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Xbox Expands Originals Lineup

28 Apr, 2014 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Microsoft committed to six programs, with another six in development

Microsoft has ramped up efforts to take on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon in the burgeoning field of original content. Starting this June, the software giant will debut premium dramas, comedies, documentaries, animation, unscripted shows and live events exclusively for Xbox 360, Xbox One and other Microsoft devices.

In addition to the previously announced June bow of World Cup soccer-themed reality show “Every Street United,” Xbox will launch a “Halo” TV series based on the award-winning “Halo” franchise and executive produced by Steven Spielberg. In addition, a "Halo" digital feature film will be released later this year executive produced by Ridley Scott. Sergio Mimica-Gezzan ("Battlestar Galactica," "Pillars of the Earth," "Heroes") will direct.

With the critical success and media attention given Netflix’s political drama “House of Cards” and women’s prison dramedy “Orange Is the New Black,” Microsoft last year lured Nancy Tellem from CBS to jumpstart original programing at Xbox — heretofore primarily a video game and third-party content streaming platform.

“We believe Xbox Originals should embrace the way our fans think about traditional TV,” Tellem said in a statement.

“Humans” is an English-language adaptation of acclaimed Swedish series, “Real Humans.” “Humans” is set in a parallel present where the latest must-have gadget for any busy family is a ‘Synth’ — a highly-developed robotic servant eerily similar to its live counterpart.

“Games have been part of our DNA for at least the last 15 years, and creating original TV content is a logical next step in our evolution,” Jordan Levin, EVP of Xbox Entertainment Studios, said in a statement.

Xbox is also creating a documentary series “Signal to Noise,” with two-time Academy Award winning producer Simon Chinn (“Searching for Sugar Man” and “Man on Wire”) and Emmy winning producer Jonathan Chinn (FX’s “30 Days” and PBS’s “American High”). The series will expose little-known stories of how modern technology has radically altered the way we interact with our world.

The first doc, Atari: Game Over, explores the so-called Atari mystery dubbed “The Great Video Game Burial of 1983.”

Atari — faced with overwhelmingly negative response to its hastily assembled and marketed E.T. video game on the heels of Spielberg’s hit feature film — allegedly disposed of millions of unsold game cartridges by burying them in the small town of Alamogordo, N.M. Doc creator Fuel Entertainment took an interest in the myth, and with help from local garbage contractor, acquired the exclusive rights to excavate the Alamogordo landfill.

Not surprisingly, workers April 26 unearthed hundreds of Atari cartridges — an “excavation” reported by major media outlets including Reuters, NPR and the BBC.

Separately, Xbox users — via a special app — will be able to stream the 13th annual Bonnaroo music and arts festival with live concerts June 13 to 15 in Manchester, Tenn.

Xbox originals in development include “Deadlands,” a genre-bending alternative history of the Wild West, featuring undead gunfighters, card-slinging sorcerers, mad scientists, secret societies and fearsome abominations.

Other projects include stop-motion show “Extraordinary Believers” and “Fearless,” an unscripted series currently in pilot production starring Paul de Gelder, an Australian Navy bomb clearance diver.

“Gun Machine” is a hardboiled detective thriller based on the New York Times bestselling novel by Warren Ellis. Ellis will executive produce with Brett Conrad (“The Killing,” “Sons of Anarchy,” Netflix’s upcoming “Marco Polo”).

In addition, JASH, a comedy collective founded by Sarah Silverman, Michael Cera, Reggie Watts and the team of Tim and Eric, will showcase the people that make them laugh. Each week, a different comedian will host/curate a show featuring new and unsung talent, in various video formats. The series has a pilot commitment and will begin shooting in June.

Finally, Xbox is co-developing a limited event live-action series based on graphic novel series “Winterworld,” in which the world has been encased in ice from pole-to-pole.

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