When Spike TV launched in 2003 as a rebrand of another network, it was dubbed “the first television channel for men.” With content like UFC mixed martial arts coverage, adult cartoons, Baywatch reruns, James Bond flicks and, eventually, the Guys Choice Awards, the station was definitely geared toward the traditional dude viewer.
While Spike evolved over the years, catering more to the reality TV fans than one gender, this week it transforms into Paramount Network. With this big-name rebrand, Paramount looks to become more of a premium entertainment destination, with intriguing new scripted series. Clearly honing in on the cinematic spark of Paramount Pictures, the channel sets out to compete with the popular, critically acclaimed series on FX, Netflix and HBO.
Officially launching Thursday, Paramount Network will begin rolling out new content later this month with Waco, a six-part miniseries about the 1993 FBI/ATF siege of a compound occupied by the Branch Davidians. Taylor Kitsch stars as cult leader David Koresh alongside a promising cast that features Michael Shannon, Paul Sparks, Shea Whigham and John Leguizamo. Miniseries are enjoying a major moment right now, with Big Little Lies, Fargo and Feud gaining recent acclaim. If Waco delivers, it could very well be present during the next awards season.
Paramount also has new original series without firm premiere dates, including comedies Heathers, American Woman and Nobodies and drama Yellowstone.
A contemporary reimagining of the iconic 1988 film, Heathers promises “pitch-black” comedy as an outcast plots to kill the vicious popular clique that plagues the school. This time around, the mean girl gang gets a diverse makeover with a plus-size chick, a genderqueer character and a black lesbian rounding out the Heathers.
American Woman will take viewers back to the 1970s, following Bonnie (Alicia Silverstone), a newly single mom raising two daughters in California as she explores her independence amid the sexual revolution and second wave of feminism. If you watch The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (guilty), you’ll recognize this series as the one Kyle Richards has been developing for the last couple seasons. It’s based on her upbringing as a child star, with Silverstone playing a fictional version of her late mother.
Created by Taylor Sheridan (Sicario, Hell or High Water, Wind River), Yellowstone centers on a family that controls the largest ranch in the U.S., bordered by a Native American reservation and the oldest national park in the country. It’s a modern Wild West tale as the family — led by patriarch Kevin Costner — combats land developers, fracking complications and oil and lumber corporations, all while murders go unsolved.
Produced by hilarious husband-and-wife duo Melissa McCarthy and Ben Falcone, Nobodies follows three improv comics struggling to land their big break while their famous friends — guest stars include Jason Bateman, Bob Odenkirk and Kristen Wiig — rise in the Hollywood ranks.
It was also just announced that an adaptation of the award-winning British drama Accused will land at Paramount. Each episode of the anthology follows a different character charged with a crime. As they await their verdict in court, details of the crime are revealed, leaving viewers questioning their culpability.
Paramount’s rebranding isn’t a complete overhaul of Spike’s familiar programming. Many unscripted fan favorites will return on this channel, such as tattoo competition Ink Master, watering-hole takeover Bar Rescue and karaoke for non-singing celebs, Lip Sync Battle. The network will officially kick off at 9 p.m. Thursday with Lip Sync Battle Live: A Michael Jackson Celebration, where Neil Patrick Harris, Taraji P. Henson and Hailee Steinfeld will do their best King of Pop impressions.
Spikes’ transition into Paramount Network is truly a sign of the times. More high-caliber, movie-quality series are being cranked out like never before on network television, cable, premium networks and streaming platforms. As much as American audiences love their junk-food equivalent of TV, there’s a clear hunger for top-notch content. Hopefully these new series will just add to the wealth of promising prospects coming to our screens in 2018.