Nellie Andreeva

EXCLUSIVE: Westerns continue to be a hot genre at the TV networks. NBC, the first broadcast net to jump on the trend in a big way last year with the pilot order to Reconstruction, has bought an untitled Western project  from Sean Hayes’ Hazy Mills production company. Friday Night Lights alumna Kerry Ehrin is writing the project, which is set in the 1880s and centers on Jacob Morris, a young, eccentric East Coast doctor of mental disorders who moves to a primitive Western town at the foot of the Colorado Rockies. There he immediately stands out as he doesn’t fight with a gun but rather uses new theories that are being practiced in the East. The tone of the show mixes drama and comedy, much like the series Ehrin has most recently worked on, NBC’s Parenthood. Ehrin, Hayes and his Hazy Mills producing partner Todd Milliner will executive produce for Universal TV. Milliner said he and Hayes had been talking about doing Western for a while but didn’t think a broadcast network would go for it. They got encouraged by the recent interest in the genre but mostly by NBC’s decision to pick up their drama project Grimm to series. Grimm, a cop procedural with fairy-tale elements, was originally developed by Hazy Mills five years ago when it was set up at CBS. Milliner and Hayes had almost lost hope when NBC picked up Grimm to pilot and then to series earlier this year. “Grimm was the oddest idea we have ever had,” Milliner admitted. “(The pickup) shows that you should keep going even if it’s not the right time or the right network. One day it will be.” Hayes and Milliner recently pitched the idea for the Western to NBC, which liked it. The network suggested Ehrin as a writer, and the project came together quickly. This is one of three projects Hazy Mills has in the works at NBC, where it is under an exclusive deal. The others аrе a comedy starring Hayes as the half of a gay couple with a teen daughter, which is being written by Peter Tolan, and game show pilot Celebrity Game Night, which features celebrities crashing people’s weekly game nights. Additionally, the 8-year-old company is behind TV Land’s hit Hot In Cleveland.

The Ehrin-written NBC project joins two other broadcast Westerns in development for next season, both at ABC. Ron Moore’s Hangtown is set in the early 1900s and one of its three lead characters has similar roots to Jacob Morris’. It centers on a Clint Eastwood-type Marshal, a young  doctor from the East Coast who is interested in using the new field of forensics to solve crimes, and a young woman writer. ABC’s other Western in development is David Zabel’s Gunslinger. Additionally, TNT recently gave a cast-contingent pilot order to Bruce C. McKenna and Danny Cannon’s Gateway, set in the 1880s. Starting the current TV renaissance of the genre was AMC, which has the 1860s-set series Hell on Wheels coming up.

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