EXCLUSIVE: Alexandra Cunningham, who is writing/executive producing NBC’s high-profile Murder, She Wrote reboot starring Octavia Spencer, also is reuniting with Peter Berg and Sarah Aubrey’s Film 44 for an NBC drama project through Universal TV, where Cunningham and Film 44 are under deals. The network is developing Gone For Good, an hourlong project based on Harlan Coben’s best-selling thriller. Written by Cunningham, the drama centers on Will Klein, whose endless search for his missing and allegedly murderous brother, Ken, is filled with so many twists and turns it leaves him doubting the actions of everybody he’s ever loved. Cunningham, Coben, Berg and Aubrey executive produce. Desperate Housewives alumna Cunningham wrote and executive produced NBC’s well received adaptation of the British series Prime Suspect, also through Film 44, and last season developed an adaptation of the comic Hench for the network with Berg and Aubrey. WME-repped Film 44 recently inked a deal with HBO for the sports documentary series State of Play.
NBC To Reboot ‘Murder, She Wrote’ With Octavia Spencer Starring, Alex Cunningham Writing And David Janollari Producing
EXCLUSIVE: NBC is looking to revive one of the most successful series in TV history – Murder, She Wrote — with a brand new take from writer Alexandra Cunningham and producer David Janollari that has Oscar winner Octavia Spencer succeeding Angela Lansbury in the lead role of an astute amateur detective. The new hourlong project, which has received a put pilot commitment, is a re-imagining of the long-running CBS series. Described as a light, contemporary procedural in the vein of Bones or Fargo, it follows a hospital administrator and amateur sleuth (Spencer) who self-publishes her first mystery novel. Set in a day where sensational headlines inundate the news, this woman’s avid fascination with true crime leads her to become an active participant in the investigations. Former Desperate Housewives executive producer Cunningham is writing and will executive produce with Janollari. I hear Lansbury has been approached to be a part of the reboot. Universal TV, whose namesake predecessor produced the original series, is producing with studio-based David Janollari Entertainment.
This would mark the first series regular role for Spencer, who won an Oscar for The Help. She previously worked with NBC chairman Bob Greenblatt and Janollari on the 2001 Sci Fi Channel series The Chronicle, which the two exec produced and she recurred on. Spencer’s involvement in Murder, She Wrote stems from an exploratory meeting she took with Greenblatt. “I’ve always considered myself an armchair detective and in a recent meeting with Bob Greenblatt, he asked me what type of character would be able to lure me to TV. Naturally, I said ” J.B. Fletcher” meets “Colombo”… And here we are,” she said. “I’m ecstatic to have the opportunity to work with Dave Janollari again, and Alex Cunningham a brilliant writer who shares my love for all things mysterious and Angela Lansbury.” Cunningham also spoke of her and Spencer’s shared passions. “Octavia and I are both huge true crime buffs, amateur criminologists, and fans of Angela Lansbury,” she said. “To get the chance to reimagine Murder, She Wrote for a dynamic and multi-faceted actress like Octavia is a thrill and a pleasure.”
Diane Haithman is contributing to Deadline’s coverage of TCA.
At the NBCUniversal press sessions at Monday’s TCA, not one but two of the new series introduced here are re-imaginings of British shows. In the morning, it was the comedy Free Agents. This afternoon, it was the Maria Bello starrer Prime Suspect, a re-invention of the critically acclaimed British procedural drama starring Helen Mirren as Jane Tennison, a homicide detective with a dark side. This time around, England is New York City, and Maria Bello is Jane Timoney, a brilliant “bad cop” disliked by her squad. She’s all tough and stuff. At age 44, Bello joins the ranks of glamorous middle-aged actresses who have found a place for themselves in TV’s procedural dramas.
Also like the producers of Free Agents, co-executive producer/writer Alexandra Cunningham said the show would be a little less dark than seems to suit British tastes: While the New Jane drinks like the Old Jane, the story lines won’t delve into alcoholism. New Jane smokes like Old Jane — but in the USA in 2011, she’s trying to quit. (Bello also confessed that she is a smoker.) Said Cunningham: “The thing that makes this different from other procedurals is the humor,” which she adds will harken to the style of Hill Street Blues and Barney Miller.
EXCLUSIVE: Peter Berg and Sarah Aubrey’s Film 44 is becoming a key player in NBC’s development plans for next season with 3 high-profile projects. Last week, the company took over NBC’ drama pilot Prime Suspect. Now I hear Berg and Aubrey are also coming on board NBC’ other big reboot, …