Amazon Prime, Disney and NBC upfronts: Tomb Raider, Legally Blonde and Road House TV series

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Wenlei Ma
The Nightly
4 Min Read
Reese Witherspoon attends as Amazon debuts the Inaugural Upfront Presentation at Pier 36 on May 14, 2024, in New York City.
Reese Witherspoon attends as Amazon debuts the Inaugural Upfront Presentation at Pier 36 on May 14, 2024, in New York City. Credit: Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images for Amazon

A Tomb Raider streaming series and a Legally Blonde prequel are among the highlights so far of American TV’s “upfronts” season, where networks and streamers reveal a slate of new programming for the upcoming year.

Amazon Prime Video and Netflix will take part in the ritual for the first time as both platforms now carry advertising on their cheaper subscription tiers, laying out the case to media buyers and big brands as to why they should be spruiking their wares to their streaming viewers.

Comedian and host Kimmy Kimmel joked at the Disney/ABC upfronts, “What we’ve come to understand about our audience is they would rather be watching Netflix. Remember when Netflix thought they were above all this?

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“They came in to destroy commercial television and now, guess what? They want to sell you commercials on television. Now those smug b-holes have to lick your nuts like the rest of us!”

As much as, yes, the upfronts are a showcase for advertisers, what the average viewer really wants to know is what shiny new shows are going to dominate the conversation — or, at least, their attention — soon.

Netflix’s presentation will happen tomorrow morning AEST but they’ll have to pull out some big stops if they want to upstage Amazon who wheeled out Reese Witherspoon dressed as her Legally Blonde character, Elle Woods, and carrying a tiny chihuahua playing the part of Bruiser.

The Legally Blonde prequel has officially been greenlit and it will follow Elle as a high schooler before she became an accidental crusader in law school. The series was created by Insecure writer Laura Kittrell who will serve as showrunner.

Amazon has also ordered a Tomb Raider series from Fleabag’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge who will be the show’s executive producer and writer. Waller-Bridge said in a statement, “If I could tell my teenage self this was happening I think she’d explode.

“Lara Croft means a lot to me, as she does to many, and I can’t wait to go on this adventure. Bats ‘n all.”

Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle Of Life starring Angelina Jolie.
Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle Of Life starring Angelina Jolie. Credit: Unknown/Supplied

Off the back of Fleabag, Waller-Bridge in 2019 signed an overall development deal with Amazon for a reported $US60 million which produced no projects but the studio was clearly interested in keeping her on and renewed the agreement in 2022 for “eight figures”. Tomb Raider is the first series out of that deal

Waller-Bridge had worked on Amazon’s Mr & Mrs Smith reboot series with Donald Glover but walked away from the project after six months. She has previously said of her decision, “Creative collaboration is like a marriage, and some marriages don’t work out”.

Speaking of Mr & Mrs Smith, which Glover finished with writer Francesca Sloane, the series has been renewed for a second season. But it’s unclear if Glover and co-star Maya Erskine will return for a continuation of their characters’ story (the ending was open-ended about their fates) or if it will be an anthology and tell the story of another assassin team.

Jake Gyllenhaal will reprise his role as Dalton in a sequel movie to the Road House remake which the streamer claims was watched by 80 million viewers worldwide. It’s not clear if director Doug Liman will return — the filmmaker had a tempestuous relationship with Amazon and publicly criticised it for not releasing Road House to cinemas.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 14: Jake Gyllenhaal attends as Amazon debuts Inaugural Upfront Presentation at Pier 36 on May 14, 2024 in New York City.  (Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images for Amazon)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 14: Jake Gyllenhaal attends as Amazon debuts Inaugural Upfront Presentation at Pier 36 on May 14, 2024 in New York City. (Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images for Amazon) Credit: Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images for Amazon

Nicolas Cage is taking Spider-Man Noir into live-action with a spin-off series, Noir, from showrunners Oren Uziel and Steve Lightfoot. Cage previously voiced the character in the feature movie Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Spider-Verse directors and producers Phil Lord, Chris Miller and Amy Pascal will be executive producers on the show.

Still leaning into franchise territory, Amazon has renewed existing shows Cross, Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power and The Boys for further seasons.

Over on broadcast TV, Disney commissioned a new Ryan Murphy series called Doctor Odyssey which will star Joshua Jackson as a medico onboard a luxury cruise liner, and High Potential, a Kaitlin Olsen-starring drama from writer Drew Goddard (The Martian, Cabin in the Woods, Buffy) about a single mum with a prodigious talent for solving crimes.

Disney also revealed the date for Only Murders in the Building, which will premiere its fourth season on August 27. It also dropped a teaser trailer that sees the core New York City trio move west to Hollywood, lured by a studio who wants to make their hit podcast into a movie, and trying to solve the murder of Sazz (Jane Lynch).

Disney subsidiary Fox greenlit a drama called Doc, about a chief of internal medicine who after a brain injury can’t remember the last eight years of her life. The series stars Molly Parker (House of Cards) and Scott Wolf. Fox also has the comedy Going Dutch, which follows an arrogant army colonel who is exiled to the American military’s least important overseas base in the Netherlands. It stars Denis Leary.

Disney’s American broadcast shows generally end up on Disney+ in Australia.

On NBC, whose shows often end up in Foxtel/Binge in Australia, there’s a new series called Brilliant Minds, starring Zachary Quinto as a larger-than-life neurologist who with his team of interns attempt to explore the human mind and its possibilities while juggling their own lives and mental health.

And for crime procedural fans, there’s The Hunting Party, a series starring Melissa Roxburgh as the head of an investigative team who’s trying to track down a group of killers that have escaped from a prison so secret, that no one even knows it exists.

There’s also the comedy St Denis Medical, a mockumentary about an under-resourced hospital starring Wendi McClendon-Covey (The Goldbergs), David Alan Grier, Josh Lawson and Allison Tolman (Fargo).

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