EXCLUSIVE: Jerry Bruckheimer Television is venturing into cable with a drama project at A&E. Written on spec by Ian Sobel and Matt Morgan, Harvest centers on a mild-mannered cemetery caretaker who finds his small-town life in jeopardy when his estranged criminal father forces him into the body-trade business. Bruckheimer TV and Warner Horizon TV are producing, with Jerry Bruckheimer and Jonathan Littman executive producing, KristieAnne Reed co-executive producing and Sobel and Morgan serving as supervising producers. This marks a rare cable project for Bruckheimer TV, which has been focused on broadcast, locking a number of sales again this season, including put pilot commitments at Fox for a family thriller written by Aron Eli Coleite, and at NBC for a Pam Veasey comedy. In cable, Jerry Bruckheimer TV previously produced the TNT drama Dark Blue. Sobel and Morgan are with ICM Partners and Rain Management, JBT with CAA.
It’s the end of the road for three pilots: A&E drama Occult and Comedy Central comedies Schlub Life and Bad Advice From My Brother. A&E actually passed on Occult three weeks ago, but producing studio ABC Studios kept it alive by shopping it around and engaged with conversations with potential buyers. Unfortunately they didn’t pan out and the project is now officially dead. Occult, produced by Michael Bay and written by James Wong, centered on an FBI agent (Josh Lucas) partnering with an agent specializing in the occult (Lynn Collins). Greg Hess’ Schlub Life was about two irresponsible best friends. Bad Advice From My Brother was written by Jordan Pope Roush based on his blog of the same name.
A&E has cast the three major new roles on the upcoming second season of Bates Motel. Rebecca Creskoff (Hung), Kenny Johnson (Sons Of Anarchy) and Michael Vartan (Hawthorne) have been tapped for recurring parts on the series, a prequel to Psycho. Creskoff will play Christine who befriends Norma, pulling her into the upper circle of White Pine Bay Society. Charming, witty and intelligent, Christine is the first female friend Norma has ever had. Alias alum Vartan plays George, Christine’s recently divorced older brother who develops a crush on Norma. Johnson, who also recurs on the final season of Dexter, plays Caleb, Norma’s estranged brother.
A&E‘s unlikely hit Duck Dynasty returns for its fourth season on Wednesday, August 14, the network announced this morning, while salary talks with the Robertson clan continue. Back in April, the Season 3 finale logged an average of 9.6 million viewers – a record for the series and the network. The season ender was up 48% over the 6.5 million who watched the Season 2 finale on December 5, 2012. With a 4.3 rating, it was the highest-rated show on both cable and broadcast Wednesday, easily beating American Idol’s 3.2 that night. The starring Robertson clan had been demanding an increase in salary to as much as $200,000 per episode.
A&E’s Bates Motel gang was still riding high on star Vera Farmiga‘s Best Actress Emmy nomination Saturday morning at Comic-Con, where Farmiga explained her approach to playing the mother of Hitchcock’s most famous psycho. “I Googled ‘parents of psychopaths,” she said. “That’s where my compassion for the character comes from. She’s incredibly flawed, she comes with an incredibly warped history and a lot of pain that she’s damming up. But in her defense, she’s the mother of a child with mental issues. There’s no way that a parent can say my child has a mental illness without their spirit imploding. So I always approach Norma with a great sense of compassion and reverence.”
The drama series’ panel opened with a pre-filmed bit of fun with a gag video featuring Freddie Highmore as himself visiting the Bates Motel writers room; there he finds that all screen time and ads are devoted to Farmiga and takes over the Universal Studios Psycho tram stop as the Norman Bates persona seeps into his identity. Highmore joined Farmiga, Nestor Carbonell, Olivia Cooke, Max Thierot and EPs Carlton Cuse and Kerry Ehrin to talk up the modern-day Psycho prequel/reimagining. The show returns for its sophomore season next year, when Cuse teased romances on the horizon for Norma and Norman. “And not with each other, OK?” joked Cuse. “Not yet.” The hint of incest between the pair remains ambiguous. “It’s just a form of Norma’s holding therapy,” said Farmiga. “Every mother in the audience will tell you they grow up so quickly you’ve got to slather it on while you can.” Another member of the Bates family could add another complex relationship to the show soon. “We made reference to Norma’s brother last season,” teased Cuse. “That character might show up this season.”
EXCLUSIVE: In a competitive situation, A&E has landed Blood, Sweat & Tears, a drama project from feature and TV writer Chad Feehan (Southland, Paranormal Activity 4) and director Joe Carnahan (Narc). The project, from CBS TV Studios and studio-based Timberman-Beverly Prods., is a serialized drama set in Texas, which centers on the world of amateur bull riding. Feehan is writing the script and serves as co-executive producer. Carnahan is set to direct and will executive produce with Sarah Timberman and Carl Beverly.
This marks a return to A&E for Carnahan, who is on a hot pilot streak. Both pilots he directed this year, A&E’s Those Who Kill and NBC’s The Blacklist, garnered a lot of buzz and went to series, with Blacklist scoring NBC’s best drama pilot testing results in a decade and landing the post-Voice Monday 10 PM slot on the fall schedule. He is with CAA and Stuart Rosenthal. Feehan, repped by CAA, Management 360, and Michael Schenkman, has a couple of feature projects in the works, including Beyond The Pale, based on his Black List 2011 script, and The Man From Primrose Lane, which has Bradley Cooper attached. CAA-repped Timberman-Beverly has four series on the air, Elementary and Unforgettable on CBS, Masters Of Sex at Showtime and Justified on FX.
Daniel Henney and Brennan Brown are set to co-star opposite Josh Lucas and Lynn Collins in A&E‘s drama pilot Occult, produced by Michael Bay and written by James Wong. Occult centers on Dolan (Lucas), an FBI agent who returns from administrative leave after going off the deep end while investigating his wife’s disappearance. Henney, repped by CAA and Medavoy Management, will play Thompson, the Special Agent in Charge, investigating the abduction of the Governor’s daughter, who has recruited Dolan. Brown, repped by BRS, Curtis Brown and Soffer/Namoff), will play Monroe, Assistant Director of the FBI field office in New Orleans.
Ernie Hudson is in negotiations to join the cast of Frank Darabont’s upcoming TNT series Lost Angels as a recurring. On the period drama, which chronicles the battle between the forces of the LAPD and the West Coast mob during the 1940s and 50s, Hudson will play Bunny, a mobster who has control of the clubs and joints along Central Avenue, who also happens to work for Bugsy Siegel. Hudson, repped by The Marshak/Zachary Co. and Buchwald, recently co-starred in ABC’s pilot Reckless and will appear in the feature You’re Not You.
During a Bates Motel panel discussion Friday, Carlton Cuse was blunt about borrowing from a classic. No, not Hitchcock’s Psycho; TV’s Twin Peaks. “We pretty much ripped off Twin Peaks,” joked Cuse, executive producer of the A&E series with Kerry Ehrin, in response to a question about the similarities from panel moderator Shawn Ryan. “If you wanted to get that confession, the answer is yes,” he continued, tongue in cheek. “I loved that show. They only did 30 episodes. Kerry and I thought we’d do the 70 that are missing.” Cuse appeared on the Paley Center panel “Inside Bates Motel: Reimagining A Cinema Icon” with Ehrin, Vera Farmiga (who portrays Norma Bates), Freddie Highmore (Norman), Max Thieriot (Norman’s half-brother Dylan), Nicola Peltz (popular teen Bradley Martin) and Nestor Carbonell (Sheriff Alex Romero). English actress Olivia Cooke, who plays Norman’s friend Emma Decody, who battles cystic fibrosis, was a no-show because of “visa snafus,” Ryan said. Once it was acknowledged that both TV shows are plenty creepy and set in the foggy Northwest, Cuse, Ehrin and the cast spent more time during the freewheeling discussion citing the similarities and differences of Bates Motel from Hitchcock’s iconic 1960 film.
A&E Network has given an official series pickup to drama Those Who Kill, from Imagine TV and Fox 21. The project, starring Chloë Sevigny and James D’Arcy, has received a 10-episode order to premiere in 2014. Production is slated to begin this fall. Based on a Danish crime series format inspired by the bestselling work of author Elsebeth Egholm, Those Who Kill centers on Catherine Jensen (Sevigny), a freshly minted and incredibly smart police detective who tracks down serial killers while also attempting to come to terms with her past by continuing to investigate her stepfather, who she suspects may be a serial killer, and her brother who went missing as a sixteen-year-old. Jensen enlists the help of Thomas Schaffer (D’Arcy), a forensic psychiatrist, to help her get into the minds of serial killers, all the while luring Schaffer into her own personal investigation. Both characters possess a deep psychological understanding that connects them to the killers’ victims and to the killers themselves. “Those Who Kill is not a crime procedural about serial killers – it’s a deep serialized character portrait of two compelling yet damaged individuals coming together through the revelation of their dark past,” said Bob DeBitetto, A&E’s …
I have learned that A&E is finalizing a deal for series order to drama pilot Those Who Kill, starring Chloë Sevigny and James D’Arcy. The project, from Imagine Television and Fox 21, is an adaptation of a Danish format and revolves around police detective Catherine Jensen (Sevigny) and forensic profiler Thomas Schaffer (D’Arcy), who possess a deep understanding of the serial killers they hunt. Thomas is described as a handsome and intellectual college psychology teacher with a PhD who focuses on serial killer behavior. Joe Carnahan directed the Those Who Kill pilot from a script by Glen Morgan. Morgan, Carnahan, Brian Grazer, Francie Calfo, Peter Bose and Jonas Allen executive produce. The Those Who Kill pickup comes on the heels of the strong debut of A&E’s latest series, Bates Motel. Those Who Kill was one of two drama pilots A&E ordered last fall. The other, Occult, just cast its leads with Josh Lucas and Lynn Collins.
Round 1 of the Storage Wars legal battle looks to have gone to A&E. In a hearing today, a judge threw out the unfair business practices claims of the series former star Dave Hester’s wide-ranging lawsuit against the network and producers of the reality show. LA Superior Court judge Michael Johnson ruled that the claim fell short under California’s anti-SLAPP law. The Judge also sided with the defendants that their First Amendment rights would be violated if he were to agree to Hester’s attorneys’ request for an injunction against Storage Wars for alleged staging of the show.
A&E had requested that the unfair business practices claim be striped from the five-claim suit and their Constitutional rights affirmed in their January 28 response to Hester’s initial December 11 complaint. Johnson told the downtown hearing that in granting the requested injunction he would essentially be telling A&E what they could and could not programming on their network, something he did not agree was right or warranted. Additionally, he demanded more information on the wrongful termination aspect of Hester’s complaint for the suit to progress in the courts. Hester and his lawyer Marty Singer now have 20 days to amend their initial complaint.
A&E says that it isn’t Storage Wars that’s fake but the lawsuit from Dave Hester. A month and a half after Hester called the hit reality series a staged “fraud on the public and filed suit against the network and Storage Wars producers for more than $750,000, A&E fired back late last week. And they made their response (read it here) almost all about the money and free speech. “Original and AETN opposed Hester’s demands for more favorable contract terms, and he was notified that his participation was no longer needed in the Program. Hester then filed this lawsuit against AETN and Original. In a transparent attempt to distract from the issues – and maximize any potential recovery – Plaintiffs’ Complaint tries to convert a garden-variety breach of contract claim into a tabloid-worthy drama, in which Hester portrays himself as a crusading whistleblower. But setting aside the notable inconsistencies in his exaggerated self-portrait, the law does not permit such sophistry,” says the response A&E filed in LA Superior Court on January 24. Using Anti-SLAPP laws and First Amendment free speech guarantees as blunt objects, A&E goes on to say that Hester’s’ Unfair Business Practices cause of action is “meritless” and it wants the court to strip it from his suit.
Diane Haithman is contributing to Deadline’s TCA coverage.
At today’s TCA panel on A&E’s new original scripted drama series Bates Motel, most questions had to do with how the series, from executive producers Carlton Cuse and Kerry Ehrin, would or would not pay homage to the movie Psycho. For the record, the producers say it won’t but various Psycho incarnations are used as inspiration to create an original story.
“We don’t really view any of that as canon,” Cuse said. He called a desire to avoid “homage” a reason why the story has a contemporary setting, rather than being set in the ’60s. He added that the story of how young Bates becomes a murderous adult “will not be what you expect it to be.” (He did confirm that the story would be serialized but “have a beginning, middle and end” and will not focus on a single individual mystery or story point.) Although Cuse rejects the idea of “homage,” he said that show producers used the original plans for the movie Bates Motel that stands on the Universal Studios lot to recreate the motel on location in Vancouver.
But not surprisingly, a question arose about whether post-Newtown is a bad time to introduce an entertainment series about a disturbed young man with a troubled relationship with his mother who eventually turns violent. Said Ehrin: “I think the only thing anyone thought about that was that it was horrible and sad. This show is not about violence, it’s about a mother and son.” She said that the story is trying to “explain” violence rather than promote it.
A&E Network is getting into some reality TV steer wrestling and saddle-bronc riding. The network said today it has ordered a series from The Weinstein Company about female rodeo competitors. The series, which has the working title Rodeo Girls, was described last year at MIPCOM as “Ice Road Truckers meets Housewives.” A&E has put in an eight-episode order. “We are thrilled to be working with The Weinstein Company on Rodeo Girls. The women of the competitive barrel racing world are formidable athletes living sensational lives and we are excited for our viewers to go along for the wild ride,” said David McKillop, EVP Programming at A&E Network and BIO Channel, in a statement Friday. The series is executive produced by Meryl Poster, Barbara Schneeweiss, Roe Baker and Darcy Lapier for Weinstein and Stephen Land for Jupiter Entertainment. Executive producers for A&E are McKillop, Elaine Frontain Bryant, Lily Neumeyer and Devon Graham.
A&E Network‘s new drama series Bates Motel, from executive producers Carlton Cuse (Lost) and Kerry Ehrin (Friday Night Lights), will debut on Monday, March 18 at 10 PM. Bates Motel is a contemporary prequel to Hitchcock’s classic Psycho, chronicling how Norman Bates’ psyche unravels through his teenage years. It tells the dark, twisted backstory of Norman Bates (Freddie Highmore) and how deeply intricate his relationship with his mother, Norma (Vera Farmiga), truly is. Max Thieriot, Olivia Cooke, Nicola Peltz, Nestor Carbonell and Mike Vogel co-star.
UPDATE: In response, Michael Camacho tells Deadline: “I was in charge of unscripted television at UTA when his agency signed several of the principal characters of Pawn Stars. I have never met or spoken to the former agents or the clients and was unaware of any claim.”
The former agents of the stars of History’s Pawn Stars today sued the network, executives Nancy Dubac and Mary Donahue, A&E and former UTA agent Michael Camacho for allegedly poaching their clients. Citing $5 million in lost commissions and damages (read complaint here), Venture IAB claims that it set up Pawn Stars’ Richard B. Harrison, Richard K. Harrison, Richard C. Harrison and Austen Russell on the reality show. The agents say they signed the group as clients in 2007 and again in 2009. Pawn Stars debuted on History on July 19, 2009. It was not long after that things started to go sour between the staff of Las Vegas’ World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop and their agents. “In or about January 2010, the Harrisons and Russell terminated the Agency agreements, and thereafter entered into agency contracts with Michael Camacho and UTA. As a result of the intentional interference with the Agency Agreements, Plaintiff has lost millions of dollars of income,” says the complaint. Venture IAB claims it’s “entitled to 10% of all compensation received by the Harrisons and Russell” from Pawn Stars.
Storage Wars star Dave Hester today sued A&E and the producers of the reality show, calling it a staged “fraud on the public”. Represented by attorney Marty Singer in his suit (read it here), Hester is seeking more than $750,000 in damages and fees from the network and Original Productions for their actions and for firing him from the show. “When Plaintiff David Hester (“Hester”) complained to producers that A&E’s fraudulent conduct of salting and staging the storage lockers was possibly illegal, he was fired from the Series. As further evidence of Defendants’ outrageous conduct, they purported to rescind their written exercise of an option retaining Hester’s services this coming season,” says the 14-page complaint, which is suing for wrongful termination, breach of contract, breach of good faith and fair dealing, unfair business practices and declaratory relief.
Reality shows are often accused of sleight-of-hand manipulation of events, contestants and other participants, but Hester’s suit tarnishes Storage Wars almost from top to bottom. “Nearly every aspect of the Series is faked, even down to the plastic surgery that one of the female cast members underwent in order to create more “sex appeal” for the show, the cost of which was paid for by Original,” the suit claims. “Original regularly ‘salts’ the storage lockers that are the subject of the auctions portrayed on the Series with valuable or unusual items to add dramatic effect, even going so far as to stage entire storage units. Original also manipulates the outcome of certain auctions by paying for storage units on behalf of the weaker cast members who lack the both the skill and financial wherewithal to place winning bids,” it adds. Hester is seeking a jury trial.