Lifetime Loads Up on Originals With Viola Davis, James Franco and Timbaland

Damian Holbrook

Lifetime is whipping up the drama in 2017 and it has some serious talent behind its just-announced slate of new programming.

At the Television Critics Association winter press tour in Pasadena Friday, the cable network ran down some of the bigger titles they have in the pipeline, starting with March 3rd's Custody, a telemovie starring The Affair's Catalina Sandino Moreno as a single mother who faces a family court judge played by Golden Globe winner Viola Davis after she is suspected of injuring her son. Nashville's Hayden Panettiere costars as Moreno's legal counsel in the drama that also stars Ellen Burstyn and Tony Shalhoub.

Other TV movies to look forward to include High School Lover starring Mother May I Sleep With Danger's James Franco as a father trying to shield his teen daughter from a potentially dangerous older lover (Feb. 4); the Britney Spears biopic Britney Ever After with Natasha Bassett (Feb. 18); and the in-production Michael Jackson: Searching for Neverland from executive producer Suzanne de Passe, which looks at the King of Pop's final years as played out by Navi, the #1 Michael Jackson tribute artist.

Natasha Bassett is Britney, b**ch

Natasha Bassett is Britney, b**ch

On the series front, Hannibal's Caroline Dhavernas headlines Mary Kills People about an ER doctor with a deadly side job: She and an former plastic surgeon (Beauty and the Beast's Jay Ryan) secretly help terminally ill patients die with dignity. The unfortunately titled but clearly provocative drama, set to premiere on April 23 at 10/9c, was directed entirely by co-EP Holly Dale, who has previously helmed The Americans, Smash, Timeless and all three of Dick Wolf's Chicago shows.

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And because every network should have a Greg Berlanti series, Lifetime also confirmed that it is developing author Caroline Kepnes' best-selling thriller You with the Arrow-Supergirl-Flash-Blindspot guru and Sera Gamble (The Magicians) handling the writing.

Finally, on the unscripted column, Lifetime is planning to check off two different reality boxes. On Feb. 21 at 10/9c, music producer Timbaland calls in pals like JoJo, Jordin Sparks and Macy Gray to help mentor five aspiring vocalists in The Pop Game, from executive producers Queen Latifah and Jermaine Dupri. And later on in the year, Jason Biggs and wife Jenny Mollen will host My Partner Knows Best, a game show that dares to see how well married couples can survive challenges based on domestic and relationship situations.

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