Starz Says 'American Gods' Is Back On Track, Explains 'Counterpart' Cancellation [TCA 2019]

Starz CEO Jeffrey Hirsch spoke to the Television Critics Association on Friday and announced some new shows and renewals. The Girlfriend Experience is getting a third season. Starz is producing Dangerous Liaisons as a series. Steven Soderbergh is making an unscripted series called Leavenworth . During the Q&A, questions about Starz's American Gods and cancellations of Now Apocalypse and Counterpart also came up, while the creators of Power had a surprise announcement too.

American Gods is Back on Track for Season 3

American Gods was in turmoil after season one. Showrunners Bryan Fuller and Michael Green left the show. Replacement showrunner Jesse Alexander also left before season two aired. The second season arguably showed signs of a lack of direction. They finally have a showrunner on season 3, Chic Eglee, and Starz promises American Gods is back on track. "We brought Chic on, who's doing a tremendous job with season three," Hirsch said. "Our partners at Fremantle continue to do a really good job to bring that show back into network. We feel pretty good about what's happening with the show."Of course Starz is going to say everything's going well. They kept saying that when Fuller and Green left. Hirsch wouldn't even answer questions about the circumstances of all the showrunner departures."What I can speak to is what's going on for season three," Hirsch said. "Based on what Chic is bringing to the table, we're seeing in the scripts, writing and development, it's coming on really, really well."We'll have to see. The only firm thing is that there is someone in charge of season three, so that makes a difference. "I think any time you bring a new showrunner on, they bring their own perspective on how to mount and run a show," Hirsch said. "I think that's what we're seeing."

Counterpart Doesn’t Fit the New Starz

During his opening remarks, Hirsch spoke a lot about Starz as a premium women's network. That makes sense with Outlander as a top show, Vida, Sweetbitter and the White Queen costume drama miniseries. The bad news is that shows like Counterpart no longer fit the demo."It was a very complicated show," Hirsch said. "It was a very male show. We had picked that show up four years ago and did a two season commitment before we hooked into this premium female strategy. It really has to serve that core premium female audience. If it doesn't, then we need to find something else that fills it."That's Hollywood. When a new regime comes in, they don't want the old regime's projects. Branding a premium network for women is a good thing, but it kinda stinks that they made a two season deal, and there was really no way for Counterpart to prove itself with those seasons once the network refocused. The same goes for Gregg Araki's Now Apocalypse: "Now Apocalypse is a great show. It was really out there, a good experiment, but we have made a decision not to bring it back."

Dangerous Liaisons is a Prequel

The 18th century French novel Les Liaisons dangereuses has been adapted into a film starring Glenn Close and John Malkovich. The teen drama Cruel Intentions is inspired by the manipulations of Merteuil and Valmont as well. Starz is not re-adapting the book. They are telling a new story about young Merteauil and Valmont. "We are excited to present this new twist on the classic story," Hirsch said. "The series will tell the story of the early years of characters  of the iconic characters Merteuil and Valmont, first as young, passionate lovers in the slums of Paris, then as they wreak havoc on society and each other in the court of Louis XVI."How early? Hirsch estimated Starz's Valmont and Merteauil will be older than teenagers, but younger than 30. So this won't be a direct adaptation Les Liaisons dengereuses, but Starz never considered a different title. Executive producer Colin Callender called it Dangerous Liaisons so they will too."I think from day one when Colin came in, it was always Dangerous Liaisons," Hirsch said. "Colin is such a great creator we trust Colin's judgment on everything he does."Starz's synopsis reads:

"Written and reimagined by Harriet Warner ("Tell Me Your Secrets", "Call the Midwife"), who also serves as executive producer and showrunner, this is Dangerous Liaisons for a 21st century audience told from the perspective of Merteuil, informed by her line from the novel: "Born to avenge my sex and conquer yours, I have succeeded in inventing strategies for doing so that before me had never been conceived." Thrilling, sexy and provocative, this story of seduction and betrayal follows the dangerous liaisons of the rich and powerful in the court of Louis VXI, as they wreak havoc on society, and each other along the way."

The Girlfriend Experience Season 3 

The adaptation of Steven Soderbergh's film will get another season. Each season has told different stories of escorts. The next one will be set in the U.K. and the world of technology."We'd like to announce the return of The Girlfriend Experience, the third iteration of this series, which will be set against the London tech scene," Hirsch said. "A young female neuroscientist begins to explore the transactional world of the GFE only to find herself deep in the uncanny valley with the relationships she creates."The show has really expanded on the idea of what a GFE can be. Some of the characters are professionals who get in deep with their clients. Others come to the GFE world out of necessity. A woman entrenched in another profession exploring a side hustle is new twist on the latter. Anja Marquardt will write and direct the season.

Leavenworth from Steven Soderbergh

Soderbergh is also working on the docu-series Leavenworth, taking viewers inside the military prison as it follows a single case. "Leavenworth, which premieres of STARZ on October 20, takes an intriguing look inside the military justice system," Hirsch said. "This series will unpack the politics, the procedures, and the personal challenges that lead to Lieutenant Clint Lorance being charged with the murder of two civilians in Afghanistan."Starz's synopsis reads:

"Clint Lorance is serving a 19-year sentence for murder at The United States Penitentiary, Leavenworth. While deployed in Afghanistan in July 2012, the former lieutenant ordered fire on three local men riding a motorcycle, killing two of them and outraging his platoon. In a first-hand account of a soldier navigating the US Army's legal system, Lorance seeks to overturn his conviction, provoking emotional debate between supporters and detractors that rises to the national stage. As determinations on Lorance's fate unfold, questions probe not only the merits of his conviction, but analyze the system at large and ultimately test the balance of guilt and innocence in the inscrutable circumstances of today's wars."

So it's clear retirement isn't working out for Soderbergh. Starz has had success with docuseries before. America to Me tackled Chicago's public school system and Warriors of Liberty City explored a youth athletics programs. Soderbergh also produced documentaries on Roman Polanski and Spalding Gray. 

Mary J. Blige Has the Power

During a panel for the final season of Power, Starz and the producers of the show announced a spinoff, Power: Book 2 – Ghost. Then they brought out Mary J. Blige to announce her as the star of the spinoff."This is probably the most exciting thing that's going to happen to me this year," Blige said. "I've been a fan of Power since the very beginning. I wanna thank Courtney Kemp and 50 Cent for having us start this conversation to become a part of the Power family maybe a year and a half ago. I've been a fan of Power forever because it's so relative to how I grew up. I knew so many Tashas and so many Ghosts. I dated so many Ghosts. I hung out with some Tashas and I still have friends who are Tashas. I'm a huge fan for life and I'm so grateful to be part of this Power family. It's been my chess game, the way I move in life. It's just what we grew up doing. Thank you for giving back to us how we grew up in the inner cities."Power, produced by Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, is a big show for Starz. Landing another A-list recording audience is a coup for the franchise.