EXCLUSIVE: In their first development season after partnering last June to launch ABC Studios-based Di Bonaventura Pictures Television, Lorenzo Di Bonaventura and Dan McDermott landed a series on the air, ABC’s midseason conspiracy drama Zero Hour. Now the duo have netted one of ABC‘s first drama commitments of the new development cycle with another high-concept project. The network has bought drama pitch Founding Fathers, from Di Bonaventura Pictures TV and ABC Studios. Written by feature scribe Rich D’Ovidio (Exit Woods, Thir13en Ghosts), Founding Fathers is described as “Donnie Brasco set in the world of Texas militias.” It centers on Nick Keating who, after serving a third tour in Afghanistan, returns home to find his small Texas town under the control of a militia group led by his older foster brother. After being seduced by the militia’s surprisingly community-based motives, he accepts a rare invitation to join the group. But unbeknownst to his new “family,” Nick has a secret agenda that will put his life in jeopardy and lead him to question his allegiances. D’Ovidio executive produces with Di Bonaventura and McDermott. READ MORE »
EXCLUSIVE: Castle executive producer Laurie Zaks is putting down roots at ABC Studios, which produces the ABC dramedy. Zaks has signed an overall deal with the studio, her first overall pact, and has launched her own production company, Second Season. Under the one-year deal, which has an option for a second year, Zaks will develop new projects. The name she chose for her company is a reference to “what you want to get for your show, a second season,” Zaks said. But also, “the second season is spring which is time for renewal. This is new for me, and I love that spiritual meaning.” Zaks has been at ABC Studios since 2006 when she left the network executive ranks to become president of Armyan Bernstein’s Beacon Television, which had a deal at the studio (then Touchstone TV). At Beacon, she developed Castle and has spent the past four years as an executive producer on the crime procedural starring Nathan Fillion. While she will keep her executive producer title on the show, Zaks will scale back her day-to-day involvement to focus on development this coming season. “I have to find the next Castle,” she quipped.
EXCLUSIVE: Army Wives star Catherine Bell has signed a new two-year deal with ABC Studios, which produces the veteran Lifetime drama series. The deal is qualified as a talent holding one as Army Wives has not been officially renewed beyond the current supersized sixth season. It would cover Bell’s services on the show for two more seasons, and I hear it includes a big salary bump from the actress’ current paycheck, which is in the high five figures per episode. While yet to pull the trigger on a Season 7, Lifetime has been actively exploring its options, including applying for the California TV tax credit lottery, which will be held Friday. I hear keeping the show in South Carolina for one more season and moving production to Los Angeles for two more seasons are among the discussed scenarios. None of the original cast members of Army Wives have deals beyond Season 6, and locking in Bell is a major step towards a potential renewal.
EXCLUSIVE: Netflix, already in talks with 20th Century Fox TV about possibly picking up recently canceled Fox series Terra Nova, may also be eying another freshman drama facing cancellation: ABC’s The River. I’ve learned that the streaming …
Freelance writer Dominic Patten is a Deadline contributor
UPDATED: Judge Elizabeth Allen White has declared a mistrial in Nicollette Sheridan‘s wrongful termination suit against ABC Studios and ABC Entertainment. The judge took her action, as she …
UPDATE: Steve McPherson Says Plan To Kill Off Nicollette Sheridan’s Character Came Before Slap, Calls Trial “Crazy”
Freelance writer Dominic Patten is a Deadline contributor
UPDATE, 2:57 PM: Former ABC Entertainment president Steve McPherson told the court this afternoon that he approved the killing off of Nicollette Sheridan’s Edie Britt character in May 2008, months before a head-hitting incident between Sheridan and Cherry on the Desperate Housewives set. He then told Deadline after his brief appearance on the stand that he is surprised the case ever got this far. ”It’s kinda crazy,” McPherson said outside the courtroom. “Both parties are really nice people, and I’m surprised it even made it to trial,” he said. McPherson, who left ABC abruptly in 2010, declined to discuss the Cherry-Sheridan incident but told Deadline it had nothing to do with the actress leaving the series. “We made the decision to get rid of the character six or seven months before anything happened — whatever happened,” he said, echoing his testimony.
On the stand, McPherson confirmed Cherry’s and Pedowitz’s previous testimony that he gave his approval of the decision on May 22, 2008. “I was running the network, they needed my approval to kill of the character”, he told the jury. “I gave my approval.” The alleged Cherry-Sheridan head-slapping incident occurred in September 2008. Under questioning from Cherry defense lawyer Adam Levin, McPherson said he had no emails or memos about the decision because “we wanted to keep it confidential”. He testified that the only people at the meeting in his office that day were himself, Cherry, Pedowitz and Housewives producers Sabrina Wind and Bob Daily. He added that he would have done exactly the same thing in regards to the killing off of any major character on any major network series. “We didn’t want it to get out”, he said.
EXCLUSIVE: After a decade at Warner Bros TV, writer-producer Rina Mimoun is moving to ABC Studios where she has signed a two-year overall deal. Under the rich seven-figure pact, Mimoun will develop new projects for the studio and join its upcoming series Mistresses as an executive producer. The soap, based on the British format, was recently given a straight-to-series order for a summer 2013 launch. It was written by The Nine co-creator KJ Steinberg, who is executive producing with Bob Sertner, Ecosse Films’ Douglas Rae and now Mimoun. With Steinberg busy working on her ABC/ABC Studios pilot Gilded Lilys, Mimoun and Sertner will oversee day-to-day operations on Mistresses for the time being. Mimoun’s deal with ABC Studios starts in June, but I hear she is been loaned out by Warner Bros TV so that she can start work on Mistresses right away.
ABC has bought The Cult Of Mac, a single-camera comedy from Australian playwright/TV writer Tony McNamara (Tangle), ABC Studios and studio-based Brillstein Entertainment. It centers on Ted Macfadden, who casts back into his 1987 Chicago childhood with his iconoclastic/crazy dad Mac for inspiration in parenting his …
Ben Stiller’s Red Hour Films is making a major move in television, signing an overall deal with ABC Studios and bringing in veteran film and TV executive Debbie Liebling to run the company’s TV division, Red Hour Television. Under the pact, which will run through May 31, 2013, with an option for another year, Red Hour TV will develop and produce comedy and drama projects for ABC Studios. At the studio, Red Hour joins such pods as Mark Gordon Prods, Shondaland and Brillstein Entertainment Partners. Stiller and Stuart Cornfeld’s Red Hour has ventured in TV before, co-producing several comedy pilots — including an untitled half-hour starring Stiller’s wife, actress Christine Taylor, at CBS; The Station at Fox; and, most recently, Justin Theroux’s Documental at HBO. But now the company is launching a dedicated TV division with Liebling at the helm. “Debbie is an incredibly talented executive,” said Stiller, who started in television as an actor on Saturday Night Live and The Ben Stiller Show. “I am hoping she helps us get a show on the air that is culturally relevant, groundbreaking, and doesn’t get canceled after 12 episodes. If she does that, I will consider the deal a major success.”
Liebling has experience in developing long-running series — she was Chief Development and Production Executive for Comedy Central for seven years, where she developed South Park. Other series she shepherded there include The Man Show, Win Ben Stein’s Money, Battlebots and Primetime Glick. Liebling most recently served as President of Production at Universal Pictures until May, when she exited as part of a department restructuring. At Universal, she oversaw the development and production of Bridesmaids, The Change-Up and Tower Heist, among others. She was previously President of Fox Atomic Pictures and spent five years as EVP Production for 20th Century Fox Films, where she was responsible for such films as Borat and the Stiller-starring Dodgeball, which he also produced. “I have known and worked with Ben over the years and always been in awe of his work ethic and standards and great taste,” Liebling said.