Jan 28, 2014

Tradecraft: Transporter TV Series Finally Comes to America

Deadline reports that the Transporter TV series is finally coming to America! TNT has acquired the first season of the Chris Vance series based on Luc Besson's neo-Eurospy Jason Statham film trilogy, along with the upcoming, retooled second season. The first season aired in many countries around the world last year, and is already widely available on Region 2 DVD and region-free Blu-Ray in foreign markets. (I broke down and imported a Region 4 set from Australia last year since it looked unlikely to air here.) We've been hearing about a Transporter TV series since way back in 2009; it was officially greenlit in late 2010, and in early 2011 it was reported that Cinemax would partner with EuropaCorp to air the series in the United States. Later that year Vance (best known to spy fans from an arc on Burn Notice) was tapped to star as Frank Martin, the role originated by Statham, and subsequently joined by Andrea Osvárt as his handler, Carla, a former CIA operative and a character who didn't appear in the theatrical films. François Berléand signed on to reprise his role from the films as Inspector Tarconi, Martin's friend and occasional fishing partner, and Delphine Chanéac (the 2006 Pink Panther) and Rachel Skarsten (Birds of Prey) rounded out the cast as, respectively, Olivia, a reporter tracking Martin’s work, and Delia, the mysterious daughter of a man from Martin’s past. That fall, the trouble started, with the original showrunners departing over creative differences. Before the first season's twelve episodes would wrap, their replacement would also ankle, and production would shut down when Vance was sidelined with an injury. The first trailer came out in the summer of 2012, heralding airdates in Europe and elsewhere, but another year went by with still no announcement of a Cinemax premiere. In August of last year it was announced that the cable network had backed out, and the show's international producers were seeking a new U.S. partner. Undaunted by all these setbacks, they were still pressing forward with a second season, and had tapped a heavy hitter to oversee a retooling: X-Files vet Frank Spotnitz, who had shepherded two hit international action co-productions on Cinemax, Hunted and the first American season of Strike Back. Vance's option had expired, but was being renegotiated. Apparently that's happened, because Deadline reports that production on the second season will begin at the end of February, shooting in Canada, Morocco and the Czech Republic. TNT (where Vance is a familiar face from a recurring role on Rizzoli & Isles) is on board to air both seasons.

The first season of Transporter was a bit of a mixed bag (perhaps not surprising, given its difficult production history), with iffy plots and occasionally sub-par acting offset by some truly incredible car chases and stunt sequences, high production values, and spectacular locations. While the movies were rated PG-13, the TV show was designed for Cinemax, and therefore featured copious nudity and occasionally brutal violence. Obviously, that will have to be trimmed for a TNT audience. (Apparently a sanitized version was already aired in some territories.) But honestly, its unabashed grindhouse sleaze appeal was part of the charm of the show, and I hope it doesn't lose that in the cutting process. At any rate, I'm happy that the series will continue, and that it finally has a U.S. network home!

While Besson's EuropaCorp licensed the property out to another production outfit, Atlantique, for television, that hasn't stopped them from pressing forward in the meantime with further feature films. Last year it was announced that EuropaCorp had struck a deal with China's Fundamental Films to co-produce not one but three more entries in the theatrical series. Still unknown is whether those films, which will be set at least partially in China, will star Statham, Vance or another actor altogether. Personally, I'm rooting for Statham, who last played the part in 2008's Transporter 3 (review here), to return to the role that really put him on the map as an action star. But until that happens, Chris Vance is not a bad television substitute.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It aired on HBO Canada last season. It was reasonably entertaining and hope the second season airs here as well.