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Over the years, William Shakespeare’s works have been adapted countless numbers of times on the stage, silver screen and small screen, and the legendary playwright himself has also been the subject of a few notable projects. The CW is now trying to bring the Bard back to audiences, and it doesn’t sound like they’ll be shooting for historical realism in the slightest. The network has teamed up with NCIS star Mark Harmon for Shakespeare’s Sisters, a fantasy drama about Shakespeare’s black magic-filled perils and adventures as a young man. In other words, it’s like a Lifetime biopic.
With romance and revenge swirling around the plot, Shakespeare’s Sisters will take place in 1590s London – three cheers for no modernization! – and follows the young Will Shakespeare during his career climb. According to THR, “he finds himself caught in a deadly conflict among three witches and the most powerful woman in the world, Queen Elizabeth.” If you’re one of those people who needs the double-example to get what’s going on, the series is described as having the wit and heart of Shakespeare in Love with the grit of that other fantasy drama, Game of Thrones. An Oscar winner and a massive premium cable success; can’t say I blame them for aiming high.
So if three witches are involved here, does that mean that Shakespeare’s life will be influenced by characters and plot points that show up in his later plays? (The three witches in Macbeth are what I’m basing this on.) Should we expect to see forbidden love end in tragedy? Will there be weddings foiled by madcap madness? Will someone’s head turn into that of a jackass at some point? I digress.
The pilot script for Shakespeare’s Sisters will be written by Scott Sullivan, probably best known for his work writing on TNT’s shortlived drama King & Maxwell. He also wrote a 2013 episode of NCIS: Los Angeles, tying him to the world of spinoffs not including Mark Harmon. For a director, CBS Television hooked up with Brad SIlberling, who helmed such Hollywood hits as City of Angels and Casper. He’s most recently put together episodes of The CW’s Jane the Virgin, along with last year’s pilot episode for Reign. Harmon, who spread his executive producer wings for the new series NCIS: New Orleans, will produce Shakespeare’s Sisters through his Harmon Tannenbaum Co. imprint.
Much of The CW’s content is either period dramas (like Reign) or shows based on previously existing material, like The Vampire Diaries. Will the efforts of Shakespeare’s Sisters bring the best of both worlds to the youth-skewing network? That’s a better question than that “To be or not to be?” nonsense.