ABC has picked up a second new original scripted series for next summer: Missing (aka Safe aka Hall of Mirrors). The project, from feature writer Greg Poirier (National Treasure: Book of Secrets) and Grant Scharbo and Gina Matthews, the producers behind ABC’s 2010 summer series The Gates, was put on fast-track development in early fall with an order for 3-5 backup scripts. Missing, produced by ABC Studios and Matthews and Scharbo’s Little Engine Prods., centers on a worried mom who, after her son disappears in Italy while overseas for a summer internship, takes it upon herself to travel to Europe and track him down. It soon becomes clear that this isn’t any ordinary woman, but a former CIA agent who will stop at nothing to bring her son home alive. Steve Shill, who won an Emmy last in August for his directing work on Dexter, is on board to direct multiple epidodes of the series, including the opener. He will also executive produce with Poirier, Scharbo and Matthews.
ABC is looking to get back in the event mini-series business with Wicked, an eight-hour mini-series produced by Salma Hayek, TVLine‘s Michael Ausiello reports. The project is not based on the highly-successful Broadway musical but on Gregory McGuire’s bestselling book that spawned it. Despite a long tradition of TV musicals like Cinderella, Annie and The Music Man at ABC that flourished under Susan Lyne as head of TV movies and mini-series and then entertainment president, the genre disappeared from the network under Lyne’s successor Stephen McPherson. In fact, McPherson passed on the Wicked mini-series a couple of year ago, a decision that was reversed by new ABC president Paul Lee. Wicked, which is in active development, is being produced by ABC Studios and Hayek and Jose Tamez’s studio-based Ventanarosa Prods. Erik Jendersen (Band of Brothers) is writing the script. For now, there are no plans for Hayek to star. Coincidentally, ABC and ABC Studios are developing a comedy musical series starring Idina Menzel, who originated the role of Elphaba in the Wicked Broadway musical, winning a Tony for the part. The musical, perennial top Broadway grosser that premiered in 2003, is currently being developed as a feature.
EXCLUSIVE: ABC has ordered its first pilot this development season, and fittingly, it is from the network’s most prolific writer-producer Shonda Rhimes. The untitled project, about the life and work of a professional fixer and her dysfunctional staff, is based on the career of famous PR guru and crisis management consultant Judy Smith. It was written by Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice creator Rhimes, her first pilot script since the two-hour May 2007 Grey’s Anatomy episode that served as backdoor pilot for spinoff Private Practice. It was a quick turnaround for the new project, which hails from ABC Studios and Rhimes’ studio-based Shondaland banner. ABC brass read Rhimes’ script on Thursday and 24 hours later, they greenlit it to pilot. The early order comes weeks before the traditional start of the broadcast networks’ pilot pickup season. ICM-repped Rhimes will executive produce with her Shondaland partner, UTA-repped Betsy Beers. Judy Smith will serve as a co-executive producer and a technical consultant.
UTA-repped Smith, a former White House press aide under President George H. W. Bush, has been involved in some of the most controversial cases of the past 20 years. She has guided and counseled Monica Lewinsky, Michael Vick and Senator Larry Craig and has worked on the Iran Contra investigation, the prosecution of former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry for drug possession, the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court confirmation hearings, the Chandra Levy investigation and the Enron Congressional inquiry.
ICM-repped Rhimes …
Two players from NBC’s Thursday comedy block, Parks & Recreation co-star Adam Scott and Community co-executive producer Hilary Winston, have teamed to produce My Son Gomez, a new single-camera comedy project for the network. Meanwhile, actor-turned-writer Ryan Raddatz (This Might Hurt) has sold Change of Plans, a multi-camera comedy to ABC with veteran Marsh McCall as showrunner.
EXCLUSIVE: Primetime musical series are red-hot courtesy of Fox’s Glee, and ABC, whose sibling Disney Channel started the genre’s resurgence with High School Musical and Hannah Montana, is developing a couple of music-themed series for next fall. Leading the pack is a drama with musical elements from writer Bob Kushell (Samantha Who?) starring Tony winner Idina Menzel. Another one is a musical comedy from Robert Horn, who penned two Disney Channel movie musicals this year: the High School Musical-spinoff Sharpay Fabulous, starring Ashley Tisdale, and The Suite Life: The Movie.
Hot off her recurring role on Glee last season, Idina Menzel is headlining her own musical hourlong project, a mother-daughter relationship drama in the vein of Gilmore Girls. It will star the Broadway actress as the single mother of a teenager who, to make ends meet, waits tables and performs at weddings and bar mitzvahs, odd jobs that Menzel herself worked early on while pursuing a Broadway career. Kushell, who had been looking to do a musical series for the past 10 years, is writing the script for ABC Studios and will executive produce with David Knoller (Big Love). Menzel and her manager Heather Reynolds will serve as producers. Menzel, who originated the roles of Maureen in Rent and Elphaba in Wicked on Broadway, earned Tony nominations for both and won for Wicked. She will make her New York Philharmonic debut on Feb. 5 and may also return to …
Angela Bassett has come on board the drama project One Police Plaza, which is in development at ABC. The project, from ABC Studios and studio-based Mark Gordon Co., centers on New York City’s first female commissioner, to be played by Bassett. Linda Fairstein and Kenneth L. Solarz are writing the script and will executive produce One Police Plaza with Gordon and Deborah Spera. Bassett, repped by Gersh and Lighthouse, will next be seen in Jumping the Broom and Green Lantern. On TV, she most recently co-starred on the final season of ER.
EXCLUSIVE: A trio busy on the feature side — Ethan Reiff and Cyrus Voris, who are writing the Karate Kid sequel, and Rob Cohen who is prepping the xXx threeequel, xXx: The return of Xander Cage – have teamed for an action drama project, which has been set up at ABC. Reiff and Voris are writing and Cohen is attached to direct the project, which has landed a premium script commitment from the network. In the vein of Red and The Expendables, the ABC Studios-produced drama is described as a fun action-adventure show about a team of old-school CIA covert operatives (kick-ass soldier-spies) who won the Cold War in the Eighties but were then forced out due to budget-cuts in the early 1990s. Now, they have been recruited to go back to work for their country by the chief of the Special Activities Division, a go-getter young woman who is also the team leader’s estranged daughter. Reiff and Voris, who co-created/executive produced the Showtime series Sleeper Cell, came up with the idea for the project based on a pitch by producer Aaron Kaplan of Kapital Entertainment who also put the duo in touch with Cohen. All 4 are executive producing. Reiff and Voris are with UTA and Field Entertainment; Cohen is with WME.
EXCLUSIVE: Following her brief stint as head of programming for OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, Jamila Hunter is returning to the broadcast side as VP comedy development for ABC. Meanwhile, Tracy Underwood has joined ABC Studios as VP drama development. Hunter will report to ABC SVP comedy Samie Kim Falvey; Underwood to ABC Studios SVP drama Patrick Moran. The hires appear to be a result from the restructuring to restore the network and the studio’s current departments, which ABC started just before president Steve McPherson’s sudden departure. ABC’s VP comedy Lynn Barrie was tapped to lead the network’s current department, and ABC Studios’ VP drama Stephanie Leifer took over current at the studio, creating vacancies in the 2 development departments.
EXCLUSIVE: In their first development season following the end of Ghost Whisperer‘s 5-year run on CBS, the series’ executive producers Kim Moses and Ian Sander of Sander/Moses Prods. have set up 3 new drama projects — 2 at ABC, Afterwives and Inhuman, and 1 at CBS, Chicago Fire. The 3 shows are in addition to Ghostworld, a drama about the intense connection between a ghost and an ambitious young female homicide detective from What About Brian creator Dana Stevens and director Alan Taylor (Mad Men), which was put on fast-track development by ABC in May. All 4 dramas are produced by ABC Studios where Sander and Moses recently signed a new overall deal.
EXCLUSIVE: Kelly Ripa is ready for more daytime-primetime double duty with Port Love, a new comedy project at ABC. Ripa and her husband, actor Mark Consuelos, will co-write the story for the single-camera project, with Consuelos set to star and Ripa to recur. Both will executive produce through their production company Milojo Prods. Port Love, from ABC Studios, is a workplace comedy set at a formerly popular network series and revolves around the cast and crew who have more backstage drama in their lives than in the actual show they’re working on. Jeffrey Hodes and Nastaran Dibai (According to Jim) will co-write the story with Ripa and Consuelos. Hodes and Dibai will write the script and will executive produce with the 2 actors and Aaron Kaplan of Kapital Entertainment. Ripa and Consuelos’ producing partner Albert Bianchini also is expected to produce the project, which has received script commitment.
EXCLUSIVE: After ordering contemporary versions of Romeo & Juliet set in New York and Chicago the last two pilot seasons, ABC is going for the real thing this year, picking up for development a retelling of William Shakespeare’s classic tale set in Renaissance Verona. Catherine Hardwicke, who directed the feature adaptation of another story about star-crossed lovers belonging to clans that are at odds with each other, Twilight, is in talks to direct the potential Romeo & Juliet pilot in what would mark her TV directorial debut. Feature producers Todd Garner (Paul Blart: Mall Cop, the upcoming The Zookeeper) and Wyck Godfrey & Marty Bowen (the Twilight franchise, Dear John) are behind the series adaptation, which is being written by World Trade Center scribe Andrea Berloff. Romeo & Juliet, which is produced by ABC Studios, follows the famous love story while also pealing away the curtain on the impetuous, incestuous, bloody and violent relationships during the Renaissance in Verona. In addition to Garner, Godfrey and Bowen, Sean Robin will also executive produce the project.
Sony Pictures TV has set up 3 half-hour projects – one at ABC and 2 at NBC – with script commitments that all have penalties attached to all. The ABC project reunited the studio’s non-writing producer Jamie Tarses with Betsy Thomas, creator of the recently canceled TBS sitcom series My Boys, which the two executives produced for Sony TV. Thomas is writing and exec producing the untitled ABC workplace relationships comedy.