BBC America to Tackle ‘The Watch’ in Original Series

It was announced yesterday that BBC America has ordered a new original series, The Watch, based on Sir Terry Pratchett’s ‘Discworld’ novels, and specifically the ‘City Watch’ subset of novels.

From the Narrativia website:

New York – October 30, 2018 – On the heels of hit series Killing Eve and the introduction of the first female Doctor on Doctor Who, BBC AMERICA announced today the greenlight of the new original scripted series, The Watch, based on Sir Terry Pratchett’s wildly popular “Discworld” novels, which have sold more than 90 million books worldwide. The (8 x 60) series is produced by BBC Studios for BBC AMERICA. The Watch is distributed by BBC Studios.

The Watch is a punk rock thriller inspired by the legendary ‘City Watch’ subset of “Discworld” novels. This disruptive, character-driven thriller centers on Terry Pratchett’s misfit cops as they fight to save a ramshackle city of normalized wrongness, from both the past and future in a perilous quest. Modern and inclusive, The Watch features many famous “Discworld” creations including City Watch Captain Sam Vimes, the last scion of nobility Lady Sybil Ramkin, the naïve but heroic Carrot, the mysterious Angua and the ingenious non-binary forensics expert Cheery together with Terry Pratchett’s iconic characterization of Death.

The Watch was commissioned for BBC AMERICA by President and GM Sarah Barnett, and Nena Rodrigue, EVP of Original Programming, Acquisitions and Production. Co-produced with Narrativia and written by Simon Allen (The Musketeers, Das Boot and New Tricks), The Watch is executive produced by Hilary Salmon (Luther, Silent Witness and Three Girls), Ben Donald for BBC Studios and Rob Wilkins for Narrativia. Phil Collinson (Doctor Who) also joins the team as executive producer.

“The Watch has been startlingly reimagined for television by writer Simon Allen, while still cleaving to the humor, heart and ingenuity of Terry Pratchett’s incomparably original work,” commented BBC AMERICA President, Sarah Barnett. “BBC AMERICA embraces what’s fresh and exhilarating in TV; we believe The Watch will astonish audiences.”

Writer Simon Allen said: “With events in our own world making the insanity of ‘Discworld’ seem outrageously familiar, there couldn’t be a better time to bring Terry’s fun, fire and fury back to the small screen or a better place than BBC AMERICA. I’m grateful to them, BBC Studios and especially Rob Wilkins at Narrativia who has been a constant source of inspiration on this epic and emotional journey.”

Hilary Salmon, Executive Producer and Head of BBC Studios Drama Production London, said: “The Watch is a distinctly British but defiantly global exhilarating, thriller that is disruptive in its approach to the fantasy genre and also big on the themes of mortality, inclusion, alternative facts and justice. It’s a dizzying riot of hope, joy, suspense and audaciously dark humor. We can’t wait to work with BBC AMERICA to bring it all to life for existing fans and brand new audiences.”

Rob Wilkins, Executive Producer and Managing Director of Narrativia, said: “Many years ago Terry made the brave decision to allow brand new Watch stories to be told with his existing characters. It’s taken a long time for anything to happen because we guard these characters with our very lives! So many of Terry’s biggest ideas seem more vital and urgent now than ever before and I am thrilled to be working with Simon and such a talented team, who understand the unique genius of their creator. They have really keyed into the subversive qualities of Terry’s voice and they clearly adore ‘Discworld’ as much as I and millions of fans around the world do.”

The new series joins an outstanding offering of original scripted programming at BBC AMERICA including the Emmy®-nominated Killing Eve starring Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer, the iconic series Doctor Who starring Jodie Whittaker, and the Golden Globe®-winning Luther starring Idris Elba.

BBC Studios produces multi-award-winning dramas loved by audiences around the world, including Doctor Who, Luther and War and Peace. It works with the best established and new drama talent, from writers and directors to on-screen talent, to create original, bold and ambitious British drama. BBC Studios is also making Good Omens, based on the Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman novel, co-produced with Narrativia, The Blank Corporation and Amazon.

As a fan of Discworld, and indeed all things Terry Pratchett, I’m hotly anticipating the release of the adaptation of Good Omens. Not only for its own sake but now as a litmus for the future of The Watch. While I’m hoping for great things, a couple of points in this announcement have me thinking.

First is the idea that it will be a ‘punk rock thriller’. What precisely makes it punk rock? I wonder how they are interpreting this? Does this mean it won’t be set on the mean streets of Ankh-Morpork? Or will Ankh-Morpork be a modern city that looks suspiciously like New York or Vancouver?

The other point is the ‘startlingly reimagined’ comment. Why would something as uniquely envisioned as Discworld require reimagining? This causes me concern that this will mean the dilution of Sir Terry’s intent. Discworld is a brilliant and witty series of books, however, it never claimed to have universal appeal. Trying to make it so is a mistake. Whatever they do to change it, I hope that it respects Sir Terry’s vision and doesn’t make him or his work look foolish.

Discworld has long been a passion of mine and the news that BBC America is accepting the challenge to bring it to the screen in any form is exciting. It will be a few years before we see the fruit of this vision, but I will be waiting with high hopes.

City Watch Captain Sam Vimes as drawn by artist Paul Kidby.
City Watch Captain Sam Vimes as drawn by artist Paul Kidby.

‘FABRICATI DIEM, PVNC!’

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