LA Screenings: 20 Shows You Don’t Want to Miss

Kicking off on May 15-17 with the LA Independents, with a heavyweight Spanish-language presence, the LA Screenings then host Hollywood studio presentations. To help cut through the slates, – especially at the LA Independents but including some big studio plays – here’s Variety’s pick of 20 top titles:

“The Americas,” (NBCU, BBC Studios)

More from Variety

Narrated by Tom Hanks, his first unscripted narrator gig, and billed as an epic natural history series from “Planet Earth” producer BBC Studios Natural History Unit in association with Universal Television Alternative Studio. Scored by two-time Oscar winner Hans Zimmer and using groundbreaking technology to reveal the continent’s natural wonders. Previewed at MipTV, in a presentation which was one of the biggest events of the while market.

“AMIA,” (Dori Media Group)

Unfolding against the background of the terror attacks of 1992 on the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires and in 1994 against AMIA, the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association, the journey of a Mossad operative grappling with the loss of his sister in the 1992 Embassy attack. He joins forces with a local Argentine journalist to seek justice. Two episodes will be presented at the LA Screenings, just weeks after Argentine authorities issued a call for the arrest of an Iranian minister allegedly linked to the 1994 attack.

“Cacao,” (Onza Distribución)

Produced for broadcaster TVI by powerhouse Plural Entertainment, and an out-of-the-gates hit, punching a 19.5% share on its Jan 15 TVI bow. Also the subject of a groundbreaking deal for Spain unveiled at MipTV as Onza announced its sale to Mediaset España, one of Spain’s two big commercial networks, as telenovelas expand in southern European prime-time. A classic tale, reframed however as professional empowerment, as Cacao, (Matilde Reymão), who lives on a cocoa plantation at Itacaré in Brazil, dreams of studying as a pastry chef in Portugal. Suddenly, she discovers she is the plantation’s heir, which brings its own problems…..


“Celeste,” (The Mediapro Studio)

A broad audience play by The Mediapro Studio and Movistar Plus+,  “‘Celeste’ came about as a challenge to write a breakneck thriller based on the blandest character that I could think of: a Treasury inspector, 60, who lives alone and has no special abilities,” says creator Diego San José at TMS, co-writer of “Spanish Affair,” the highest-grossing national film ever in Spain, and creator of TMS’ “Vota Juan” trilogy. Carmen Machi (“Aida,” “La Mesías”) stars as a nearly impossibly nondescript tax inspector aiming to go out in glory, proving Celeste, a big Latino singer, should pay taxes in Spain. Edgier director Elena Trapé (“The Distances”) helms.

“Cris Miró (Ella),” (Warner Bros. Discovery)

A TNT and Flow Original, produced by Nativa Contenidos and EO Media, directed by Martín Vatenberg and Javier Van de Couter and set o star Mina Serrano as Cris Miró, the first Argentine trans woman to become the lead vedette at Argentina’s Maipo Theatre in the ‘90s..Also featuring the performances of Katja Alemann, César Bordón, Agustín “Soy Rada” Aristarán, Vico D’Alessandro, Marcos Montes, Toto Rovito, Manu Fanego, Campi, and Adabel Guerrero, among others. WBD handles international distribution.

“The Darkness,” (Paramount Global Content Distribution)

Based on bestselling thrillers by Ragnar Jónasson, in “The Darkness” all the attention turns to inspector Hulda Hermannsdóttir – battling her own traumas as she investigates grizzly murder. Hulda doesn’t take kindly to change and yet it cannot be stopped: she is facing early retirement and forced to welcome a new partner. But Hulda’s goal is clear: she needs to catch the killer, no matter the cost. Legendary actor Lena Olin (“Enemies: A Love Story”) joins forces with fellow Oscar nominee Lasse Hallström, who will direct. Produced by CBS Studios, Stampede Ventures and Truenorth – and distributed outside of Iceland by Paramount Global Content Distribution– this show will be broadcasted locally by Siminn.

“Dope Girls,” (Sony Pictures Television)

From “Doctor Who” producers Bad Wolf, and set for release on the BBC last year, a risqué crime drama set against the emergence of a libertine post-WWI nightclub and drug criminal underground in Soho. Julianne Nicholson (“Mare of Easttown”) and Eliza Scanlen (“Sharp Objects”) star. A series being positioned as the next “Peaky Blinders” which will be given a push by SPE at the LA Screenings where full episodes will be shown and SPE will create on a live soundstage the sights and sounds of Trafalgar Square in 1918.

“Homejacking,” (Beta Film)

In this limited series with Marie Dompnier, Yannick Choirat and Carl Malapa, a wealthy, seemingly perfect couple is hiding a secret – also in their basement. When a masked assailant takes over their residence, their lies catch up with them. Produced by Lincoln TV with the participation of OCS, it’s directed by Hervé Hadmar. “‘Homejacking’ was an attractive package from the beginning and we are absolutely stunned by what we see now: an engulfing thriller plot in a setting that hits so close to home. Terse and poignant acting. Masterful and tight directing,” teased Beta’s Jérôme Vincendon, EVP French-speaking Europe. “We can’t wait to bring this gem to our clients and audiences around the globe.”

“The Hunting Wives,” (Lionsgate)

Stars align as Brittany Snow, Malin Åkerman, Chrissy Metz of “This Is Us” fame and Dermot Mulroney lead a new thriller based on the novel by May Cobb – who will also serve as executive producer alongside Erwin Stoff (“The Serpent Queen”). Developed for Starz, it tells the story of Sophie O’Neil, who moves with her family from the East Coast to East Texas. It’s a big change and soon, she falls under the spell of charismatic socialite Margo Banks. What Sophie doesn’t expect, however, is that her life will soon take a much darker turn. Rebecca Cutter (“Hightown”) showruns, writers and exec-produces the show. The series is produced by Lionsgate Television and 3 Arts Entertainment.

“Jesus Christ: Crown of Thorns,” (All3Media Intl.)

It’s time for another take on “the greatest story ever told,” one that famously tempted even Martin Scorsese. The team at Nutopia reimagines the life of Jesus Christ, delivering a three-part premium factual series. Familiar tale now morphs into a “raw, authentic and gripping political thriller,” assures All3Media, revealing a world of “shifting allegiances and infighting, where a revolutionary dared to challenge the status quo.” Combining action and character-driven drama, it will see many complex characters, who are far from saintly. Instead, they see Jesus as a threat – or they will risk their lives to protect him.

“The Law of the Sea,” (RTVE)

Based on true events, José Dura, skipper of Spanish trawler, rescues 51 immigrants adrift in mid-Mediterranean. Arriving at Malta’s Valetta, his boat is barred entry, sparking a full-blown E.U. diplomatic crisis.  “A calculated risk,” says RTVE’s José Pastor, “The Law of the Sea” shot 18 days at sea and cast movie actors, Luis Tosar and Blanca Portillo, reuniting after Icíar Bollaín’s “Maixabel.” “If you want a series to look like cinema, you have to cast film actors,  he says. The risk paid off. Created by Enrique “Flipy” Pérez Vergara, at Studio 60, the mini-series, broadcast in its entirety on Sunday primetime, Jan. 21, hitting a 13.1% share, RTVE’s best fiction result in nearly a year.

Law of the Sea
Law of the Sea

“The Listeners,” (Fremantle)

Cover your ears: Starring Rebecca Hall, this “enigmatic, provocative and haunting” psychological thriller introduces Claire, tormented by a sound no-one else can hear – including her doctors. Soon, her life becomes unbearable. Increasingly isolated from her family, she forms a bond with one of her students and is drawn towards a strange community, led by a charismatic couple, who can also hear “The Hum.” And who believe it’s actually a gift, not a terrible curse. Produced by Element Pictures, it’s set to broadcast on BBC One and BBC iPlayer, exploring “the seduction of the wild and unknowable, the human search for the transcendent, the rise of conspiracy culture in the West, and the desire for community and connection in our increasingly polarized times.”

“Murder in A Small Town,” (ITV)

So you think you know everything about police procedurals? Think again. Produced by Future Shack Entertainment and Sepia Films, and set to be broadcast on Fox, this show promises to be “unexpected, surprising and compelling.” Making the most of its spectacular setting and showing off North America’s Pacific coastline, the series follows investigator Karl Alberg. Battered and bruised, he can’t wait to escape the exhausting big city life, but his new paradise is hiding a few secrets as well. Not to mention a few bodies, washing up on the shore. Adapted from L.R. Wright’s popular novels, it pairs up Rossif Sutherland (“Three Pines”) and Kristin Kreuk (“Smallville”).

“A New Sunrise, “ (Atresmedia TV)

Showcased at Málaga and bowing on Atresplayer, Atresmedia’s SVOD service, on March 10, another dramedic half-hour from Spain, here a second chance vision of addiction and an acerbic take of showbiz, as Carmen, a celeb-ette checks into a cut-price public sector rehab to discover the roots of her addictions. Created and written by José Corbacho (“Tapas”), directed by Corbacho and Belen Macías (“Madres. Amor y vida”).

“Rebirth,” (Globo)

A market premiere for Globo’s biggest telenovela hit of the year, averaging 30 million viewers per episode, and indeed most popular soap since “Pantanal,” deriving from the same talents: Author Benedito Ruy Barbosa and adaptor screenwriter Bruno Luperi, his grandson. Tapping into a magic realism, José Ignacio makes a pact with a Jequitibá tree, wins the love of Maria Santa, who dies giving birth to João Pedro, resented by his father for years to come. Directed by the in-demand Gustavo Fernández,  who helms Globo’s other top swing at the LA Screenings, anthology series “Justice: Misconduct.”

“Second Death,” (Movistar Plus+)

Re-teaming José Manuel Lorenzo’s DLO Producciones and Agustín Martínez, screenwriter of RTVE’s “La Caza” franchise, produced by DLO. If that had a metaphorical sense of place, so should “Second Death,” a crime thriller set in Cantabria’s spectacular sunk-in-the-past Pas Valley. In a cabin, a young cop, Sandra, stumbles on the body of Juliana Cobián, who was buried seven years before. Meanwhile, Sandrá’s father, Tello, once a high-respected police officer is experiencing a first death: Senile dementia. Directed by Alex Rodrigo (“Money Heist”) and Oscar Pedraza (“Patria”).

“Sed de Venganza,” (Telemundo)
Telemundo’s flagship series for the L.A. Screenings, the just-announced “Sed de Venganza” stars Danilo Carrera (“Relaciones Peligrosas”) and Isabella Castillo (“El Señor de los Cielos,” “Malverde: El Santo Patrón”) as it follows the life of Fernanda Ríos who suffers terrible abuse from childhood and is drawn into the dark world of machinating businessman Eugenio Beltrán. Falling for Francisco (Carrera), whose life she recklessly destroyed, the synopsis says, Fernanda must juggle her thirst for revenge and need for redemption. Written by Eric Vonn, known for pushing the envelope on telenovela black humor, violence and eroticism.

“This Town,” (Banijay Rights)

Fruit of a creative partnership deal between Kudos, a Banijay UK company and “Peaky Blinders” creator Steven Knight to support Birmingham’s film-TV industry. Starring Michelle Dockery, Nicholas Pinnock and David Dawson, the story of a family and four young people drawn into Coventry and Birmingham’s exploding ska and two-tone music scene in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. Billed by Banijay as both “a high-octane thriller and a family saga.” From Kudos and Nebulastar, and co-produced with Mercury Studios, in association with Kudos North, Stigma Films, and Nick Angel for the BBC.

“Those About to Die,” (AGC TV)

At a reported first season $165 million, quite possibly the biggest-budgeted independently financed show ever, co-directed by Roland Emmerich, a bloody sword-and-sandal epic starring Anthony Hopkins as Emperor Vaspasian intent on entertaining the mob via gladiatorial combat. The 10-episode series is backed by a heavyweight combination of Centropolis Entertainment, Hollywood Gang Productions, Street Entertainment, High End Productions, Constantin and AGC Television, which will present at the LA Screenings in the run up to a July 18 bow on Peacock.

Best of Variety

Sign up for Variety’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.