TCA: BBC America Goes 'Soft-Sci' With 'Outcasts'

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BBC America will take viewers from space to San Quentin prison and African big-game farms in a slate of documentaries, dramas and sci-fi beginning this fall.
The network is bringing what creators describe as sort of a sci-fi-Western hybrid to American cable screens in Outcasts, a series from the creators of the well-reviewed Life on Mars.
The concept: Earth is no longer habitable so a group of survivors are relocating to a planet called Carpathia (the name of the ship that arrived to rescue the Titanic passengers). The story revolves around whether the survivors bring with them the political, ecological and social dynamics that destroyed Earth, and whether the native inhabitants of Carpathia are friendly to the "invaders."
The series is in production in South Africa for debut on the channel late this year. It stars Eric Mabius (Ugly Betty).
Ben Richards, the creator and writer, said that despite the space setting, the story is more akin to a western than sci-fi. He joked one observer had referred to the genre as "soft-fi." Critics meeting in Beverly Hills noted similarities between this upcoming show and Syfy's Battlestar Galactica (including the presence in this new show of BSG star Jamie Bamber). Richards noted there are no spaceship battles and his show is a "couple of notches down" the sci-fi ladder from BSG as it focuses more on human interaction than technology.
The channel is continuing its relationship with documentarian Louis Theroux, who this time turns his lens to the California prison; American big-game hunters who travel to Africa to shoot wild animals, some of which are endangered; and the private security firms that are thriving, battling block-to-block in crime-riddled South Africa.
Theroux, addressing TV critics in Beverly Hills via satellite from Boston, said he likes to expose the normal parts of abnormal people and situations to audiences, such as a hardened criminal who can describe his heinous acts then ask for a cup of tea.
Idris Elba, who shone on HBO in The Wire as Russell "Stringer" Bell will return to cable in the lead role in Luther. The hour-long psychological thriller features Elba as a "self-destructive, near-genius" who's trying to solve a murder while eluding the wiles of suspect Alice Morgan (Ruth Wilson), described as a sort of female version of Dr. Hannibal Lechter.
Elba said The Wire gave him an international spring-board that the BBC picked up on, offering him the drama lead he's always wanted. The six-episode series, which will debut Oct. 24 at 10 p.m. ET/PT, was created by noted suspense novelist Neil Cross.