The third season of Turn: Washington’s Spies starts up April 25, and the new season is primarily focused on Benedict Arnold—what led up to the most famous turncoat’s fateful pivot, and what it meant for the Revolutionary War. Arnold was an accomplished general in the U.S. army, but felt he wasn’t fully credited for his heroics.
“He wanted to be a person of substance, to have money,” says Barry Josephson, exec director at Turn. “He was, in a way, a little bit desperate, and that’s why he was susceptible to being turned.”
The first two seasons of the AMC series are available on Netflix. Josephson said he’s been itching to get to the storylines in season three, foremost Arnold’s defection, since the earliest days of the series. “I was bugging Craig [Silverstein, creator] back when we were shooting the pilot [about Arnold],” says Josephson. “I always wanted to get to season three.”
The series is based on the book Washington’s Spies: The Story of America’s First Spy Ring, by Alexander Rose. Josephson said Rose had initially set out to write a book about Arnold, but that his research got him fascinated about the Culper Ring, a spy network set up by Major Benjamin Tallmadge under orders from General George Washington during the British occupation of New York City.
Silverstein admits some frustration that the show has not caught on with the masses. Ratings are ticking up, he says, but after two seasons, there remains confusion as to what Turn is about. “I wonder, are we sending the right message—communicating in the right way what the show is?” he says.
AMC has a novel marketing plan in the works that ties the series to the presidential primary campaign dominating the news cycle these days. The connective theme is a divided nation. One part of the campaign adds George Washington’s mug to the mix of current candidates. Another, seen in outdoor advertising, shows the current American flag next to the 13-star version, with the words “America Divided: Now and Then.”
Another marketing ploy likens redcoats and bluecoats to red states and blue states. Linda Schupack, exec VP of marketing at AMC, noted how “the campaign feels appropriate to the period but incredibly fresh as well.”
On-air promos feature the phrase “Feel the Turn,” and the show’s exec producers certainly hope audiences do.
“Season three really lives up to the title,” says Josephson.
Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.
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