Show of the week: Turn

There are several spy dramas in TV land at the moment but Turn is the only one set during the US Revolutionary War. The show is based upon the Alexander Rose novel Washington’s Spies: America’s First Spy Ring.

In the story, Abe (Jamie Bell) is a farmer living in Long Island who with his friends forms the spy ring at the centre of the story and fight against the occupying British forces.

Craig Silverstein created the series. His credits include The CW’s Nikita but Turn is a very different spy show, he says. “I pitched this as a spy thriller but is more in the mould of le Carré than Fleming.”

He says he actually started working on the idea for the show before Nikita. “Alex’s book came out at a time I’d done three or four police procedurals in a row and I was looking to do something different.”

Silverstein says he has stuck closely to historical facts and the source material of the book, but taken some dramatic license, for example, making Abe’s father a British sympathiser. However, real battles and events have been recreated – when Silverstein speaks to TBI he is on set in Richmond, Virginia, and prepping for the Battle of Setauket.

Heavily serialised, but with bookended spy missions therein, the show kicks off with a 90-minute pilot before settling into its regular one hour format.

The title was changed from that of the novel so as not to give the impression that it was a show about George Washington, although the first president of the US is an important figure in the story. He appears in episode five and in subsequent instalments and the likelihood is he will become an important regular character should broadcaster AMC greenlight more seasons on the show.

“We didn’t want people to believe that Washington was a heavier character in the show than he was although he does come in and will be increasingly important in future seasons. We wanted this to feel vital and immediate and about the main characters in the show, which is about their lives and what is present for them.”

Further seasons are entirely possible as Turn only recounts a part of Rose’s novel, leaving plenty more source material.

Entertainment One is distributing the show. It will be one of the independent studio’s big drama launches for MIPTV where key Turn talent is tipped to make an appearance.


The show: Turn

The producer: AMC Studios

The distributor: Entertainment One (eOne)

The broadcaster: AMC

Format: 1x90mins + 9x60mins

Concept: Spy drama set during the US Revolutionary War