Wednesday, May 24, 2006

L&O: Gorky Park

'L&O' getting Russian treatment

Russian television viewers soon will get their own versions of two of the series in the "Law & Order" TV franchise — replete with cops, criminals and lawyers working in the Russian justice system.

NBC Universal International Television Distribution, Wolf Films and Russian broadcaster NTV have locked in a format deal for localized Russian versions of Dick Wolf's hit series "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" and "Law & Order: SVU." The deal was unveiled Tuesday during the Los Angeles Screenings.

The moves mark the second and third international format deals for the "L&O" brand, with NTV committed to an initial 12-episode order for each series.

A French version of "CI," announced in July, is in preproduction and slated for a spring 2007 launch on TF1.

It also is the first time in Russian history that a U.S. primetime drama series will be remade for local audiences, according to Tuesday's announcement. The Russian versions of both shows are scheduled to premiere this year and are in preproduction in Moscow. They initially will adapt the original American scripts, taking into account language, culture and the local justice system.

The series is being produced by 2V and GATV, on behalf of NTV, in association with NBC Universal and Wolf Films. In order to adapt the series for a Russian audience, 2V's Pavel Korchagin and GATV's Ed Wierzbowski will consult with the shows' creative teams, including Wolf, the shows' writers and producers, along with Leslie Jones, vp international sales and format production for NBC Universal International Television Distribution.

Jones said that because the two shows do not involve as many legal issues as the original "L&O" series, the differences between the U.S. and Russian legal systems does not present a major obstacle. "But it's still very much a challenge," she added.

Wolf added, "Realistically, both series travel better than the mother ship because the legal systems do vary in each country." However, he added that the Russian legal system is "coming closer" to that of the U.S. The U.S. State Department at one point in the past actually sent over 10 episodes of the original "L&O" series to the Russian government as examples of how the U.S. legal system operates.

"This has been a dream for a long time," said Wolf, who has long maintained that the franchise had enormous potential as an international franchise. He added that Jones "deserves more than a pat on the back for this. She has been really working these deals. … This new partnership represents a giant step in the globalization of the 'Law & Order' brand."

Jones said, "We are not just copying the original scripts, we are using them as baselines for the general story line. But the cultural adaptations that are needed not only take account of location, (but of) local sensibilities, the legal system, the culture and the actual language."

She said that the U.S. version of the "L&O" franchises had done well in the Russian ratings in the past. Russian audiences were clearly smitten with the crime show genre, with some local crime shows doing very well.

In addition, first vp and head of programming for NTV Network Eugeni Kucherenko said, "Whatever differences may exist between Russia and the U.S.A., there is one area where we are united — in our strong intent to fight crime. TV is a very influential medium, and this is why we strive to show that evil must not prevail and that law and order will always be on top in the fight. We don't have any doubts that our new series, based on the 'Law & Order' branded formats, will not only entertain, but will serve this noble public cause."

Under the terms of the agreement, NBC Universal will retain exclusive worldwide distribution rights to the new Russian episodes.


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