HBO Asia to air first original series

MUMBAI: Viewers of HBO Asia - a channel so far synonymous with Hollywood films and original US series - have reason to smile.

Starting 22 September, the Asian arm of HBO will premiere its first original series - Serangoon Road - a detective noir set in Singapore of the swinging 60s, every Sunday, from 9:00 to 10:00 pm.

According to HBO Asia head, programming and production Erika North, unlike earlier international series, Serangoon Road, which she describes as 'the right mix of mystery, romance, action and politics', sees Asians playing a significant role.

"It portrays both international and Asian characters, who find themselves in mysterious situations which need to be solved," says North, pointing out that the series brings together Asian and western characters that are equally strong.

Serangoon Road promises mystery that reaches a climax in the last episode, with characters drawn from different sections of the society. "You will see gangsters, secret service agents, people working in China Town among others, who have their own unique and compelling stories to tell in the backdrop of 60s Singapore," informs North.

Rich in narrative as well as the visual department, shooting of the series began in August last year and was completed this February. "Prior to that, we were working on the script." says North and adds: "The journey began nearly three years ago when Paul Barren, the original producer of the show, came to the HBO Asia office and pitched the concept."

The series is part of HBO Asia's larger objective of creating an Asian dimension to an essentially US-based brand. "We are looking at making something which is far more premium and international than what is produced in Asia, and is still more authentic," exults North.

Serangoon Road breaks ground in more ways than one. "It's wonderful to have a series that represents a lot of firsts. One, it is HBO Asia's first original series. Second, it is the first ever co-production of HBO Asia with ABC TV Australia. Also, it is ABC TV Australia's first prime-time drama, shot in Asia. Last, it is the first biggest co-production in both Singapore and Australia on TV," elaborates North, adding "Also, with it, we hope to pave the way for more such originals for HBO Asia."

A co-production, the series' lead partners are HBO Asia and ABC TV Australia, and it has received considerable support from both the governments. "In Singapore, the MDA and IFW, which is a local production house, have supported us with investments. And in Australia, while ABC is the national broadcaster, Screen West Australia is another partner. We have also tied up with Content Media Corporation as the international distribution partner," says North.

The world premiere of the series will be telecast on HBO Asia, HBO Defined and ABC TV Australia, the channel "thereafter, hopes to sell it internationally too," she adds.

About looking at India for producing more such HBO Asia originals, North says: "It all depends on finding the right stories and getting the business model right. There are wonderful stories coming out of India. Stories which I know we can tell well and package it well for our Indian viewer base."

Directed by Peter Andrikidis and Tony Tilse and written by Michaeley O'Brien and Tony Morphett, Serangoon Road is HBO Asia's attempt to create a connect with its Asian viewers. We wish them every success.

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