Rhys Coiro (Hostages) and Joe Egender (Hunger) have landed lead roles in History’s miniseries Texas Rising (working title) from A+E Studios and ITV Studios America. Leslie Greif (Hatfields & McCoys) is exec producing the project, which will detail the Texas Revolution against Mexico and the rise of the legendary Texas Rangers. Coiro will play Vern Elwood opposite Bill Paxton, Ray Liotta, Brendan Fraser and Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Egender will play Beans Wilkins, a Ranger who is always hungry and looking for his next meal.
It is very difficult for showrunners to wrap production on a season without knowing if their series would get another season. Unfortunately, that is the nature of the network business, and about two dozen shows go though that every year. Here is a look at each network’s comedy and drama series in peril and their odds for survival.
With all the drama carnage at ABC this season (Lucky 7, Betrayal, Killer Women, Mind Games, The Assets), the network is pretty lean on the hourlong side, and all shows currently on the air have a good shot at coming back. That includes two freshman series, fall drama Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., despite slipping in the ratings, and midseason entry Resurrection. Of returning dramas, there is no doubt about renewals for Shonda Rhimes’ Grey’s Anatomy, especially with stars Ellen Pompeo and Patrick Dempsey signed on, and Scandal, as well as Castle and Once Upon A Time. While it was heavily on the bubble last season, country music drama Nashville appears in a stronger position this spring and looks likely to continue. And, despite its ratings erosion, Revenge remains a signature, upscale drama for ABC that the network also owns. Because of its heavy mythology with a revenge storyline that has been central to the show since the pilot, it is unlikely that ABC would abruptly end the series without giving it a final chapter to wrap things up.
Things are far murkier on the comedy side where there are three shoe-ins, anchors Modern Family and The Middle and freshman The Goldbergs. None of these hail from ABC’s sister studio, and building a steady comedy pipeline at ABC Studios has been important for the overall health of the company. There are three ABC Studios-produced comedy series on ABC at the moment, all on the bubble: freshmen Trophy Wife and Mixology and sophomore The Neighbors. The network will likely renew at least one comedy from its own studio. (Last year, it picked The Neighbors vs. 20th TV’s How To Live With Your Parents.) Of the three, Trophy Wife seems to have the biggest support and is the most promotable, with a star cast led by Malin Akerman and Bradley Whitford. But the name cast also makes Trophy Wife the most expensive, and its ratings are pretty soft. The Neighbors, which comes from prominent Disney writer Dan Fogelman, costs way less, and, while only doing so-so on Fridays, it could deliver something ABC Studios has not seen in a while: a third-year comedy. (Fogelman also has comedy pilot Galavant in the running at ABC.) Then there is Mixology, which has not done well behind Modern Family. It stands out with its unusual structure — set in a bar over the course of one night — it has quickly built a core fan base and has supporters at ABC. But relaunching a heavily serialized comedy in the fall four months after a brief midseason run would be a challenge and growing ratings for such a show with a continues storyline would be very difficult. ABC has a recent history of sticking with narrow, quirky relationship comedies like Happy Endings and Don’t Trust the B—- but all were eventually cancelled. 20th TV’s Last Man Standing starring Tim Allen is quietly wrapping its third season. It has done a decent job as a Friday 8 PM anchor and is ABC’s only multi-camera series. With several high-proile multi-camera pilots, the network could use Last Man Standing as a building block. (How about Allen paired with another comedy vet, Henry Winkler of The Winklers?).
Endemol Israel & Endemol North America Pact On Scripted TV; Gal Zaid Named Director Of Comedy & Drama
Independent TV and digital production company Endemol has tapped Gal Zaid as Director of Comedy and Drama of Endemol Israel as the division teams with Endemol North America to develop new original scripted TV, with an eye toward potential U.S. adaptations. Zaid (Prisoners Of War, Hostages) previously served as Director of Drama at Channel 10 and Keshet. He’ll oversee all scripted content for Endemol Israel, facilitate its partnership with Endemol’s LA branch, and work in tandem with Endemol U.S. Said CEO of Endemol Israel Elad Kuperman: “Gal is responsible for some of the most successful and exciting scripted series to come out of Israel and we are thrilled to have him join us in this key role.” Last week Endemol struck a first-look deal with London-based Origin Pictures and acquired UK production shingle Artists Studio as part of its drive for more original scripted TV. Upcoming Endemol Israel series include crowdfunding show Fundastic.
Sandrine Holt has locked a deal to join Paramount and Skydance’s reboot Terminator: Genesis, which stars Emilia Clarke as Sarah Connor, Jason Clarke as her son John Connor, Jai Courtney as Kyle Reese, and Arnold Schwarzenegger reprising his signature cyborg. The UK-born Holt would play Detective Cheung, who arrests Kyle and Sarah when they arrive in 2017. The time-travel saga is directed by Alan Taylor has a July 1, 2015 release set. Holt also just closed a deal to star opposite Norman Reedus and Djimon Hounsou in Air, the Automatik Entertainment pic, playing Abby, the wife of Cartwright (Hounsou). Holt played Gillian Cole, the work rival of Robin Wright’s Claire Underwood, in the first two seasons of Netflix’s House Of Cards. She also was cast in the ABC pilot Exposed, and was last on CBS’ Hostages. She is repped by Innovative and D2 Management.
Unlike other limited-run series this season like CBS’ Hostages and ABC’s Betrayal, which quietly finished their freshman runs with no hope of coming back, ABC is actually officially announcing that next week’s season finale of Once Upon A Time In Wonderland will be its series finale. The network’s most trusted utility player, Shark Tank, which was summoned in for repeat airings when The Assets and Lucky 7 were axed earlier this season, will air a special episode on April 10, after which repeats of Grey’s Anatomy will take over the Thursday 8 PM slot after that. Originally envisioned as a bridge between the fall and spring runs of mothership Once Upon A Time, Wonderland was instead fast-tracked for fall. That put additional pressure on the franchise creators to mount two complex, special effects-heavy productions simultaneously with little lead time — and possibly over-saturating the schedule with both series airing at the same time. (ABC brass have since admitted that that scheduling strategy was probably a mistake.) Wonderland opened with a disappointing 1.7 in adults 18-49 and quickly slipped below the 1.0 demo rating, most recently logging a 0.9 last night. It was originally eyed for an expanded limited run of as many as 17 episodes but, following its slow start, it ended up producing 13 episodes, all of which will have aired.
Nikita star Maggie Q is staying in the CBS/Warner Bros family with a lead role in CBS‘ untitled Kevin Williamson drama pilot. Maggie Q will play the female lead opposite Dylan McDermott in the project, from Warner Bros TV, the studio behind CW drama Nikita, which wrapped its run earlier this season. Written by Williamson and directed by Liz Friedlander, the psychological thriller revolves around two detectives, Beth (Maggie Q) and Jack (McDermott), who handle stalking incidents for the Threat Assessment Unit of the LAPD. Detective Beth Davis is the opinionated and obsessive, workaholic division captain of LAPD’s Threat Assessment Unit who also narrates the story.
Related: 2014 CBS Pilots
Issues faced by TV writers again are the sticking point in the WGA negotiations with the studios. In 2007, when the impasse led to a writers strike, it was residuals from series distributed online. This time around, it is the restrictive contracts for writers working in cable and on digital platforms. Under pattern bargaining, the deal between the WGA and AMPTP was expected to be similar to the recent DGA agreement with the studios with two writer-specific issues brought to the table by WGA — parity between cable and broadcast pay and the notion of exclusively and options. One of the two seem to have been resolved. “Every aspect of our contract has been negotiated and agreed upon with two exceptions — options and exclusivity — which remain points of contention between us,” negotiating committee co-chairs Chip Johannessen and Billy Ray wrote to their constituency last night. What are options and exclusivity, why are they so important to writers and what do writers seek to accomplish on them ?
While the number of scripted cable series at the time of the 2007 negotiations was a fraction of the number of such shows on broadcast, there is now parity between the two, with cable and digital scripted programming gaining an edge with rapid expansion. For instance, during calendar year 2013, broadcast networks introduced 23 new series, while cable/digital debuted almost 40, not counting kids fare. That means that soon there may be more writers working in cable and digital than in broadcast, all of them facing the underemployment problem that is at the heart of the current WGA-AMPTP stand-off.
What has been hailed as major part of the lure of cable as a superior creative environment — shorter orders — has become a major practical problem for writers. As Johannessen and Ray pointed out in their letter, broadcast dramas employ writers for 10 months a year to produce 22 episodes, followed by a two-month unpaid hiatus before writers start work on the following season. In cable/digital, 10-13 episodes a season is the norm, though shorter orders — as few as eight or even six (HBO’s Getting On) — also are accepted.
“Writers on short-order shows now find themselves working for half a year or less, then stuck on unpaid hiatus for open-ended periods while waiting to see if their show — and their contract — will be renewed,” Johannessen and Ray wrote. According to a standard cable contract, because of the long lag time between seasons, shows have an option on a writer for up to six months after the previous season finale airs or up to 9 months after the season premiere. During that time, they are not getting paid. What’s more, “during this period they are virtually unemployable because studios demand ‘exclusivity’ and ‘first position,’ preventing writers from seeking other work, their ability to make a living cut off,” the letter said. That often involves not only inability to staff on another show, but also write a pilot or work as a producer on one, and, in some cases, even write a feature. The exclusivity is strictly enforced by many studios, and any side gig usually requires an exhaustive process of seeking the studio’s permission, which may or may not be granted.
CBS Renews 9 Drama Series, 5 Comedies, 2 Reality Shows For Next Season; No ‘Mentalist’, ‘Crazy Ones’ Or ‘Intelligence’
“With the addition of the NFL on Thursday night our schedule is pretty darn tight,” CBS’ CEO Les Moonves told investors this week, indicating the network planned to only add two new drama and two new comedy series for next season. Here is the proof of just how tight the network’s 2014-15 schedule is shaping up to be. As it does every year, in one fell swoop the network has renewed the bulk of its lineup. That includes nine drama series — flagship NCIS, NCIS: LA, Criminal Minds, Person Of Interest, Elementary, CSI, Hawaii Five-0, Blue Bloods and critical darling The Good Wife — and five comedies: 2 Broke Girls, freshman The Millers and the three Chuck Lorre series, veteran Two And A Half Men, Mike & Molly and freshman Mom. They join Lorre’s The Big Bang Theory, which was just given a big three-season pickup. On the reality side, The Amazing Race and Undercover Boss are being renewed, joining Survivor, which is set for a milestone 30th cycle next season, as well as newsmagazines 60 Minutes and 48 Hours. All in all, 20 programs.
Not picked up is The Mentalist, the veteran procedural’s first time not being among the early renewals. The long-running drama has been on the bubble and, unlike Hawaii Five-0, Blue Bloods or The Good Wife, whose ratings have been on par or lower, Mentalist is not owned by CBS, making off-network money for the company the way the other three shows do. But The Mentalist is a very important property for Warner Bros TV with a very lucrative syndication deal and strong international sales, so expect the studio to fight hard for a seventh-season renewal, especially after the post-Red John creative reboot of the show was deemed successful. (The Mentalist creator/showrunner Bruno Heller’s expected departure to run his new series, Gotham at Fox, is not expected to be a major factor in the decision-making.)
Dylan McDermott To Star In CBS’ Kevin Williamson Drama Pilot
By Nellie Andreeva – Hostages‘ Dylan McDermott is set as the male lead in another CBS/Warner Bros TV drama project, the untitled Kevin Williamson pilot.
Dexter alumna Aimee Garcia has joined the CBS drama pilot Red Zone, written by Nikki Toscano and directed by James Foley. Also cast in the Uni TV project is Shanley Caswell (The Conjuring). It centers on retired CIA operative Holden Weller who, when a terrorist event rocks Washington, D.C., is pulled back into action, forced to investigate closer to home where the next generation of terrorists is being bred. Garcia, repped by Mosaic, Paradigm and attorney Lev Ginsburg, will play Vera Bradley, a whip-smart, driven and impatient case officer with the CIA’s Counter-Terrorism department. She can be seen in RoboCop. Caswell, repped by Semler Entertainment, APA and Bruce Gellman, will play Holden’s daughter, a cute but slightly awkward teenager with a lively interest in world affairs.
Related: 2014 CBS Pilots
Hostages co-star Billy Brown has been cast in ABC drama pilot How To Get Away With Murder starring Viola Davis, written by Pete Nowalk and executive produced by Shonda Rhimes. The sexy, suspense-driven legal thriller centers on ambitious law students and their brilliant and mysterious criminal defense professor, Annalise DeWitt (Davis), who become entangled in a murder plot that could rock the university and change the course of their lives. Brown, repped by APA and Benderspink, will play Nate, a respected police detective who is having an affair with Annalise …
Hostages‘ Dylan McDermott is set as the male lead in another CBS/Warner Bros TV drama project, the untitled Kevin Williamson pilot. The casting cements the fate of serialized thriller Hostages, which was not expected to continue beyond the initial 13-episode arc after struggling to draw sizable audiences. Written by Williamson and directed by Liz Friedlander, the untitled project is described as a psychological thriller revolving around two detectives, Beth and Jack (McDermott), who handle stalking incidents for the Threat Assessment Unit of the LAPD. McDermott’s Jack Larsen is a recent transfer from the Threat Assessment Unit from New York. His healthy confidence and quick thinking has gotten him into trouble in the past — a past he hopes to leave behind. Before Hostages, The Practice alum McDermott starred in the first season of hit FX drama American Horror Story. He is with CAA.
Related: 2014 CBS Pilots
EXCLUSIVE: Drama writer-producer Rick Eid has closed an overall deal with Warner Bros TV. Under the two-year pact, Eid will develop new projects for the studio. He also is boarding Warner Horizon’s newly picked-up Lifetime drama series The Lottery as executive producer/showrunner. Written by Timothy J. Sexton and starring Marley Shelton, David Alpay, Michael Graziadei and Martin Donovan, The Lottery is set in a dystopian future when women have stopped having children. Remarkably, 100 embryos are successfully fertilized and a national lottery is held to decide the surrogates. Eid will executive produce alongside Sexton, the pilot’s director Danny Cannon and Dawn Olmstead. Eid is coming off executive producer/showrunner duties on WBTV’s drama series for CBS Hostages. Before that, he was under a deal at CBS TV Studios where he served as co-executive producer on the studio’s long-running CBS crime drama CSI. At WBTV/Warner Horizon, he previously served as executive producer/showrunner on TNT drama series Dark Blue. WME-repped Eid also co-created the NBC/Universal drama series Conviction.
Related: 2014 Lifetime Pilots
Global Showbiz Briefs: ‘The X Factor’ Musical ‘I Can’t Sing’ Pushes Back Previews; Quentin Tarantino To Present Honorary Cesar To Scarlett Johansson; More
‘X Factor’ Musical ‘I Can’t Sing’ Delays Previews By Two Days
Previews of Simon Cowell‘s The X Factor musical, I Can’t Sing, have been postponed by two days at the London Palladium. Stage Entertainment and Syco Entertainment are producing the show and say they’ve decided to start previews on March 1 as opposed to February 27 due to “technical issues caused by the ambitious staging of the new musical comedy.” Rebecca Quigley, producer for Stage Entertainment, said, “As audiences will soon see, the production is hugely ambitious, and the volume of installation and scale of the set means that technical work has taken slightly longer than could have been anticipated to make the show audience-ready.” Nigel Harman (EastEnders, Downton Abbey) is playing a character based on Cowell in the musical that’s directed by Olivier Award-winner and Tony nominee Sean Foley. British comedian Harry Hill wrote the show.
Quentin Tarantino To Present Scarlett Johansson’s Honorary Cesar
Quentin Tarantino has been enlisted by France’s Académie des Arts et Techniques du Cinéma to present Scarlett Johansson with this year’s honorary César Award. The director will hand the award to Johansson this Friday at the 39th César Awards ceremony in Paris. Tarantino himself received the prize in 2011.
Cedric Yarborough Joins ‘Dead Boss’, Pedro Pascal & Sandrine Holt In ‘Exposed’, Justina Machado & Hampton Fluker In ‘Warriors’
Cedric Yarborough (Reno 911) is set as a regular in Fox‘s half-hour pilot Dead Boss, from Warner Bros TV and Aaron Kaplan’s Kapital Entertainment. An adaptation of the BBC3 series created by Sharon Horgan and Holly Walsh, Dead Boss is a comedic mystery that finds overachiever Helen Stephens (Jane Krakowski) wrongfully convicted of murdering her boss and forced to rely on her train wreck of a sister to prove her innocence. Yarborough, repped by Principato-Young, plays Tony, Helen’s good-natured, but schlumpy lawyer.The pilot was written by Patricia Breen who is executive producing with Horgan and Kaplan.
The breakthrough season for broadcast networks’ in-house production arms selling to rival nets continues with another green light for such a project. CBS has given a pilot order to untitled drama project from Bates Motel writer Nikki Toscano and the A&E/Universal TV series’ executive producer Kerry Ehrin. It hails from Universal TV, which will now co-produce with CBS TV Studios. This marks the 11th (!) pilot or series order this season by ABC, CBS, NBC or Fox to a project from an in-house production division of another network (excluding Fox sibling 20th TV, which has established itself as a major studio selling to everyone.) That is up dramatically from last season’s 3 such pilot orders, two of which — Fox/Uni TV comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine and CBS/ABC Studios drama Intelligence – went to series. This season, after ABC Studios and CBS Studios made a strategic move in that area, ABC Studios has landed 5 outside broadcast orders, Universal TV 4 and CBS TV Studios 2.
Toni Trucks (The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2) has been tapped for a regular role on TNT’s legal dramedy Franklin & Bash. Trucks will play Anita Herrera, the new recruit Attorney for the Franklin & Bash offices, a tough, smart and attractive Georgetown lawyer with a great sense of humor who can hold her own with the big boys. Trucks appeared as a recurring on CBS’ Hostages and next will be seen in Disney’s Alexander And The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. She is repped by Greene & Associates and Rugolo Entertainment.
Tate Donovan (Damages) has been cast in Fox‘s event series 24: Live Another Day, which will premiere May 5. The next chapter in the 24 franchise, from 20th TV, Imagine TV and Teakwood Lane, picks up the story four years after the series finale, which left Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) as a fugitive from justice, this time in Europe. Donovan plays White House Chief of Staff Mark Boudreau, an astute and strong-willed political adviser who is married to President Jame Heller’s (William Devane) daughter, Audrey Raines (Kim Raver) — Bauer’s former flame. Gersh-repped Donovan is coming off a co-starring role on CBS’ freshman drama Hostages.