EXCLUSIVE: After four years at Universal TV, Alexandra Cunningham is moving to 20th Century Fox TV with a one-year development deal. Cunningham got her start as a writer on ABC’s NYPD Blue and made her mark on ABC’s Desperate Housewives, which she joined after the pilot, rising through the ranks to executive producer and one of the dramedy’s key writers. At Universal TV, she wrote and executive produced NBC’s well-received adaptation of the British series Prime Suspect. She most recently served as a consulting producer on the studio’s A&E drama Bates Motel and is currently an executive producer on NBC’s upcoming drama Aquarius, from ITV Studios and Marty Adelstein, which stars David Duchovny. On the development side, she wrote two projects for NBC this past season, a Murder, She Wrote reboot, which had Octavia Spencer attached to star, and Gone For Good, based on Harlan Coben’s best-selling thriller. “We have been pursuing Alex for years,” said Dana Walden, CEO and chairman of 20th TV.
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.”
EXCLUSIVE UPDATED: NBC has put in development Hench, a high-concept drama from Peter Berg and Sarah Aubrey’s Film 44 and Universal TV. Written by Alexandra Cunningham, Hench is based on the comic by Adam Beechen and Manny Bello’s comic and centers on a regular guy who, in order to support his family, gets jobs temping for super villains. Cunningham, Berg and Aubrey executive produce.
This marks a reunion of the creative team behind NBC’s drama Prime Suspect. NBC had tried to develop an U.S. version of the iconic British series with another writer-producer, but it was the version written by TV writer/playwright Cunningham and produced by Film 44 that got to a pilot stage and attracted Maria Bello as the lead. The pilot went to series, which was well received and, despite its struggle to attract a wide audience, was a favorite of NBC brass who re-upped Cunningham and Film 44′s overall deals in March. In addition to its collaboration with Cunningham, Film 44 has an U.S. version of the Israeli drama M.I.C.E. in development at NBC for next season. Before moving to Universal TV in 2010, WME-repped Cunningham was a key writer-producer on the first six seasons of ABC’s Desperate Housewives.
EXCLUSIVE: Alexandra Cunningham, who developed and executive produced NBC’s Prime Suspect, has signed a new overall deal with the studio behind the series, Universal Television. Under the two-year, seven-figure pact, Cunningham will develop new projects for the studio, which now is a supplier not only to NBC but also to other broadcast and cable networks. “Alex Cunningham is a fantastic writer who can shape complicated characters and already has new, break-out ideas for next season,” said Universal TV EVP Bela Bajaria. “She is well-regarded and we are excited to work with her in the upcoming year on a new slate of shows.
NBC had tried to develop an U.S. version of iconic British series Prime Suspect with another writer, but it was Cunningham’s take that got to a pilot stage and her script that attracted Maria Bello for the lead. The pilot went to series, which was well received and developed a cult following but ultimately didn’t draw an audience large enough to get a full-season order. However, Prime Suspect was a favorite of NBC brass who have re-upped the overall deals of all key auspices on the show, Cunningham and executive producers Peter Berg and Sarah Aubrey of Film 44. Before moving to NBC and Universal TV in 2010, WME-repped Cunningham was based at ABC Studios and was a key writer-producer on the first six seasons of Desperate Housewives. During her time on the dramedy series, she wrote more …
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, The Rockford Files, which is expected to film a new pilot. Additionally, Film 44 is developing a drama about political campaigners written by Dirty Sexy Money creator Craig Wright.
On Rockford Files, Film 44 will co-produce with Steve Carell’s Carousel, which was behind last season’s pilot written by House creator David Shore. Shore continues as writer/executive producer on Rockford, while Prime Suspect will now be written by Alexandra Cunningham, taking over from Hank Steinberg, who penned the adaptation of the iconic British drama this past season. I hear the writer change was made by the network, which is looking to strengthen the lead character, played in the original by Helen Mirren and make it more “out there” to be able to attract top talent. This past development season, the pilot was pushed after the lead couldn’t be cast.
All 3 Film 44 projects are set at Universal Media Studios where the company just reupped its overall deal. Berg may also direct one of the pilots if his schedule allows. He is busy on the feature side prepping Battleship. NBC is looking to film Prime Suspect in the fall for a possible midseason consideration.
WME-repped Film 44, along with Imagine TV and UMS, is behind the …
At the top of NBC’s executive session, NBC Uni TV Entertainment chairman Jeff Gaspin announced that a couple of series will premiere early behind the final episodes of America’s Got Talent. The second season of Parenthood will launch on Sept. 14, after the second-to-last episode of Talent. New Friday drama Outlaw will get a sneak preview after the Wednesday finale of Talent.
Additionally, primetime entertainment president Angela Bromstad said the network has extended its production deal with Peter Berg and Sarah Aubrey’s Film 44, which will now take over the NBC pilot for Prime Suspect, which the network plans to shoot off-cycle. Alexandra Cunningham (Desperate Housewives) is now writing the script for the adaptation of the iconic British series, which will be a 2-hour pilot. (Hank Steinberg was originally tapped as writer last development season) NBC also announced a development deal with Gladiator producers Laurie MacDonald and Walter Parkes.
Another piece of news, Rob Lowe will now be a regular on Parks & Recreation. And 30 Rock will do a live episode on Oct. 14, going back to the SNL roots of creator/star Tina Fey and frequents SNL host Alec Baldwin.
Gaspin, whose last TCA appearance came in the midst of the Conan O’Brien-Jay Leno debacle in January, opened the NBC executive session by saying: “I’m happy to be at TCA under different circumstances than last time. I’d like to thank ABC for creating the headlines this time.”
Asked whether he or NBC Uni …