Magazine article Variety

Hold the Melodrama: Lifetime Redefines Its Telepic Brand

Magazine article Variety

Hold the Melodrama: Lifetime Redefines Its Telepic Brand

Article excerpt


A+E banks on 'Bonnie & Clyde' to steal wider demos and shoot it out for viewers across three networks

A+E Networks' miniseries treatment of the Bonnie and Clyde story is a bold gamble in almost every way.

The four-hour production tackles the story of well-known historical figures, and treads ground covered by director Arthur Penn's much-lauded 1967 feature. "Bonnie & Clyde" will unfold as a simulcast over two nights, Dec. 8-9, on three A+E nets: A&E, Lifetime and History. That programming strategy will prove lucrative if auds show up - and be a triple whammy if they don't.

But for Robert Sharenow, Lifetime Networks' exec VP and g.m., what's perhaps most valuable about the mini is the promise that it will expand in viewers' minds the definition of a Lifetime movie. Sharenow has been on a mission to move past the stigma of the melodramatic sudsers that have become synonymous with the câbler over the years, bringing in bigger names, higher production values and more ambitious material.

'"Bonnie & Clyde' is one of the few stories that has broad appeal in multiple touch points," Sharenow explained. "Clearly there's a history angle, but there's also a love story, and it's a great piece of pop culture."

The project, initially developed as a two-hour telepic, also brings marquee names including Emile Hirsch as Clyde Barrow, Holly Hunter as Bonnie Parker's mother and William Hurt as the Texas Ranger who brings down the gang. Rising British star Holliday Grainger steps into Faye Dunaway's shoes as Bonnie.

(Similarly, Lifetime's upcoming TV adaptation of V.C. Andrews novel "Flowers in the Attic" stars Heather Graham, Kiernan Shipka and Ellen Burstyn. This year marked the first time three of Lifetime's TV movies received Emmy noms, including actress in a mini for Alfre Woodard in "Steel Magnolias.")

"I think the days of making Lifetime movies just for a Lifetime woman are over," Sharenow said. "Lifetime viewers are liking them, but we're also bringing in a new audience."

The "Bonnie & Clyde" miniseries delves deeply into the lore surrounding the story of the Parker-Barrow gang and its 1930s spree of bank robberies. The need for faithfulness to the period put considerable pressure on the production team, led by exec producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron and director Bruce Beresford. …

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