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Hugh Howey's 'Sand'

UCP development slate doubles down on genre fare

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Jul 18, 2017

Ravens, and sirens, and sand divers! Oh my!

That’s just a touch of what’s in store from Universal Cable Productions (UCP), who just unveiled their annual development slate. And with projects in the works from such noted talent as Dan Harmon (Rick & Morty), Catherine Hardwick (Twilight), Gail Anne Hurd (Terminator, Aliens), Mark Forster (World War Z), and Gary Whitta (Rogue One), the studio is yet again betting big on genre fare.

“We’re passionate about genre at UCP and as our latest development slate shows, we continue to work with some of the industry’s most vibrant and imaginative talent to bring fans genre fare they can get behind,” said chief content officer of NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment and president of UCP, Jeff Wachtel, in a press release. “What began with Battlestar Galactica has grown into a mainstay for UCP as the genre itself has exploded into the mainstream.”

Judging from the sound of UCP’s intriguing development projects, that trend should continue.

Let’s start with SYFY’s adaptation of Maggie Stiefvater bestselling YA fantasy book series, The Ravens Cycle, which “tells the story of 17-year-old Blue Sargent who becomes involved with a group of four privileged private school boys on a quest to find a source of mythical and mysterious power hidden deep in rural Virginia.” Stiefvater will executive produce, along with Michael London (The Magicians) and Hardwicke, who is also directing the pilot. Andrew Miller (The Secret Circle) is writing and showrunning.

Up next, we’ve got an adaption of Kurt Vonnegut’s Sirens of Titan, from the ever-entertainting Harmon and writer/producer Evan Katz (24). The story “follows Malachi Constant, the richest man in 22nd-century America. He possesses extraordinary luck which he attributes to divine favor and has used to build upon his father’s fortune. He becomes the center point of a journey that takes him from Earth to Mars in preparation for an interplanetary war, to Mercury with another Martian survivor of that war, back to Earth to be pilloried as a sign of Man’s displeasure with his arrogance, and finally to Titan where he again meets the man ostensibly responsible for the turn of events that have befallen him.”

Perhaps the project I’m most excited about is Hugh Howey’s post-apocalyptic series Sand, executive produced by the author himself, along with series writer Whitta, and Forster, who will also direct the all-important pilot. Sand is shaping up to be an action drama “set in a world ravaged by ecological devastation, savage winds, and shifting dunes. At its center is a family who makes their way in this world as sand divers: the elite few who can travel deep beneath the desert floor to retrieve mysterious and valuable relics lost to the dust. Adrift in the wake of their father’s disappearance years ago, they rely on skill and each other to endure this ruthless environment where otherwise good people lie, sabotage, and kill in order to survive.”

But wait, we’re not done yet, UCP also optioned Roger Zelazny’s Hugo Award-winning sci-fi fantasy novel, Lord of Light, produced by Hurd and Ashley Miller (X-Men), who will also write the series. The premise: “After humans have moved to a new planet, technological disparities allow a privileged few to assume the names and likenesses of deities, and rule over the common people. Tired of the system, a former ‘god’ wages war against the unjust regime.”

And finally, Welcome to Hitchcock, written by Evan Spiliotopoulos (Beauty and the Beast), and in partnership with the legendary director’s estate, will contemporize some of Hitchcock’s tales with a modern-day take and high-profile talent in front of and behind the camera.  

With all these exciting projects in the works, along with their newly announced partnership projects with Dark Horse Entertainment, and another one with horror legend John Carpenter, it’s safe to say that UCP’s commitment to genre isn’t getting buried in the sand anytime soon.

So, which series are you most looking forward to digging into?