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The Franchise: HBO Superhero Satire in the Works, Veep Creator Armando Ianucci to Direct

HBO has ordered a pilot for a satirical TV series based on superhero filmmaking. Titled The Franchise, the half-hour episodic show will be directed by Veep creator Armando Iannucci. He will be joined by Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes, to narrate a tale of a dysfunctional movie set, as they navigate through the “joyous hellscape of franchise superhero movie-making.” Variety first learned of the project, reporting that Mendes came up with the concept for the show. There is no word on a release window as of now.

Ianucci, who most might recognise as the creator of HBO comedy series, such as Julia Louis-Dreyfus-led Veep and the Hugh Laurie-led Avenue 5, will serve as an executive producer on the show alongside Mendes (Skyfall). The script was written by Jon Brown (Succession) and Keith Akushie, with Ianucci contributing to the pilot. All three writers have been known to create deadbeat, satirical humour via their writing, which makes them a logical choice. Succession was nominated for eight Emmy Awards this year, including one for Outstanding Drama Series.

Brown had previously worked with Iannucci on both Veep and Avenue 5, with the former being a mockumentary on the inner workings of the American government. In fact, the idea was adopted from the original BBC Four series, The Thick of It, which dealt with similar instances, but from a British perspective.

For Mendes, this would mark his first small-screen project, as he collaborates with Ianucci on episode one. This would also be his first comedy project in years, since 1999’s American Beauty starring the disgraced Kevin Spacey in the lead. His frequent collaborator, Pippa Harris, will return as producer, with Nicolas Brown and Julie Pastor — all three produced 2020’s Oscar-nominated 1917. Working on some of the biggest blockbusters must translate to Mendes bringing in some technical expertise for The Franchise — which after all, is based on superheroes.

Making fun of superhero movies is the new trend, as evidenced by the hype surrounding Amazon’s The Boys. However, dealing with it from a filmmaking angle might be difficult, as you must avoid coming off as pretentious. A good reference point would be Shinichirou Ueda’s One Cut of the Dead, which deals with a similar film production setting involving zombies.

Ianucci’s Avenue 5 was renewed by HBO for its second and final season in May earlier this year. Currently, there is no release window for The Franchise.

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