Superheroes & Hunters Part One the weekend of March 24-26 in Anaheim, California. Both screenings will be followed by panel discussions with actors and creators. Batman: The Doom That Came To Gotham premieres at The Arena on Friday, March 24 at 6 p.m. Tati Gabrielle (Kaleidoscope, Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Uncharted) as Kai Li Cain, Christopher Gorham (The Lincoln Lawyer, Insatiable) as Oliver Queen, David Dastmalchian (Dune, Suicide Squad, Ant-Man) as Grendon, producer/co-director Sam Liu (The Death and the Return of Superman), co-director Christopher Berkeley (Young Justice) and screenwriter Jase Ricci (Teen Titans Go! and DC Super Hero Girls: Mayhem Across the Multiverse).
Both films will have encore screenings in the Arena on Sunday, March 26. Justice League x RWBY: Super Heroes & Huntsmen, Part One will screen at 12:15pm, followed by Batman: The Doom That Came To Gotham at 2:00pm