Special Report on MIPCOM’s Most Wanted: Welcome to Mike’s World – Michael Moore takes another jab at TV.

Project: Michael Moore's World...
September 1, 1997

Project: Michael Moore’s World

Description: The BBC and Michael Moore are looking to build on the critical success of TV Nation with a new international series, Michael Moore’s World, set to begin production early next year.

Executive producers: Michael Moore, Dog Eat Dog Films; David Mortimer, BBC

Distributor: Mayfair Television Entertainment

Internationally recognized champion of the over-looked, Michael Moore has been developing a new show called Michael Moore’s World, hoping to build on the success of his much-covered and critically acclaimed TV Nation.

The new series is being represented by Mayfair Television Entertainment, who came across it just as they were looking to delve further into non-fiction programming. ‘Having launched the company very much off the strength of our drama programming, we decided we wanted to branch off into the factual market, trying to build a library that would both travel, and be of high entertainment value,’ says Alison Rayson, director of tv sales and programming at Mayfair. She explains that Mayfair had always been a fan of TV Nation and so, with the international launch of the series bringing a growing awareness of Moore’s personae, they set to work to piecing together international coproduction and financing.

Since the Michael Moore brand carries substantial weight, Mayfair has been able to be selective about which broadcasters will be involved at the production level. ‘Countries have been targeted for coproduction if they have a background that will lend itself to Michael’s treatment,’ says Rayson. ‘The idea is very much to replicate the ilk of eccentric features of TV Nation, but make the focus more international.’

Michael Moore’s World contains a global awareness which has appealed to broadcasters in Australia, Canada, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Belgium and South Africa. This year’s MIPCOM will decide who comes on board, and thus where the series will be produced and broadcast.

Getting the right broadcasters is a complicated task; Michael Moore’s World will be more expensive to produce than TV Nation because of the wider scope of its coverage. As a result, the BBC is going to have to come up with partners whose involvement will top the us$350,000 per episode that fox was reportedly putting in for TV Nation. Financial considerations aside, Moore’s approach to storytelling might appeal to audiences, but it hasn’t always endeared him to broadcasters.

1994: Moore pitches the initial pilot for TV Nation to NBC, which doesn’t show immediate interest. Michael Jackson, controller of the BBC at the time, hears about the pilot and obtains a copy. Once the BBC agrees to come up with 40% of the budget, nbc commits. A six-show season is produced – the result of an association between the BBC, Dog Eat Dog Films (Moore’s company) and Columbia Tristar International Television, with whom Moore has an exclusive tv agreement.

‘The enthusiasm for TV Nation in the U.K. was immediate and very gratifying,’ says David Mortimer, executive producer on the series. ‘There was clearly a buzz about it.’ The buzz is loud enough that U.S. broadcaster fox agrees to give the series a long-term home. Moore and Columbia Tristar decide to make the switch from NBC.

1995 Summer: A second season of eight episodes runs on the BBC and FOX, with audience reaction even more impressive than in the first season. Three million viewers watch the show on BBC2, a substantial audience for the time slot. In some instances, U.K. audiences see a slightly different line-up than their U.S. counterparts. ‘There were a number of stories which aired in the U.K. which couldn’t air in the U.S.,’ says Mortimer, ‘because of the sensibilities of the U.S. networks.’

TV Nation is a critical success in both countries, but not necessarily commercially. The series appeals more to the BBC, which doesn’t rely on advertising for survival, than fox. ‘It was clear at the end of the second season that the BBC wanted more from Michael. We wanted him to think of us as his natural home in the U.K. We would have been happy with more TV Nations. At that point, however, fox made it clear that they didn’t want any more.’

Fall 1995: Moore, the BBC and Columbia Tristar enter discussions on how to proceed with the next project.

Early 1996: Moore has other immediate obligations – namely the book tour for Downsize This – and has to put the project on the back burner.

While on tour, hitting 49 cities in 50 days, he films a feature doc looking at the U.S. at the start of the 1996 presidential campaign. But as Columbia Tristar has no interest in a theatrical release, the production becomes the exclusive property of the BBC.

The US$1 million doc film becomes The Big One, Moore’s first feature since Roger and Me.

October 1996: Meanwhile, talks for a new tv series have continued. The bbc/Columbia Tristar/Moore group goes to mipcom in 1996 to test market reaction to the series, now named Michael Moore’s World, and finds a favorable response in Canada, Australia and in Europe.

April 1997 The Big One premieres on the BBC.

September 1997: Moore and the BBC bring the tv series back to mipcom. ‘At this point we’re confirming who the coproducers may be, so that we can be in a position to potentially go into production at the beginning of 1998,’ says Mortimer.

‘It’s a huge project because of the nature of what Michael does. It necessitates a large commitment in terms of budget, but also in terms of belief. It’s been important to have detailed discussions with potential producers or broadcasters around the world so that they realize the bbc’s commitment to Michael and the type of series they’re buying into.’

Mortimer is especially cautious when it comes to U.S. broadcasters. ‘In many ways, I would think the easiest thing would be to produce the show and then look for an American buyer, because at that stage the broadcaster knows exactly what they’re getting into.’

1998: Delivery is planned for the fall. The BBC will be the major source of funding for the series, with rights still subject to negotiations with Columbia Tristar.

Also in this report:

-Bad Boys, Whatcha Gonna Do? Offthe Fence stakes out South Africa’s elite ESPU in a new series that brings Cops-style attitude to the animal world

-War of the Worlds – Worldview Pictures divides and conquers in its production, War and Civilization

-Swimming With Sharks: Predators and distributors come together for Ron Taylor Production’s Shark Pod.

-Stade-by-Stage: For the 1998 World Cup, France pulls out all the stops and LM is there.

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