Spring Sheen for SoHo Strike Back
New seasons of Boss, Strike Back, Hell on Wheels and Dexter will spruce up SoHo for spring.
After a sterling second quarter, the premium drama channel has been looking stale of late, with The Newsroom held over until after the Olympics (August 13) and too many 8.30 slots taken up with premature re-runs of shows like The Hour, The Corner and Boss’ first season, second-tier and not-so-new drama like The Pillars of the Earth, and the over-familiar (albeit excellent) Band of Brothers.
When Sky launched SoHo with such a roar in November, there was scepticism the programming quality would remain strong, with some suspecting it would become a channel full of programmes on high rotate.
But Sky’s entertainment chief Travis Dunbar says the plan always was for SoHo’s schedule to typically comprise about two-thirds new content and one-third library.
“That is the intended balance, but there will be certain periods where the balance may shift.
“For example, the April–July period this year was marked by an almost over-supply of premiere drama, due to the amount premiering in what is generally the time period cable shows launch in the US (outside the peak of free-to-air new seasons which start around September/October).”
He cites how new seasons of Game of Thrones, The Killing and Mad Men and newcomers like Veep, Girls, Magic City, The Newsroom and Luck all debuted within about a 12-week period.
“We could stretch the premieres over a longer time period, like traditional free-to-air schedules in New Zealand,” he says, “but that would go against our stated policy of trying to premiere all our new drama within one-to-three weeks of the US transmission.
“Occasionally, we may have so little shelf space that we have to sit on a show for a short period, but that will generally be the exception.”
Moreover, long-term expect to see series screen even closer to their US playdates than Game of Thrones’ second season (only seven days separated HBO and SoHo transmissions).
“We are not so naïve not to realise that the kind of upscale ‘buzz’ shows that premiere on SoHo are exactly the type of shows most susceptible to illegal downloads or file-sharing,” Dunbar says.
“Not exactly a problem for season eight of Desperate Housewives, but definitely an issue for Game of Thrones. Ultimately, all broadcasters will need to move to within ‘day-and-date’ broadcast of US transmission if they genuinely want to tackle piracy.”
In the meantime, season two of Hell on Wheels will screen from August 26 (it starts August 12 in the US), season two of Boss from September 1 and season two of Strike Back from September 11 (both August 17 in the US); a premiere date for season seven of Dexter has yet to be announced but it goes to air in the US on September 30.
As to what to expect in these new seasons, Hell on Wheels executive producer John Shiban told the Vancouver Sun: “We want to escalate the danger of Hell on Wheels, the danger of building this railroad.
“It was a race against the rival Central Pacific. It was basically an urban slum on the prairie and people died daily. Not only was it a tough job and the railway work very dangerous, but the town itself was very dangerous.
“That’s our number one priority this year, to make it a bigger, badder Hell on Wheels that our characters have to swim through and deal with.”
Season two of Boss sees Mayor Tom Kane’s world starting to crumble around him, as his family problems intensify, particularly with his daughter, and his secret, degenerative brain disorder makes him more unstable and unpredictable.
New to the cast will be Glee’s Jonathan Groff, as a driven advisor battling for Kane’s favour, while rapper T.I. will guest star as a former gang member with City Hall ambitions.
Season two of Strike Back will open with Stonebridge and Scott overcoming the loss of Colonel Eleanor Grant, who died at the hands of terrorist Latif: Stonebridge has moved from field work and is back in the UK training Section 20 recruits, while Scott is ordered to the Kenyan desert to secure the transfer of a Libyan functionary seeking asylum.
But when a high priority mission comes up, Stonebridge and Scott are reunited and sent to scour Africa in search of an elusive box of nuclear triggers. Coveted by everyone from Al Qaeda to the CIA to the expatriate leader of a mercenary army, it could launch Armageddon if it falls into the wrong hands.
Also new to SoHo — and screening here in HD for the first time — will be: The Promise, a four-part political thriller set in modern Israel and post-World War II, British-occupied Palestine (from August 17); season two of Hung (September 27); season six of Rescue Me (August 16); seasons four of The Sopranos (August 13) and Six Feet Under (August 3); and, from the beginning, Nip/Tuck (September 5).