New broadcast entertainment chiefs Bob Greenblatt and Paul Lee are shaking things up this pilot season with some out-of-the-box pilot pickup choices. The latest is an order just made by Greenblatt at NBC for Grimm, described as a dark but fantastical cop drama about a world in which characters inspired by Grimm’s Fairy Tales exist. It comes from Angel co-creator David Greenwalt and the show’s writer Jim Kouf. Greenblatt previously picked up to pilot Ron Moore’s drama pilot 17th Precinct, a cop drama set in a town where magic rules over science, 1960s drama Playboy and the Broadway show-themed Smash, among others. Meanwhile, Lee has Poe, a crime procedural with Edgar Allan Poe set in 1840s Boston and 1960s drama pilot Pan Am. Grimm is being produced by UMS and Sean Hayes’ Hazy Mills. Greenwalt and Kouf are executive producing with Hayes and his producing partner Todd Milliner.
“Got any specs?” has become a popular refrain around Hollywood these days as pilot spec scripts are thriving in a very unusual network executive environment – new top programmers at two of the major broadcast networks, NBC and ABC. With Paul Lee joining ABC in the end of summer when buying season was already underway, and especially Bob Greenblatt, who is just now taking over NBC, studios and producers had been betting that there would be strong demand for specs as the execs may not be that attached to projects they didn’t develop and may look outside for fresh scripts that are ready to shoot.
The gamble seems to be paying off. All 4 pilots Greenblatt greenlighted today were spec (though one, Michael Patrick King’s Mann’s World, was originally bought by NBC’s old regime in early November.) That includes the Steven Spielberg-produced musical Smash, from DreamWorks TV and UMS, which Greenblatt originally developed at Showtime, David E. Kelley/WBTV’s Wonder Woman, which was shopped earlier this month, and a comedy from writer Jhoni Marchiko and 20th TV, which was taken out earlier this week.
Meanwhile, ABC has been in talks about a Cirque …
Paul Lee is going to take creative risks, and he is going to empower showrunners, the new ABC president said during the network’s portion of TCA today where he also defined the ABC brand as he sees it: “a smart network with a huge amount of heart and culturally defining shows”
“My real ambition is to make ABC Studios and ABC a real showrunner culture,” Lee said, stressing the fact that he is an ex-showrunner himself. “From my perspective, the ability to allow showrunners to take risks, and for us to give them the air support that they can do that, is one of the most important parts of my job… So from my perspective, that combination between a potent brand and empowered showrunners can really give us a chance to succeed going forward into the future.”
Early in the morning, ABC announced the early renewal of 6 series, Modern Family, The Middle, Cougar Town, Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice and Castle. Lee said he wasn’t concerned by the big ratings dropoff for Cougar Town after Modern Family, stressing that the sophomore comedy starring Courteney Cox “has found its voice.”
Unlike the same time last year when Modern Family, The Middle and Cougar Town were handed early renewals, today’s pickup announcement didn’t include any freshman shows, which have largely underperformed. Two first-year shows received praise from Lee. He called Detroit 1-8-7, “a gritty, brilliantly written show which we’re very proud of”, a “very, very high-quality show” that “gets better” and Better with You “a really funny show.” But Lee said he doesn’t expect the network to make any decisions on the future of its freshman shows “for two to three months.”
After a heated bidding between ABC and CBS that stretched over the weekend, Man Up, a new half-hour project from veteran comedy writer-producer Jack Burditt (30 Rock) and a potential starring vehicle for Tim Allen, has landed at ABC with a put pilot commitment. Word is new ABC programming chief Paul Lee was personally involved in the network’s efforts to get the comedy that would bring Allen back to ABC where he toplined one of the network’s biggest comedies, Home Improvement. Man Up, from 20th TV and studio-based 21 Laps/Adelstein, is a multi-camera family comedy about a guy fighting for his manhood in a world of women. Burditt is writing as well as executive producing along with Marty Adelstein, Shawn Levy and Becky Clements. Allen has been looking to return to TV and met with a number of writers in the past few months.
ABC’s new chief Paul Lee charmed a room full of industry types at the Hollywood Radio and TV Society’s network chiefs luncheon today, which was otherwise pretty uneventful. Three months into the job, he looked confident and relaxed, stretching his legs for most of the time, interjecting with witty zingers and cracking jokes throughout the panel discussion moderated by HRTS and Lionsgate TV president Kevin Beggs. ”We used to strike when they moved the tea break at the BBC,” Brit Lee quipped when the subject of a potential new WGA strike came up. In terms of ABC programming, Lee didn’t deny the rumor that he might be looking to revive TGIF on ABC. (He recently did a trial run with a younger-skewing family comedy at ABC Family, Melissa & Joey). “I certainly think that Friday night is a huge opportunity,” Lee said. He also alluded that ABC may test some of its marketing campaigns on Facebook before forking out millions to roll them out.
Also pretty entertaining was Fox’s Kevin Reilly, who was asked about the challenges of doing a series for broadcast vs. cable where FCC regulations don’t apply. “It is frustrating sometimes,” he said. “On cable, we would’ve been able to have the guys on Lone Star take off their clothes, the show would’ve pulled 1.3 million viewers and we would’ve declared it a hit because that’s what Mad …
New ABC programming chief Paul Lee is looking to upgrade another series his predecessor put on the low-trafficked Friday night. Beginning November 5, ABC will air reality veteran Supernanny in the Friday 8 PM slot. That is where Secret Millionaire, which ABC acquired after a run on Fox, was originally slotted though it was never assigned a premiere date. This follows a similar move ABC made last week with the Dana Delany-starring new procedural Body of Proof, originally slated to air Fridays at 9 PM, which was also held back and will be replaced by Primetime: What Would You Do?, beginning next week. Lee is said to be high on both Secret Millionaire and Body of Proof and is planning to give them a proper launch elsewhere. He just added another building block for midseason, a winter edition of Wipeout. In May, ABC announced a renewal for Supernanny but the series did not get a spot on the schedule and was held as backup. ABC also announced today that it will be preempting struggling new drama The Whole Truth tonight for a 20/20 special on the Chilean miners’ rescue.
ABC, which has been largely out of the spy genre since Alias, is reentering it in a big way. The network, which already is developing a Charlie’s Angels reboot, just landed the series adaptation of James Cameron’s 1994 action comedy True Lies, in a premium deal that includes a large penalty. Cameron is executive producing the project, which was taken to the networks earlier this week, with Rene Echevarria, who will serve as writer and showrunner and Lightstorm’s Rae Sanchini and Jon Landau. 20th Century Fox TV is producing. (James Cameron Adapts ‘True Lies’ For TV)
The 1994 movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis centered on Harry Tasker (Schwarzenegger), a computer salesman/family man who lives a double life as a government spy. During a top-secret mission, Harry discovers that his mousy wife Helen (Curtis), is seeking adventure. Harry sets out to give her the excitement she craves while battling Middle Eastern terrorists who threaten nuclear war with the U.S.
Before True Lies, ABC tried to adapt another movie about a spy couple, Mr. and Mrs. Smith. The project was ordered to pilot in 2007 but didn’t go to series. In his development picks so far, new ABC chief Paul Lee has gone mostly for noisy, light/genre projects from proven auspices with premium deals for True Lies, Darren Star’s dramedy adaptation of the book …
Today is ABC’s day at TCA. Of course, the abrupt resignation of Entertainment Group president Stephen McPherson on Tuesday was expected to be the predominant theme of the day. So ABC decided to tackle it head-on with an intro by Disney-ABC TV Group’s EVP communications Kevin Brockman, who walked out on stage before the first session carrying a large pink elephant plush toy. He said he would address “the elephant in the room… I realize you all may have questions. Tuesday’s statement still holds, and it is literally all we are going to say on the subject. So you may ask, but you will get the same answer… That is where we are.” Then he picked up the elephant and carried it out. Coming up: new ABC Entertainment Group President Paul Lee in his public debut since he took over the job on Friday.
Diane Haithman is contributing to Deadline’s TCA coverage.