Monday, 4 March 2013

Hollywood Babble On & On #993: Paramount Returns To Television

Now you're probably wondering "When did they get out of television?"

Well, they got out of it in 2006 in a big shuffle that requires a little history lesson.

Paramount Television began as an independent company called Desilu Productions which was founded in 1950 by entertainers turned producers Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez. 

In 1957 Desilu bought the RKO studios which set them up as a major player, not just in the booming field of television, but in Hollywood in general. During the 1960s the company produced big hits like Mission: Impossible, and cult classics like Star Trek. Their success and clout made Desilu an attractive takeover target, and Gulf+Western bought them in 1967, and remade the company as the TV division of the then struggling Paramount Pictures that they had also recently purchased.

And thus Paramount got into the TV game big time.

Now Paramount had mixed results in television. Their productions for networks were fairly hit and miss, but the company enjoyed more success in syndicating shows to local stations. Star Trek died on the network, but went to heaven in syndication, which in turn led Paramount to expand their syndication operations into original first-run syndicated programming like Entertainment Tonight, and Star Trek: The Next Generation as well as its assorted spin-offs.

Paramount Television reached its peak in the 1990s when its parent company Viacom started UPN, the United Paramount Network, which was all Paramount all the time, and the company's answer to the Fox Network, and the WB Network from Warner Bros.

UPN wasn't a success. It started small, and it pretty much stayed small throughout its existence.

That existence ended with a major shake up at Viacom. The UPN was merged with rival mini-network The WB to become the CW Network. 

Paramount network sister CBS was also spun off from Viacom as its own independent company, and part of that spin-off was that all of Paramount Television's past and ongoing productions became part of the newly CBS-Paramount Television, which soon became just CBS Television Studios.

Paramount Pictures was now pretty much completely out of the TV business, but now they want back in.


Why does any business do anything, because that's where the money is.

In recent years Paramount has slashed its feature film output, giving them a shrinking piece of an already collapsing market, and they've recently licensed the home video rights to over 600 of their past titles to Warner Brothers, which means whatever profits those movies make, now have to be shared.

If Paramount is going to continue as a viable entertainment company they need the regular, predictable revenue that a studio can only get from having shows on television.

Now Paramount CEO Phillipe Dauman said some things that have me worried. He said that the first show will be based on a pre-existing Paramount property, and will require "very little investment."

That's scary because it's giving me a frightening vision of a really cheesy movie based reality/competition show, like Mission: Impossible Meets Survivor or Star Trek Idol.


Update: Looks like Paramount's TV comeback will be the Beverly Hills Cop series instead of it being done by CBS Productions. Bit of a relief after the nightmare scenarios that Dauman's comment put in my head.



  1. Blast Hardcheese5/3/13 10:15 am

    Of course! I should be a CEO! Such genius!

    So let me get this straight. They're getting out of a tanking market glutted with remakes, prequels, sequels, remakes of prequels, and sequels of remakes. Start anew! Great Idea! Fresh new hot market! And to start they'll do...a series based on an 80's Eddie Murphy movie. Bleagh.

  2. That should be as entertaining as the 'Red Dawn' remake. A remake is probably the safest bet but 80's Murphy stuff? Star Trek could be rebooted again.

    Rainforest Giant

  3. Blast Hardcheese5/3/13 3:45 pm

    Keep in mind, JJ's next Star Trek is coming out. You thought I was cracking wise about sequels of remakes? Or would that be a sequel to a reboot...?

    Mind you, I'm not insisting on originality. Adaptations from other media can be awesome TV (viz. Walking Dead, Game of Thrones) They should at least try to pick good stuff, and not fall into the trap of 'oh, they'll watch this, it's familiar!' That's how they got into this mess in the first place.

    And in related, slightly depressing news there are rumblings that Chris Nolan has been given complete executive/ producing control of any new DC superhero movies coming out of WB, including any Justice League movie. I find that depressing, because I loved "Inception" and want to see more original scifi out of the guy. I hope this doesn't tie him up too much...

  4. Blast-

    I heard that Nolan and Legendary Entertainment are developing the Justice League movie. Which might spring from the fact that Warner Bros. can't organize a shag in a brothel when it comes to getting their DC properties on screen without Legendary and Nolan's help.

    I don't know if it's true or not. But remember, Nolan was able to make movies between the Batman films, including Inception, so I think he can pull it off, especially since he's not going to be doing it alone.

  5. Blast Hardcheese5/3/13 5:40 pm

    "...can't organize a shag in a brothel..." I like that, can I use it? :) My other favorite is 'Couldn't time a bucket of s*** with a stopwatch." No, I have no idea what it means either.

    My hope is Nolan will be mainly a 'go to' guy, someone they can bring scripts/ideas for tweaking things, and to bust some heads if too many suits get involved.