TERMINATOR: TV Show Still in Development; Skydance Heads Hint at 13-Episode Cable Series

     June 26, 2015


I’ve heard nothing but great things about Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, so naturally Fox canceled it after two seasons back in 2009. However, the franchise is unstoppable, and the latest film, Terminator Genisys, opens in theaters next week.

During a group interview at the press day for Terminator Genisys in Berlin, Skydance CEO David Ellison and CCO Dana Goldberg talked about the status of a new Terminator TV series. While they wouldn’t go into details about what story the show would explore, they did say they wanted it to be part of a “larger universe”:

You also mentioned a TV show, and that’s something that we’ve been very curious about. What is the status of a Terminator TV show, and what do you envision in terms of the story it might tell?


DAVID ELLISON: It’s something that we’re developing as we speak. To speak kind of larger to that, one of the things we would love to do at Skydance—it’s a very lofty goal—is to build worlds across multiple mediums. And to me, I think everyone talks in Hollywood about franchises, ‘it’s a franchise business, it’s a franchise business’. I think that’s a slightly old-fashioned word, and I think it’s a world creation business. The dream for us would be to be able to obviously make films, television shows, we have a video game with Glu, comic books, and they all should be standalone experiences. If you just watch the movies or if you just watch a television show, it’s a complete experience. But if you are the kind of fans that we are over this material, and you watch all of it collectively, it all interweaves to feel like a larger universe that you can experience if you’re a huge fan of Terminator or any of the other franchises that we’re fortunate to work on, that’s really when you talk about the future of Skydance, one of the things that we really want to be a part of building.



Image via Paramount Pictures

When this was first reported, the Terminator thing, it was said that it was going to somehow directly tie into this movie in some way.


ELLISON: A little premature to be able to say, but I will say anything we do along those lines, it will absolutely have connective tissue. It would be a mistake and a little old-fashioned to have a television show and a movie, both based on something that actually don’t cross over in any way, shape, or form.

DANA GOLDBERG: So we’re working on it, to answer your question. 

I haven’t seen Genisys yet, so I’m not sure what tissue will connect. However, it’s worth noting that Sarah Connor Chronicles was able to exist as its own thing because it was part of an alternate timeline, which works when your movies have time travel in them. That being said, we’re definitely in the age when every property has to be connected so you go around to all of them, and I’m curious to see what Skydance has planned.

While they wouldn’t divulge any story details, they did seem to be leading towards a cable model when it comes to season length:

When you envision the Terminator TV show, and other shows you’re developing, are you envisioning more like The Flash on CW, or more Game of Thrones on HBO?


GOLDBERG: It’s on a case-by-case basis. Honestly, I can’t give you a blanketed answer to that. One of the great things about television is that you can tell almost any kind of story. As you were saying, right now is sort of the second golden age of television because you can watch Game of Thrones which is humongous in scope, and you can watch Breaking Bad, which in terms of scope is relatively small, but it is so brilliantly written and brilliantly acted and directed and the characters have such depth to them that you’re just dying for that next episode. Or you watch Netflix, which we’re happy to be in business with on Grace and Frankie, and you sit down and you stop your life and you binge watch until you actually have to sleep. So it’s on a case-by-case basis. Here’s the thing: at the end of the day, everything we do at Skydance is going to come back to one thing and one thing only, and that’s story. It always starts with story. I had a few people as I was coming up in the business who when you asked what’s the key to Hollywood, they would say ‘don’t be stupid, it’s just the story.’ It’s where everything else starts, it’s the thing you layer everything else on top of, so whether it’s going to have huge action, which of course we’re gonna do shows that fit into these sci-fi fantasy action and adventure space because we love them. But we’re also going to do something like Manhattan because when we read it, we thought it was brilliant, and when we sat with Sam Shaw and we talked about his vision for that television show, we fell in love with it, and we looked at one another and said ‘that’s a show we’d watch’. 



Image via Paramount

Both of the shows you have mentioned are thirteen episodes.


ELLISON: They’re both thirteen, yeah.


The thing that I found is that a high concept show that is 13 episodes or under is so much better than a 22-episode commitment. With, for example, Terminator or other shows that you are developing, do you envision them being 13 episodes? Do you envision going to a network or cable?


ELLISON: Our gut aspiration would be a cable-driven show for something like Terminator. It’s amazing to be in the network space. We have not been a part of it yet, but obviously when you’re focused on making 13 episodes, it allows you to have more development time to dive deeper. That being said, there have been amazing shows on network television. One of my favorites is the first couple seasons of Alias. I’ll never forget seeing J.J.’s pilot for that show and just being blown away and floored by how phenomenal it was, and so it really is on a case-by-case basis. And Alex [Kurtzman] and Bob’s [Roberto Orci] writing on those first two seasons, I mean I was riveted, absolutely loved it. I really think it depends on what executives and who wants to do what at what particular point in time.


GOLDBERG: Yeah, we’re always gonna try to pick the place that’s the best for that show. With Grace and Frankie for example, we pitched it to three places, and all three places wanted it. One was network, one was Netflix, one was HBO. It’s a great luxury to be able to make that decision and ultimately when we’re sitting in the room with the people who are working on the show, Marta [Kauffman] and Lily [Tomlin] and Jane [Fonda], we all decided that Netflix was the place to be. We couldn’t be happier. We’re having a fantastic time and we look forward to working with them again in the future on other shows, but it’ll always be what is best for the subject matter.

There you have it. Personally, I’m not expecting to see another Terminator TV show in the near future unless Genisys absolutely explodes and the demand to see more of that world requires a TV show ASAP. You can also see that Ellison and Goldberg aren’t boxing themselves into either a network or a cable series, although they definitely know the way the wind is blowing, and that’s towards cable and streaming.

For more on what’s coming up from Skydance, click on the links below. Terminator Genisys opens July 1st.

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