Show of the week: Coroner

The crown jewel in Cineflix Rights’ growing scripted slate, Coroner has struck a chord in the market for procedurals – becoming the highest-rated drama debut on Canadian broadcaster CBC and the largest historical launch on Universal TV in the UK.

Inspired by British writer M.R. Hall’s bestselling series of books, Coroner is a character-driven, hour-long drama starring Serinda Swan as Jenny Cooper, a recently-widowed Toronto coroner who investigates suspicious deaths.

While it can be tricky to introduce a new procedural that raises the bar set by shows such as Bones, The Mentalist and NCIS, the drama strikes the right balance between tone and execution.

“The casting is so important – probably more important than in high-concept dramas where the story takes over everything and it’s all about the ‘wow’ effect,” explains Julien Leroux, SVP of global scripted co-productions for Cineflix Rights.

“When you’re in the space of more serialised, high-concept series, you can create a show more easily because it’s quicker to come up with more ideas. But with procedurals, it’s very difficult to come up with new cases and characters that feel fresh.”

Leroux notes that the Jenny Cooper character is unique in going against the grain of how female characters tend to be written “post-MeToo”.

“You see a lot more female characters now which is absolutely fantastic and much needed, but I’m constantly being pitched strong and independent women, and I think it puts an unnecessary pressure,” he says.

“Jenny is a character who is a woman embracing her failures, and that’s what Coroner deals with – the imperfection of characters. She has moments where she is strong and moments where she is weak, and the combination of the two makes the show work.”

Coroner has amply fit the bill for Cineflix Rights. Its major offering out of last week’s UK Screenings, Coroner was acquired early on by NBCUniversal International Networks, which scooped up rights for the UK, Germany, France, Spain, Poland, Africa, Latin America, Brazil and Australia.

“Our partnership with NBCUniversal is very key,” says Leroux. “They came and bought the show very early and invested a lot in the marketing of the show. They have done an amazing job in the UK and have found such a great audience.”

While NBCU’s deal covers rights in a number of major territories, Cineflix Rights is working on the windowing with linear broadcasters in order to bring Coroner to as many channels as possible.

A second series is now in advance discussions, with a writer’s room going “full speed ahead” on the next outing of the show.

Morwyn Brebner (Saving Hope) is creator, executive producer and showrunner; Adrienne Mitchell (Durham County) is lead director and executive producer for Back Alley Films; Jonas Prupas is executive producer for Muse Entertainment with Peter Emerson and Brett Burlock executive producers for Cineflix Studios.

For CBC, Sally Catto is general manager of programming; Helen Asimakis is senior director of scripted content and Sarah Adams is executive in charge of production.

Producer: Muse Entertainment, Back Alley Films and Cineflix Studios
Broadcaster: CBC (Canada) 
Distributor: Cineflix Rights
Concept: Inspired by the best-selling series of books by M.R. Hall and created by Morwyn Brebner, Coroner is a character-driven, close-ended episodic drama about Dr. Jenny Cooper—a recently widowed, new coroner who investigates suspicious, unnatural or sudden deaths in Toronto