Yesterday morning I had the pleasure of heading to the headquarters of Sony Pictures Europe in the heart of London’s Soho to attend the launch of Sony TV, the first branded TV channel to broadcast in the UK.
The channel launches across the country on Sky channel 157 from April 7th, and is primarlily aimed at women — so I was obviously the right person to cover the massive launch. No, really it’s all very impressive, and looking at what Sony are offering I think that it will garner a much bigger audience than it’s primary target demographic.
The channel will feature the best of quality scripted programming, like the sitcom ‘Til Death, and the UK premiere of the Jada Pinkett Smith medical drama Hawthorne. There will also be some quality film output, with the channel offering films at 9pm each night from Thursday through until Monday with the likes of Sony Pictures releases MARIE ANTOINETTE, PHILADELPHIA and THE DA VINCI CODE amongst the film slew of films to be broadcast during it’s debut month. Sony TV will also bring some of the award-winning drama hits Hustle and Hotel Babylon to the small screen, along with critically acclaimed US drama Huff, and the last ever season of Las Vegas starring Tom Selleck. Another key piece of content is the entire (re)run of the classic teen series Dawson’s Creek, which will hit on every weekday at 7pm, with a catch-up available on Sundays. According to Kate Marsh, who took us through the programming schedule, we will also be treated to Hollywood classics from Sony’s, MGM and indeed other major studios will hit the channel every weekday at 2pm. In the words of Sony themselves, they are ‘bringing back the afternoon black-and-white movie’.
“We feel there’s space for a quality, scripted entertainment channel where our audience can indulge in a bit of ‘me-time’ with a mix of new and familiar content,” Kate March, Senior Vice-President, Broadcast and Channel Developmen, EMEA Networks.
Yesterday, we were treated to a showreel of what will be hitting screens come April 7th, and as I said, I was impressed by the line-up. We were also given a look at a ‘producer’s choice’ episode of Hawthorne entitled ‘Mother’s Day,’ which will be broadcast during the first season run of the drama. Starring Jada Pinkett Smith, who also executive produces, the show revolves around a hospital nursing chief (Christina Hawthorne), who has to battle the daily pressures of a busy emergency room with budget cuts and declining nursing services. It’s always difficult to a) guage the quality and range of a show like this from just the one sitting and b) try to even start to review if having seen it projected onto a massive cinema screen, as this is absolutely not the way in which the material is meant to be seen. So, I’m not going to review it, but instead comment that the show is now in it’s third season in the US over on TNT, and has proved massively popular with American audiences and indeed the target audience which Sony TV is aiming it’s new channel at.
We were treated to a 30 minute Q+A with Jada herself following the screening who was absolutely delightful. The actress and producer of the show and indeed films like that massive success THE KARATE KID and the upcoming ANNIE, sat on stage before us talking up her show and answering questions fielded from the many journalists in front of her. During the very intriguing Q+A, Jada revealed her love of east coast hip-hop, 80’s music including her admiration for the work of Aha, and not very much at all about the upcoming ANNIE reimagining. What Jada did have a lot to say about was her work on Hawthorne, and the amount of pressure working as both an actress and indeed producer on such a successful show.
“It’s pretty difficult. I would definitely not do that again.” She says, laughing.
“I will do one or the other, but as an executive producer, you really have to deal with a lot of the admin of the show and that’s a kind of dealing with making sure you review the edits and [you] come in on budget. It’s very difficult juggling those two hats. I actually like [doing] them both. I just produced The Karate Kid, and I wasn’t on screen at all. I enjoyed it tremendously but I love being in front of the camera, just acting.”
One thing’s for sure, Hawthorne has been hugely successful on the other side of the Atlantic, and I’m sure that it will pick up some of the success over here to as it finds it’s audience, and Jada is excellent in it as both actress and executive producer.
Hawthorne’s success is phenomenal in the US, and as I previously stated, the show is now about to get a third season in the States, something that Jada is proud of.
“It truly is a blessing, especially being an African-American women as there really aren’t a lot of other African-American women on television with a lead role in a TV show, and I do feel blessed to have this opportunity.”
So, what about this mystery ‘ghost’ producer on the show?
“Yes, my husband.” Says Jada, referring to mega-star Will Smith. “He is a master structuralist as far as story in concerned. There’s noone better in the business thatn him in my opinion. He understands the pulse of what people want to see, how to create the maximum emotional impact, and act great, so he starting last year was very very involved on Hawthorne, so yes, he’s been my knight in shining armour.” She adds.
“Oh, it gets sticky!” Jada adds when asks what it’s like working alongside Will. “It’s not eay working with your husband!” She laughs. “But, we always give great product. It’s not easy in the process, but as we go along it gets easier, but yes it does get sticky.”
Hawthorne will be broadcast every Thursday at 8pm. Here’s some more info.
At Richmond Trinity Hospital, Director of Nursing Christina Hawthorne (Jada Pinkett Smith) is locked in a battle against forces far too large for any one person to handle. Whether fighting to see that a homeless woman is treated like a human being, talking a close friend and suicidal cancer patient off a ledge, accommodating the clashing egos of the hospital’s talented doctors and administrators, or managing a nursing staff of grizzled veterans and idealistic young rookies, she’s the much-needed conscience for an organization that all too often forgets whom it’s there to serve. Still learning to cope with the death of her husband and make peace with her powerful and grieving mother-in-law, Christina looks to balance her pressure cooker career with raising a smart but willful teenage girl as she tries to change a broken system, one patient at a time.
Sony TV starts broadcasting on Thursday 7th April on Sky Channel 157. Tune in for the opening episode of season one of Dawson’s Creek, the pilot of Hawthorne and the Oscar winning movie MARIE ANOTOINETTE, all of which screen on opening night.