HUMANITAS Trustee Greg Berlanti's 'You' Scores Early Season 2 Renewal at Lifetime
Lifetime is showing faith in You.
The female-focused cable network has handed out an early season two renewal for Greg Berlanti-produced scripted drama You, starring Penn Badgley. The go-ahead comes six weeks ahead of its official Sept. 9 series debut on the A+E Networks-owned cabler.
Picked up to series in April 2017, the thriller is based on Caroline Kepnes' best-selling novel of the same name. You is described as a 21st century love story about an obsessive yet brilliant 20-something named Joe (Badgley), who uses the hyper-connectivity of today's technology to make the woman of his dreams (Elizabeth Lail) fall for him.
Season two will follow Joe as his search for love takes him to Hollywood, where dreams can be made or shattered. Kepnes' follow-up novel, Hidden Bodies, will be the focus of the sophomore run. Production on season two of You is expected to begin in Los Angeles this year. The renewal was spurred by the June news of You receiving funding from the California Film Commission.
Shay Mitchell, Luca Padovan and Zach Cherry co-star.
Season one of the series, from Berlanti's home base of Warner Bros. Television, was presold to Netflix, which licensed the drama for first-run international rights (outside of the U.S.) and second-window rights in the U.S. That deal was part of a new business model in which Netflix partners with U.S. studios and identifies series that air on other linear or digital networks early on in the process. Under the pact, Netflix boarded You as a co-financer as part of a push to help provide additional financial support for big-swing dramas. You represents a bigger swing and rare studio buy than the typical scripted fare Lifetime has picked up in the past.
From writers and exec producers Berlanti and Sera Gamble (The Magicians), the series is exec produced by Sarah Schechter from Greg Berlanti Productions, Man Sewing Dinosaur and Alloy Entertainment. A&E Studios co-produces the drama.
The renewal comes as Berlanti has a record 15 live-action scripted series — all dramas. Of those, 10 are on broadcast: The CW's All American, Arrow, Black Lightning, Legends of Tomorrow, The Flash, Riverdale and Supergirl; NBC's Blindspot; CBS' God Friended Me and The Red Line; plus one at Netflix, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina; and DC Universe's Titans and Doom Patrol. Berlanti also stands to add yet another DC superhero drama next season as The CW announced plans to bring Batwoman to the small screen with the prolific producer and writer Caroline Dries.
During his time before the press Thursday, Berlanti was asked how involved he is in You amid his historic workload. He noted that he fell in love with Kepnes' book and read it in a night or two, with Warners asking him if he'd like to bring it to TV, given that the story of a stalker is considerably darker than anything else he's done. He noted that he had wanted to work with Gamble again (after previously teaming with her on a passed-over pilot) and get back into writing since he hadn't done much of late. (He co-wrote the pilot with Gamble.) Berlanti pointed to Schechter, who runs his WB-based production company, as affording him the ability to move fluidly from show to show.
"I go to the [writers'] room and come through and see where they're at and try and help where I can," Berlanti said. "In terms of wealth of things we're doing, Sarah is working day to day on even more shows than I am. ... I try to conserve a certain amount of story time, usually for new shows, to be in the room and work on scripts. Then there is a moment when [the shows] take flight on their own and don't need me a much anymore — and by that moment, I'm usually dreaming up something else with someone else."
The renewal comes as speculation had mounted that Lifetime could be exiting the scripted originals space after seeing UnREAL, its one-time prized drama, move to Hulu for its fourth and final season. (Lifetime has not yet set a premiere date for the final season, which is now streaming on Hulu.) Next up, Lifetime has Jenji Kohan-produced American Princess.
Lifetime announced the You renewal during its time before the press Thursday at the Television Critics Association's summer press tour, where the cabler also unveiled plans to increase its number of original movies to 75 in 2019. As part of the push, Lifetime plans to bring several book franchises to the screen, including Jane Green with a three-part deal.
During the You panel at TCA, star Badgley was asked how he thinks viewers will respond to a series about a stalker in the #MeToo era. "I'm interested to see how people respond to the show. It's a bit of a social experiment. It's litmus test to see the mental gymnastics we're willing to do at a cultural level to love an evil white man," he told reporters. "I'm not nervous — because we shot it already — but I think it will certainly add to the conversation and create its own conversation."
The cast and creators of You also addressed the dangers of social media in today's era. Berlanti revealed that the original pitch to the studio and Lifetime for included finding personal photos and information — like the name of a nanny — about executives during the original meeting. Thursday's TCA panel started the same way when Lifetime displayed a number of personal images of reporters on stage, leaving many in the room surprised.