The Amazon/MGM deal is here. MGM (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) Studios has been acquired by Jeff Bezos owned Amazon for a whopping $8.45 billion. MGM had many impending debts and had been struggling with bankruptcy for the last decade. The move doesn’t come without controversy though, as MGM’s estimated value was around $5.5 billion last December so what changed in 5 months? This acquisition has also raised eyebrows at the Department of Justice and Amazon will have to deal with an antitrust motion before completing the buy.
Except for The Grand Tour, Amazon has largely struggled in the unscripted and reality show arena whereas MGM boasts of very solid unscripted series like Shark Tank, The Real Housewives, Survivor, and The Voice. But the big question is what will happen to these franchises under Amazon. Will they be disposed of, or will they be renewed? When Disney bought Fox, some of the TV shows and films that were under production at the time were shelved or indefinitely delayed. That could happen to MGM’s properties as well because Amazon seems to have its hands full for the coming years with the mega-budget Lord of the Rings TV adaptation coming later this year, Invincible, Mr. And Mrs. Smith, The Boys, and many others. Here are some of the major TV shows and franchises Amazon just bought.
The Handmaid’s Tale
Based on Margaret Atwood’s acclaimed novels, The Handmaid’s Tale is a dystopian show set in a world where fertility rates have collapsed and a totalitarian government of Gilead has taken control of America. Under this regime, women are reduced to mere objects and only serve the purpose of serving men. Fertile women called ‘Handmaids’ are enslaved and bear children of their masters. The show stars Elisabeth Moss as Offred a handmaiden. The first season premiered in 2017 on Hulu. As of now, the series has been renewed for a fifth season along with a sequel series based on Atwood’s 2019 novel The Testaments. The Handmaid’s Tales season 4 is currently airing on Hulu.
The series made history when it became the first show produced by a streaming service to win an Emmy for Outstanding Series. The show has been appreciated for its relevant themes and broad social commentary but the latest season has received some criticism for its excessive violence and torture. The series has carried on beyond the book which is never a good sign and usually means that an ending is the offing. The Handmaid’s Tale is likely to stream its fifth season on Hulu only but the spinoff The Testaments will most likely debut on prime video. The Handmaid’sTale is one of the most successful shows of MGM and Amazon would be wise to cash in on it.
Set in snowy Minnesota and North Dakota, Fargo is a black comedy crime drama show inspired by the 1996 film of the same name. The show takes place within the same universe as the Coen brothers directed film. Created by Noah Hawley the show follows an anthology format with each season set in a different era and location, with a new story and characters. The show is also inspired by Coen Brother’s other films and includes many references to them. The first season premiered in 2014 on FX and starred Martin Freeman, Colin Hanks, Alison Tolman, and Billy Bob Thornton who gave a truly astounding performance as the heartless assassin Lorne Malvo. The second season was set in the late 70s and had Patrick Wilson, Kristen Dunst, Carrie Coon, and Jesse Plemons in the lead. The 3rd season had Ewan McGregor playing a double role along with Mary Elizabeth Winstead And David Thewlis. While the first 3 seasons were primarily set in Minnesota, the fourth season starring Chris Rock saw a change of location to Kansas City, Missouri, and released in 2020. The fourth season’s reception was milder compared to the other three and critics termed it weak but still better than most other shows on television. Noah Hawley is currently busy with an Alien television series but has said that season 5 will definitely happen.While there is no dearth of good crime dramas shows on Prime Video, Fargo is too good of a show to not renew. And since Disney now owns FX, if renewed, Fargo‘s next season will stream on Prime Video.
Vikings is a historical fantasy drama series written and created by Michael Hirst for the HISTORY channel. The show ran from 2013 to 2020 for six seasons. Vikings is inspired by the sagas of legendary Norse hero Ragnar Lothbrok. The official synopsis is “The history original series Vikings transports us to the brutal and mysterious world of Ragnar Lothbrok, a Viking warrior and farmer who yearns to explore and raid the distant shores across the ocean.” In a star-making turn, Australian actor Travis Fimmel portrayed Ragnar for the first 4 seasons and received unanimous praise for his intense performance. Along with him starred, Kathryn Winnick as Ragnar’s wife Lagertha and Alexander Ludwig as Bjorn Ironside. Gustaf Skarsgård played fan-favorite Floki for all 6 Seasons. The show received acclaim for the first 4 seasons. Its quality somewhat diminished after the departure of its enigmatic lead Travis Fimmel in the fourth season. The last two seasons were criticized for being unambitious and repetitive but the show was still successful enough to warrant a run of 6 seasons. Hirst is satisfied with how Vikings ended and doesn’t plan to return for a sequel or prequel. But interestingly, MGM is co-producing a Vikings spinoff called Vikings: Valhalla with Netflix that’ll release in late 2021 or early 2022. The 2nd season of Vikings: Valhalla is reportedly in development as well which means that fans will have to watch Vikings and Vikings: Valhalla on separate platforms. Maybe further down the line, it will revert over to Amazon, as the marvel shows reverted to Disney.
Teen Wolf is a supernatural teen drama that premiered on MTV in 2011. It ran for six years and concluded on a high note in 2017. Teen Wolf is about Scott McCall (Tyler Posey), a high school student living a very mysterious and complicated life. Living in the fictional California town of Beacon Hills, Scott gets bitten by a werewolf which changes his ordinary life forever and gives him the ability to morph into a werewolf himself. Scott then learns to control his animalistic urges to protect his hometown. The show is loosely based on the 1985 film of the same name. Created by Jeff Davis, Teen Wolf had a very significant viewership throughout its run, especially on MTV’s online streaming platforms. A book and a comic themed on the show have also been released. While the stars of the show have expressed their desire to return for a Teen Wolf revival, there are currently no plans for that. Moreover, most of the stars seemed to have moved on. Tyler Hoechlin portrays DC comics Superman on the CW show Superman & Lois. Dylan O’Brien headlined the Maze Runner franchise and recently starred in Netflix’s Love and Monsters. There is definitely scope for spinoffs or reboots but the show ended just 4 years ago and is still quite popular so it is unlikely it will be continued by Amazon. Teen Wolf can be streamed on Hulu or Amazon Prime.
Stargate is a military science fiction media franchise based on the 1994 film by Roland Emmerich. The first series called Stargate Sg-1 created by Brad Wright (creator of Netflix’s Travelers) and Jonathan Glassner premiered in 1997 as a sequel to the movie. After that came Stargate Atlantis in 2004, Stargate Universe in 2009, and a prequel web series called Stargate Origins which consisted of 10-minute episodes. Besides these, there have been many books, video games, and direct to DVD movies. The original cast consisted of Richard Dean Anderson, Michael Shanks, and Amanda Tapping. Brad wright has been trying to get a fourth series off the ground since 2019 but to no avail. Stargate’ s passionate and global fan base has been demanding new shows set in the existing canon of the television universe. Wright’s willingness to return to the franchise is further a boon to fans, to MGM, and to Amazon. According to reports, some of the original cast members have been approached to return for a series. Except for The Expanse, Amazon doesn’t have much to offer in the sci-fi department. If Amazon decides to revive Stargate, it could turn out to be mutually beneficial for both. As such, chances of Stargate’s revival look good.
The Real Housewives
The Real Housewives is a media franchise consisting of several reality shows that broadcast on Bravo. It began airing in 2006 and was inspired by scripted soap operas like desperate housewives. It centers around the lives of upper-class women who lead glamorous lives in various cities. There have been 10 Real Housewives series set in America of which 9 are currently ongoing and another one is set to premiere in late 2021. There have been many spinoffs and international installments as well. While the pandemic has affected the production of the show it has also given some new material for years to come. The franchise’s original longest-running series The Real Housewives of Orange County returned for its 15th season last October. The show has faced some backlash for segregation of cast, lack of diversity, and perpetuating gender stereotypes. Only a few of the Real Housewives shows are produced by the MGM-owned Evolution Media and their distribution rights will likely pass on to Amazon but the others will still broadcast on Bravo. The way it is going it is safe to say that Real Housewives is unlikely to end any time soon and will most likely be picked up for more seasons.
The Hills was a reality TV series that aired six seasons and focused on the personal and professional lives of several young men and women residing in Los Angeles, California. The show ran from 2006 to 2010 on MTV. It was a moderate success for MTV but it did receive criticism from viewers and critics for being ‘fake’ and feeling ‘Scripted’. A spin-off starring cast member Whitney Port aired from 2008 to 2010. In 2018 MTV announced a reboot of The Hills titled The Hills: New Beginnings that would reunite original cast members alongside their children and friends, and follow their personal and professional lives in LA. The show premiered in 2019 and season two is currently airing. It is also produced by MGM-owned Evolution Media and would most likely move to Prime Video if renewed for more seasons.
The Voice TV show is a singing competition series hosted by Carson Daly since its premiere in 2011 on NBC. The show is the American edition of The Voiceof Holland and part of The Voice Franchise. It creates an interactive environment by letting viewers vote for their favorite contestants. The winner gets $100,000 and a record deal with the Universal Music Group. It airs two cycles every year but aired only one in the period 2021-2022. Its 20th season concluded recently on the 25th of May. The Voice used to be one of NBC’s most-watched series but ratings have dropped over the years. Many blame the ratings drop on the shift to airing one episode per week from the usual two episodes per week. Maybe NBC makes the change of airing 1 cycle per year permanent but not continuing it would be a mistake because numbers may be low compared to earlier seasons but they are still high enough to warrant a renewal. As of now, there has been no news whether it’s coming back or not.
Shark Tank is an American franchise based on the Japanese Dragons Den. It shows entrepreneurs making business presentations to a panel of five investors or ‘sharks’ who decide whether to invest in their company. It is produced by the chairman of MGM television Mark Burnett. The series has proved to be very successful for ABC. It premiered in August 2009 and finished airing its 12th season in May 2021. Due to its success, Shark Tank had spawned numerous international versions and spinoffs. As of now, ABC has renewed Shark Tank for a thirteenth season. After the thirteenth season, Shark Tank may move to Prime Video.
Vanderpump Rules is an ongoing reality show that premiered on Bravo in 2013. It follows Lisa Vanderpump and her employees at SUR restaurant in West Hollywood as they work on building their futures in show business and in doing so, become entangled in interpersonal drama. Lisa Vanderpump is a British restaurateur who debuted On The Real Housewives Of Beverly Hills in 2010 and remained an original cast member till her departure from the show in 2019. As such, Vanderpump Rules is very similar to Real Housewives and received good ratings initially. But for the last few seasons, ratings have dropped and the show has been criticized by viewers for a terrible new cast. Some have even called it unwatchable. On top of that, the show has faced allegations of staging the acts. Some cast members were fired recently over racist Twitter posts. Many cast members are not returning for the renewed ninth season because of challenges associated with Covid. The ratings saw an increase last year (probably cause of lockdown) and many changes have been made to return the show to its former glory. So, it is unlikely that Vanderpump Rules will be canceled. Moreover, viewers have been demanding a separate spin-off for the young members of the cast. Maybe a change of network is just what the show needs to soar again.
One thing to note is that Amazon has not fully acquired some of the shows because they were never owned by MGM in the first place. Instead, it has acquired the production companies behind those shows. For example, MGM owns Epix, Evolution Media, and has third-party deals with Hulu, Netflix, Bravo, and other networks to air its shows. More details about the rights and ownership of MGM’s properties will probably be made public after the sale is finalized.
“The acquisition’s thesis here is really very simple,” Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos said on a call with shareholders. “MGM has a vast, deep catalog of much-beloved intellectual property, and with the talented people at MGM and the talented people at Amazon Studios, we can reimagine and develop that IP for the 21st century.” It looks like Amazon wants to take full advantage of MGM’s intellectual property.