TV Talk

Avatar: The Last Airbender Franchise Expands With Nickelodeon's Avatar Studios Launch

Plus, more Halo series news, more Star Trek, more Yellowstone, and more Rugrats! ViacomCBS investor day's Paramount+ updates lead the week's top TV and streaming news.

by | February 26, 2021 | Comments

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ViacomCBS busted out its Paramount+ goodies like a content piñata during the company’s investor day this week: more Avatar, a Halo series update, Star Trek expansion, Rugrats revival and more top news in streaming and TV.


Fresh Avatar Series Part of a Slew of New Plans For Paramount and Paramount+, Including Rebooted Frasier and Criminal Minds, Halo Series, and Series Adaptations of The Italian Job and Fatal Attraction

Avatar: The Last Airbender (Nickelodeon)

(Photo by Nickelodeon)

ViacomCBS delivered great news to Avatar: The Last Airbender fans this week: Nickelodeon’s Avatar Studios was created to launch new animated TV series and movies in the franchise, to air on Nick, in theaters, and on Paramount+, the company announced during its investor day on Wednesday.

The new studio will be run by Avatar: The Last Airbender creators Michael DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, who left Netflix’s live-action Avatar movie last summer. Their first project for Avatar Studios is an animated Last Airbender theatrical movie that will begin production before the end of this year.

In other Paramount+ news as ViacomCBS prepares to debut its rebranded streaming service on March 4:

• Kelsey Grammer has signed on for a reboot of his 1993-2004 Emmy-winning NBC comedy Frasier, in which he’ll play Dr. Frasier Crane, the psychiatrist who first debuted on Cheers. The series, which has so far has not added any of Grammer’s original co-stars, is scheduled to debut in 2022 on Paramount+.

• CBS hit Criminal Minds wrapped up its 15-season run in 2020, but Paramount+ is ready to bring it back. No specific cast members have yet been announced, but showrunner Erica Messer will resume that role for the streaming reboot.

• Pablo Schreiber is starring as Master Chief, with Bokeem Woodbine and Natascha McElhone co-starring, in the Halo TV series that is moving from Showtime, another Viacom company, to Paramount+.

Related: “Everything We Know About the Halo TV Series

• Jeremy Renner will star in Mayor of Kingstown, from Yellowstone creator Taylor Sheridan. The drama, originally set at Paramount Network but moved to Paramount+, revolves around the McLusky family, the most powerful in a small Michigan town. Antoine Fuqua is an executive producer, as is Renner and Sheridan.

• Also on tap at Paramount+ from Sheridan is a Yellowstone prequel set in the 1880s; a Yellowstone spin-off called 6666, about a Texas ranch that “is synonymous with the merciless endeavor to raise the finest horses and livestock in the world, and ultimately where world class cowboys are born and made”; and Land Man, a drama about the cowboys and billionaires in the West Texas oil business.

• Paramount is raiding its movie library as fodder for Paramount+ TV series, including adaptations of Love Story, Fatal Attraction, The Italian Job, Flashdance, and Parallax View.

• The Star Trek universe will live at Paramount+, including the animated kids series Star Trek: Prodigy (originally set up at Nickelodeon) about a group of alien kids living on an abandoned Starfleet ship. All other current Trek series will also call Paramount+ home: Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Lower Decks, Star Trek: Picard, and Star Trek: Brave New Worlds, the upcoming prequel series with Anson Mount as pre-Kirk Enterprise Captain Christopher Pike.

• The seventh, and final, season of Younger will premiere on Paramount+.

• MTV and VH1 will have a presence on Paramount+ with rebooted MTV Unplugged, Yo! MTV Raps, and Behind the Music, plus a reality show from Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl and his mom, Virginia Hanlon, about rockers and the moms who raised them.

• Queen of the Universe, a reality competition from RuPaul’s Drag Race producers World of Wonder, features drag queens from all around the world. Other reality shows include the reunion of the original cast of The Real World in The Real World: Homecoming: New York; a new version of Real World spin-off Road Rules; and The Challenge: All-Stars, with OG Real World and Road Rules cast members competing to win $500,000.

• And Rugrats is returning. The ’toon, which aired on Nickelodeon for nine seasons, will reboot on Paramount+ with the original cast returning, including The Simpsons star Nancy Cartwright (Chuckie), E.G. Daily (Tommy), Cheryl Chase (Angelica), Cree Summer (Susie), and Kath Soucie (Phil and Lil).

Also Read: “Marvel’s Kevin Feige on The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, WandaVision, and Which MCU Shows Could Get Second Seasons

Julia Roberts, Sean Penn Starring in Watergate Drama at Starz

Julia Roberts and Sean Penn

(Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for CORE Gala)

After her Golden Globe-nominated performance in Amazon’s Homecoming, Julia Roberts is returning to TV land in Gaslit, a Starz anthology that will pair her with fellow Oscar winner Sean Penn in a story about Watergate.

Roberts will play Martha Mitchell, the Arkansas socialite who was one of the first people to let the public know Richard Nixon was connected to the Watergate scandal, in spite of her husband’s relationship with Nixon. John Mitchell, who will be played by Penn, was the Attorney General and Nixon’s best friend and trusted advisor.

The series, from creator and showrunner Robbie Pickering (Mr. Robot), will focus on more untold stories of Watergate, including forgotten characters and those who also had a hand in exposing Nixon and his cohorts.

Also Read: “M.O.D.O.K. Brings Monty Python–Like Mischief to Marvel TV

NEW TRAILERS: Barry Jenkins’ The Underground Railroad Debuts May 14

The Underground Railroad, a 10-episode limited series from Oscar-winning director Barry Jenkins, is based on Pulitzer Prize–winning author Colson Whitehead’s book about a woman who escapes a Georgia plantation for the rumored Underground Railroad, to be met with an actual railroad. Stars Thuso Mbedu, Damon Harriman, and William Jackson Harper. Premieres May 14. (Amazon Video)

More trailers and teasers released this week:
• The Irregulars sees a ragtag group of teens help Dr. Watson with the more supernatural elements of some of his investigations, based on characters in original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle novels.. Stars Clarke Peters, Royce Pierreson, and Henry Lloyd-Hughes. Premieres March 26. (Netflix)
• kid 90 features videos Punky Brewster star Soleil Moon Frye recorded during her teenage years in Hollywood, as she and fellow kid stars like David Arquette, Stephen Dorff, Balthazar Getty, Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Sara Gilbert, and Brian Austin Green grew up on camera in front of us. Premieres March. (Hulu)
• Murder Among the Mormons docuseries recounts the 1985 pipe murder of two people in Salt Lake City, a crime with shocking ties to the Mormon church. Premieres March 3. (Netflix)
• Mayans M.C. season 3 finds EZ having chosen membership in the MC, and with a vengeful Miguel looking for his mother’s killer. Stars JD Pardo. Premieres March 16. (FX)
• Fear the Walking Dead season 6B trailer promises “death, destruction, decay,” but the rest of the season also adds new characters from John Glover, Nick Stahl, and Keith Carradine to the already stellar cast of Lennie James, Colman Domingo, Ruben Blades, Maggie Grace, Jenna Elfman, Garret Dillahunt, and Alycia Debnam-Carey. Premieres April 11. (AMC)
• Marvel’s M.O.D.O.K. is about a supervillain who hates superheroes and his fellow villains, and is in the middle of a mid-life crisis and family drama in the ’burbs of New Jersey. Stars Patton Oswalt and premieres May 21. (Hulu)
• Tina is a documentary about Tina Turner, from her childhood abandoned by her mother through her career with Ike Turner and her solo s career, which earned her a nomination this year for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Premieres March 27. (HBO)
• Chad stars Saturday Night Live alum Nasim Pedrad as a 14-year-old Persian boy desperate to befriend the popular kids during his first year of high school. The comedy premieres April 6. (TBS)
• WWE Legends is an eight-part docuseries about some of the most memorable pro wrestling stars, from Stone Cold Steve Austin to Rowdy Roddy Piper. Premieres April 18. (A&E)
• City on a Hill season 2 finds Kevin Bacon’s corrupt FBI agent clashing again with Aldis Hodge’s Boston ADA, who’s trying to clean up the city. Premieres March 28. (Showtime)
• The Real World Homecoming: New York reunites the original cast of MTV’s The Real World in the NYC loft they lived in together 30 years ago. Premieres March 4. (Paramount+)

For all the latest TV and streaming trailers, subscribe to the Rotten Tomatoes TV YouTube channel.

CASTING: Gillian Anderson to Play Eleanor Roosevelt in Showtime’s First Ladies

Gillian Anderson

(Photo by Karwai Tang/WireImage)

From the British Prime Minister to the American First Lady (in TV land, anyway): Gillian Anderson, a Golden Globe and SAG award nominee for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in Netflix’s The Crown, has signed on to play First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt in the first season of Showtime’s anthology series First Ladies. She’ll join Viola Davis, playing Michelle Obama, and Michelle Pfeiffer playing Betty Ford. In another First Ladies casting, The Handmaid’s Tale star O-T Fagbenle will play Barack Obama in the series.

Taylor Kitsch will co-star with Chris Pratt in the Amazon conspiracy thriller The Terminal List. The series revolves around James Reece (Pratt), whose platoon of Navy SEALs is killed during a covert operation. He returns home with fuzzy memories and guilt about the experience, but then learns there are secret forces who are working against him. Kitsch plays Ben Edwards, Reece’s best friend and a former SEAL and now CIA op who helps Reece get revenge. Antoine Fuqua is directing, and executive producing, along with Pratt. (Deadline)

Saturday Night Live Emmy winner Kate McKinnon, who was set to star in and executive produce The Dropout, Hulu’s limited series about the downfall of Elizabeth Holmes and her company, Theranos, has dropped out of the project. No replacement has been set yet. (Deadline)

Benedict Cumberbatch will star in The 39 Steps, a limited series update of the 1935 Alfred Hitchcock thriller that was an adaptation of the novel of the same name by author John Buchan. Cumberbatch, who will also executive produce the series, will star as Richard Hannay, an ordinary guy who gets enmeshed in a global conspiracy set up by a spy group. The series is being shopped to networks and streaming services. (Deadline)

Amazon has announced the cast for season 2 of Modern Love, the anthology series based on The New York Times column of the same name: Miranda Richardson (Good Omens), Game of Thrones star Kit Harrington, The Deuce star Gbenga Akinnagbe, Flack star Anna Paquin, Garrett Hedlund (Triple Frontier), When They See Us star Marquis Rodriguez, and Younger and Ozark star Ben Rappaport.

Rescue Me alum Daniel Sunjata has joined the cast of Power Book II: Ghost for season 2. He’ll play Mecca, the calculating drug supplier who shows up just as the Tejada family – led by Mary J. Blige’s Monique – needs someone to hand over new product. But as his past is revealed, it becomes clear he has other, more dangerous, goals in mind. Season 2 has begun filming in New York. (Deadline)

Power star Naturi Naughton will star in the ABC pilot Queens, about four 1990s girl group members who want to reunite. Pop star and former co-host of The Talk, Eve, will co-star with Naughton, who will no longer be a regular on Power Book II: Ghost, but will make guest appearances on the Starz drama. (Deadline)

Orange Is the New Black star Laverne Cox and comedian George Wallace will star in Clean Slate, a Norman Lear-produced IMDBtv comedy about an Alabama car wash owner who tries to repair his relationship with his estranged child, a trans daughter played by Cox. Wallace and Cox came up with the story, while she is an executive producer on the series and Wallace is a producer.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia star Charlie Day and Saturday Night Live alum Jenny Slate will star in the Amazon romantic comedy I Want You Back, about two people who, afraid they’re going to die alone, concoct a plot to win back the significant others they thought they were going to marry. Gina Rodriguez, Scott Eastwood, and Manny Jacinto co-star.

This Is Us Emmy winner Sterling K. Brown will serve as one of the guest hosts of ABC News’ Soul of a Nation, a six-part docuseries about life in Black communities in America. Premiering on March 2, the series will also include guest host appearances by Sunny Hostin and Jemele Hill.

Friday Night Lights alum Matt Lauria, who recently signed on to the cast of CBS’ CSI sequel, has also signed on for the Amazon drama Outer Range, a family saga about a rancher, played by Josh Brolin, who discovers a shocking mystery in the Wyoming wilderness. (TVLine)

In a move to diversify its voice cast, The Simpsons has hired Kevin Michael Richardson (Family Guy, The Batman) to replace Harry Shearer in the role of Springfield doctor Julius Hibbert. Richardson will begin voicing the role of the Black doctor in the Feb. 28 episode. (Vulture)

PRODUCTION & DEVELOPMENT: Ray Donovan Is Returning to Showtime … for a Movie

Liev Schrieber as Ray Donovan in RAY DONOVAN, "A Good Man is Hard to Find". Photo Credit: Jeff Neumann/SHOWTIME.

(Photo by Jeff Neumann/SHOWTIME.)

When Showtime canceled Ray Donovan after seven seasons, star Liev Schreiber promised Ray would turn, and now he and showrunner David Hollander have made good on that promise. Showtime has announced Schreiber and Hollander are co-writing a feature-length script that Hollander will direct. Production is scheduled to begin later this year in New York on the movie, which will pick up with the Donovans where they left, will also go back decades to the Ray/Mickey backstory, and will star Schreiber, Jon Voight, and Kerris Dorsey (and, we hope the rest of that endearingly dysfunctional fam).

For All Mankind creator Ronald D. Moore is developing a Disney+ multi-project universe that will be set in and with the characters of Disney’s Magic Kingdom. The first entry will be The Society of Explorers and Adventurers, written and executive produced by Moore, about the Disney parks lands and characters.

Steven Spielberg is bringing author Walter Mosley’s Easy Rawlins books to television. Last played by Denzel Washington on the big screen in Devil in a Blue Dress, Easy is a WWII army veteran-turned-private eye. The series, adapted from Mosley’s 15 novels and short story collection, will be set in 1950s Los Angeles.

South Park is going COVID-19 again, with the one-hour special South ParQ Vaccination Special, about the citizenry of South Park and their attempts to get the vaccine. “We will be herd,” read the official Park tweet announcing the project. It premieres on March 10.

Amazon is developing a live-action G.I. Joe series revolving around Lady Jaye, an undercover operative with serious weapons skills, Ranger training, and acting and impersonation gifts. Erik Oleson (Daredevil, Carnival Row) will write the project. (Deadline)

George Clooney’s Smokehouse Pictures is teaming with Sports Illustrated for a docuseries about SI editor Jon Wertheim’s groundbreaking cover story on the alleged, serial sexual abuse of athletes at Ohio State University. The series will further detail the scandal that lasted three decades and left many questioning how this victimization went largely unreported.

2 Dope Queens star and author Phoebe Robinson will adapt her bestselling book, Everything’s Trash, But It’s Okay, for a Freeform series. The book is a collection of essays about topics like dating, gender, and race, and will star Robinson as Phoebe, a young woman who’s trying to get her life together when she finds out her brother is running for political office.

Sony Pictures Television is developing Twisted Metal as a series. The PlayStation videogame will be written by Cobra Kai writer and producer Michael Jonathan Smith, with initial developers and Deadpool writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, as well as Will Arnett, as executive producers. The action comedy will follow a guy who’s offered a better life he can get past an ice cream truck-driving twisted clown and other dangerous vehicles to deliver a mysterious package through an apocalyptic land. (Variety)

Oneida Indian Nation Leader Ray Halbritter and a trustee of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences Museum has launched Standing Arrow Productions, which he will use to try to increase the representation of Native American and Indigenous peoples on screen. To that end, he has optioned Sally Jenkins’ The Real All Americans: The Team That Changed a Game, A People, A Nation, about the Carlisle School football team, a 1911 and 1912 football team that beat Ivy League schools, and eventually beat West Point. The team was coached by Glenn Warner, a.k.a. Pop Warner, the founder of the youth football league of the same name, with future Olympic Gold Medalist Jim Thorphe (the first Native American to win a gold medal for the United States) as the team leader.

Peacock is developing a TV series based on the classic arcade game Frogger, in which contestants have to navigate obstacles courses by doing things like dodging traffic, to win cash. The streaming network has ordered 13 episodes of the game show.

Ted Lasso, The Queen’s Gambit, and More Top TV and Streaming Titles Added to PalyFest Lineup

 Jason Sudeikis in Ted Lasso keyart

(Photo by Apple TV+)

PaleyFest LA has added more entries to its lineup, including Ted Lasso, The Queen’s Gambit, Lovecraft Country, Evil, The Good Doctor, and What We Do in the Shadows. Those shows join the previously announced Big Sky, The Late Late Show with James Corden, and a 20th anniversary reunion with the cast of Six Feet Under during the March 26-April 1 virtual event.