DCNF: PBS Digital Studios to Experiment with Bernie Su and Pemberley Digital on Scripted ‘Frankenstein’ Series

/ May 5, 2014


PBS Digital Studios is partnering with Pemberley Digital and writer-director Bernie Su to adapt Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein.” The show, titled “Frankenstein, MD,” will also serve as PBS Digital’s first scripted project.

Spurred on by the success of the Emmy-winning “Lizzie Bennet Diairies” and his follow-up “Emma Approved,” Su is on board to executive produce and script “Frankenstein, MD,” which will take Shelley’s classic horror story and give it a modern spin. The project will change the main character into a female named Victoria Frankenstein, and will enlist the transmedia format popularized by “Lizzie Bennet” and “Emma Approved,” said Matt Graham, senior director at PBS Digital Studios. (He also said it will be a “wild, gruesome” show.)

At the center of the project will be a YouTube channel, which will release eight episodes per month beginning this fall. On top of that will be various in-character social media accounts that allow fans to follow the story of the “obsessive, eccentric prodigy” Victoria beyond video.

“The team at Pemberley Digital is thrilled to be working with PBS Digital Studios on this exciting new adaptation of Mary Shelley’s cult classic, reimagined for today’s connected generation,” said Su in a statement. “We’re eager to take the format that we’ve cultivated with our previous multi-platform series into a new genre with a darker tone.”

The “Frankenstein” deal with PBS was brokered by David Tochterman.

Su and Pemberley Digital have made a business out of adapting popular classic novels in the public domain into a vlog-based transmedia series that live on YouTube.

That said, expect “Frankeinstein, MD” videos to be available beyond YouTube, including PBS.org and Roku, where PBS Digital Studios also distributes content to.

The project with Pemberley and Su was announced by PBS Digital Studios at its first-ever Newfront. In addition to showcasing some of its original series to the audience of advertisers, including John and Sarah Urist Green’s “The Art Assignment” and the Steve Goldbloom-hosted “Everything But the News,” PBS Digital unveiled three other new shows.

“Pancake Mountain,” a reboot of the cult musical variety show from filmmaker Scott Stuckey, will launch this summer. In the show, popular musicians join show characters for a series of sketches, musical numbers, and dance parties. The reboot will air new episodes on a weekly basis, featuring characters old and new.

Finally, in terms of new, PBS Digital Studios also announced the launch of “Bongo Bongo,” and “Food Buzz,” both of which it has produced in partnership with Magnet Media. Previously announced, “Bongo Bongo” explores the history of English-language words while “Food Buzz” gives viewers a quick take on various current food trends. Both shows launch today on their own YouTube channels.

These shows, as well as a slate of 30+ existing series, reinforced PBS Digital Studio’s value proposition of making smart, entertaining, and engaging original content.

Graham pointed to how its lineup of creators and channels consistently lead great conversations on their YouTube channels, which consistently get some of the smartest comments on the world’s biggest open video platform. “The bar’s low,” he jokingly acknowledged, “but these are really great comments.”

With that in mind, the PBS Digital plans to double-down on content and distribution. “In the next year, we’re doubling our investment in original content,” said Graham. PBS also plans to create a new destination for PBS Digital Studios content on PBS.org, while expanding content and distribution collaborations with PBS member stations.

“Other broadcasters [have seen] new platforms as competition, but we recognize them as a new opportunity to expand our mission,” said Paula Kerger, president and CEO of PBS.

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