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Stop In The Name Of Love

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The Supremes’ hit Stop! In the Name of Love is the title of Tony Jordan’s new TV series, which weaves Motown into the storyline. Photograph: Michael Ochs Archives

The co-creator of Life on Mars is developing a TV drama series, partly inspired by the success "jukebox musicals" such as Mamma Mia!, featuring famous Motown hits such as Dancing in the Street.


Tony Jordan, a former EastEnders lead writer with credits including Life on Mars, Hustle, Death in Paradise and By Any Means, is working on scripts for a 10-part series, called Stop! In the Name of Love, after securing the rights to 40 Motown songs from EMI Music Publishing.


He is developing scripts which weave Motown classics such as I Heard it through the Grapevine and What Becomes of the Broken Hearted into a narrative about a group of four "smart 30-somethings and their search for love and friendship."


The tale will be told through the characters singing Motown songs, a device successfully used in West End jukebox musicals such as Mamma Mia! and Rock of Ages.


"No one has ever done this kind of thing on TV, full stop," said Jordan. "I'm talking about 100 women in burqas doing Baby Love, that's a big deal. I always wanted to do a big, sexy, amazing musical for TV, something we've not seen since those old MGM musicals."


Securing the rights to songs from Berry Gordy Junior's famous hit-making label Motown Records was something of a coup, taking a year of negotiations with owner EMI Music Publishing, handled by music consultant and former Universal Music UK chairman John Kennedy. EMI Music Publishing is now owned by a consortium led by Sony/ATV Music Publishing.


Jordan is developing the series through his production company Red Planet Pictures, as a joint venture with Kennedy film producer Duncan Kenworthy and former NBC Universal International president and Cineflix Studios chief executive Peter Smith. Jordan and Kenworthy will executive produce.


Red Planet and Smith are leading negotiations with potential broadcast partners for the series in the UK and internationally.


Jordan said the Motown music is an essential element of the series, which aims to be reflect the UK's multicultural society.


"Motown was the first music that really went across the social divide, it came out of Detroit and it was the first music that brought black and white together for the first time in popular music," he said. "The Motown catalogue was important because we live in a more multicultural society than we ever have before, it feels the perfect time to do the show."


Jordan added that he has long harboured an ambition to bring his take on the musical to TV, and that the successful adaptation of West End hits such as Mamma Mia! into films proved it can be done successfully.


"I've always wanted to do a musical, look at the success of Mamma Mia! at bringing drama and music together," said Jordan. "I was gutted when Pete Bowker did [bBC1 musical comedy drama] Blackpool, and when Glee came along I thought 'gutted, now someone's done it', but they didn't do what was in my head.


"In my head was Busby Berkeley, not just two people singing in a kitchen."


Jordan added that using music as part of the main plot, not just the background, allowed him to pull the heart strings much quicker than the slow-burn build-up of writing for a traditional TV show.


"It could take me 40 pages as a writer to get the audience to an emotional trigger to cry, I can do that in one page with music," he said. "I'm talking about a shortcut to an emotional trigger that only music can deliver."


Kenworthy's credits include Notting Hill, Love Actually and Four Weddings and a Funeral.


"Sex and the City, Bridesmaids, Bridget Jones's Diary and others have a universal theme of everyone looking for that extra piece of the jigsaw to make life complete," said Jordan. "Stop! captures that theme of love, that piece missing".


Edited by night nurse

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