Julian Fellowes' 'The Gilded Age' Moves House From NBC to HBO

(Photo: Carnival Film & Television Limited)

The long saga of period dramaThe Gilded Age continues. Originally sold to NBC in 2012, in the wake of Downton Abbey's massive success in the states, creator Julian Fellowes' intended follow-up series was said to be set a generation earlier, in New York City, focusing on the stories of those like the Duchess of Grantham, Cora Crowley. As the daughters of new money industrialists in America, many women set their caps for old world titles in Europe, aiming to bring respectability to their nouveau riche families. It took six years of development, but finally, in January of 2018, NBC Entertainment president Bob Greenblatt declared the project ready to move forward, and NBC announced it as picked up to series, though to date no casting has been done, and no premiere date announced.

While all this was going on, things were changing in the media landscape. In October of 2016, AT&T attempted a takeover of TimeWarner, home of HBO. It took a couple of years and overcoming a few hurdles thrown up by the Trump administration who wanted to stick it to Time Warner's CNN, but last summer, the deal was finally completed. As a result, this led to a massive amount of turnover at HBO's upper levels. And, as part of this shift, Greenblatt is leaving NBC to oversee content at WarnerMedia, and he's taking The Gilded Age with him.

This is not entirely unheard of, but it is rare enough to cause a few eyebrows to raise. The last time it happened was when Greenblatt left Showtime in 2011 to move to NBC and took with him a little Broadway-style prestige show the channel was developing called Smash. Smash didn't do so well moving from a small-order prestige series to broadcast, and, by the time it ended, was an emblem of shows viewers watch to hate. The Gilded Age, on the other hand, may benefit highly from moving house from a lower-budget longer-season broadcast to the higher-end echelons of premium cable.

According to the press release on the acquistion HBO's president of programming, Casey Bloys, is thrilled to have it:

Given the opulent scope and scale of this richly textured character drama, HBO is the perfect home for The Gilded Age. We're all huge fans of Julian and I know I speak for Bob Greenblatt - who was involved in the development of this series while at Universal Television - when I say we're thrilled to bring his undeniable genius to our viewers.

Fellowes also apparently approves of the movie:

I feel very privileged to be making "The Gilded Age" with HBO and Universal Television. It has been a dream of mine for some time, as I am fascinated by this brutal and intensely glamorous period of America's history. It will be about ambition, of course, and envy and hatred and, perhaps most of all, about love. I hope people will enjoy the series. I know I will enjoy making it.

It should be noted by fans that the show's logline has altered somewhat since NBC's announcement of bringing it to series last year:

The American Gilded Age in 1885 was a period of immense economic change, of huge fortunes made and lost, and the rise of disparity between old money and new money, which is being reflected again today. Against this backdrop comes young Marian Brook, the orphaned daughter of a Southern general, who moves into the home of her rigidly conventional aunts in New York City. Accompanied by the mysterious Peggy Scott, an African-American woman masquerading as her maid, Marian gets caught up in the dazzling lives of her stupendously rich neighbors, led by a ruthless railroad tycoon and his ambitious wife struggling for acceptance by the Astor and Vanderbilt set. Will Marian follow the established rules of society, or forge her own path in this exciting new world that is on the brink of transformation into the modern age? 

Fellowes will be writing the series as well as executive producing it alongside Gareth Neame, who was also the producer on Downton Abbey. The Gilded Age will be directed by Michael Engler, who not only directed multiple Downton episodes, but also helmed the upcoming Downton Abbey: The Movie. The new series will now be a co-production between HBO and Universal Television.