Outrageous Fortune prequel gets green light

WEST SIDE STORY: An Outrageous Fortune prequel, telling the story of Ted West's (played by the late Frank Whitten in the TV series) murky past, will receive NZ On Air  funding.
WEST SIDE STORY: An Outrageous Fortune prequel, telling the story of Ted West's (played by the late Frank Whitten in the TV series) murky past, will receive NZ On Air funding.

After six incredible seasons, Outrageous Fortune has gained funding for one more. A prequel.

Local drama has received an $18 million funding boost from NZ On Air to back three new Kiwi series, including West Side Story, a journey into Ted's murky past.

From the Platinum Fund for TV One, Hillary will be a landmark series about lauded beekeeper-turned-adventurer, Sir Edmund Hillary. The six-part drama has been created by the experienced writing team of Tom Scott and Greg McGee and is based on the story told by Hillary to Scott for his biography.

Meanwhile, on TV2, Dave and Cara's unconventional love story continues in a second series of Step Dave.

Following its successful first season, the lighthearted family drama is back with the trials and triumphs of blended family life. A spokeswoman for South Pacific Pictures said the full cast was on board for the second season, which will air next year. 

And yes, legendary safecracker and criminal Ted West and his wife, Rita, are back as central characters of West Side Story.

The historical drama is set in 1970s Auckland, amid social and economic upheaval.

Outrageous Fortune creators James Griffin and Rachel Lang were currently writing the script for the prequel, South Pacific Pictures said. Casting was yet to be confirmed, and the show would go into production in October.

TV3 Head of Commissioning and External Production, Sue Woodfield, said the channel was thrilled to be bringing the iconic West family and friends back.

"Outrageous Fortune provided some of the best moments on New Zealand television and we're sure our viewers will be as excited as we are about this project."

South Pacific Pictures Chief Executive, Kelly Martin, added, "ten years ago - almost to the day - I recall the excitement at TV3 when the first series of Outrageous Fortune was green lit and it was a thrill to watch that show grow to become both beloved and acclaimed. Everyone at SPP is looking forward to taking fans back to where it all began - actually... to before it all began!"

NZ On Air was "delighted" to have supported three strong drama projects for all three major free-to-air channels in a difficult business environment, Chief executive Jane Wrightson said.

"Our drama strategy aims to deliver a diversity of local drama programmes for audiences, and these funding decision certainly give viewers choice," Wrightson said.

"Our Platinum Fund investment in Hillary is an investment in a drama that will preserve one of our greatest stories for future generations, while West Side Story and Step Dave 2 give appreciative audiences more of these successful and uniquely New Zealand stories."

Spokeswoman Allanah Kalafatelis said that with about half the drama budget going to these shows, it was a significant investment in the local industry.

Funding breakdown:

- Hillary received $6.4m for six episodes on TV One
- Step Dave 2 received $6.8m for 13 episodes on TV2
- West Side Story received $4.8m for 6 episodes on TV3. Its sixth season, of 18 episodes, aired in 2010 at a cost of $8.6m with a viewership of more than 500,000.