Smithsonian Channel gets North American rights to ‘Richard III’ documentary


An undated handout picture from the University of Leicester shows the skeleton of King Richard III that was found at the Greyfriars Church excavation site. (-/AFP/Getty Images)
April 2, 2013

Smithsonian Channel has snagged exclusive North American program rights to a documentary about the recent discovery of King Richard III’s remains under an English parking lot that ended a 500-year mystery.

When “The King’s Skeleton: Richard III Revealed” made its world debut on Channel 4 in the U.K., nearly 5 million viewers tuned in.

You know Richard III — bad back, nasty guy, snuffed his young nephews in the Tower of London to snag the throne, then decided he’d trade his kingdom for a horse? Played over the years by Kenneth Branagh, Al Pacino, Kevin Spacey, Ian McKellen and Laurence Olivier?

Well, apparently that gag about trading his kingdom for a horse — or words to that effect — was delivered just beneath where now sits a parking lot, at the site of a former monastery not far from where the Battle of Bosworth took place in central England. That’s where archaeologists dug up the skeleton that got DNA-tested, proving correct in February the hunch of a screenwriter/member of the worldwide Richard III Society named Philippa Langley.

Langley is working on a film script about “the real Richard III,” according to the society. And she just screams to be played by Cate Blanchett in the you-know-it’s-coming HBO flick on the improbable parking-lot treasure hunt.

Richard III’s skeleton was discovered under a parking lot in England. (University of Leicester/via Smithsonian Channel)

“The King’s Skeleton: Richard III Revealed” will debut April 21 at 9 p.m. The documentary is produced by the only team allowed access to the archaeological dig in the parking lot, the testing of the skeleton to determine its identity, blah, blah, blah.

Richard III was killed at the BoB in 1485, after which he was pretty thoroughly trashed by the winning Tudor dynasty — which Smithsonian Channel — the joint venture between the Smithsonian Institution and Showtime Networks — reminds us in Tuesday’s news.

“We all love a villain in TV. Richard is the archetypal bad guy: The man who would murder his defenseless nephews in his pursuit of power,” said David Royle, executive vice president for programming and production for the Smithsonian Channel. “But maybe we got the story all wrong. DNA has rescued many convicts from the despair of prison. Now it may be rescuing an innocent king from the twisted annals of history.”

CNN gets to ‘The Point’

Hours after CNN announced that it was testing a new round-table show called “(Get to) The Point” weeknights at 10 — temporarily replacing reruns of “Anderson Cooper 360” — CNN actually launched the show.

Here’s the gimmick: The show is guaranteed just one week in CNN’s lineup; it’s long-term fate depends on the response of you, the viewer. Kind of like a PBS pledge drive.

It’s the kind of stunt we’ve come to know and love from CNN Worldwide President Jeff Zucker, the guy who invented, for instance, sitcom “supersizing” when he ran the entertainment division at NBC — a TV scheduling innovation we now take for granted.

The talker has featured adman Donny Deutsch, ESPN columnist Rick Reilly, author Margaret Hoover and ESPN NFL analyst Jason Taylor.

So how did “(GT)TP” do?

An average of 278,000 people tuned in at 10 p.m. Monday — 80,000 of them ages 25 to 54, which is the currency of news programming ad sales. That’s 45 percent less viewership of all ages — and 52 percent less in the demographic group — than the same day one year ago on CNN. It’s also 38 percent less viewership in the age bracket — and 44 percent in the 25-to-54 demo — than Cooper’s average in the slot last month.

But that’s just one night, and the media seem to be doing their bit to spread the word about Zucker’s zany experiment.

To read previous columns by Lisa de Moraes, visit washingtonpost.com/
tvblog
.

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