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Showrunners Wanted: Networks Grapple With Lack Of Experienced Writing Producers

By | Wednesday May 7, 2014 @ 3:52pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

panic-buttonIt is becoming an annual tradition: after pilots are shot and delivered, there is a scramble to find showrunners. More and more newly picked up series are in a need of a seasoned showrunner every year. Yesterday, NBC picked up four pilots to series. Half of them, dramas Allegiance and State Of Affairs, don’t have a showrunner. Similarly, Fox picked up three pilots to series and ordered 10 more episodes for comedy Mulaney. Of the four also half, drama Empire and comedy Mulaney, have required a showrunner hire. All four were were picked up to series without a showrunner locked in. Mulaney, which was ordered to series with a six-episode order in October, has since tapped veteran Jon Pollack for the job, working with creator-star John Mulaney. I hear Patrick Massett and John Zinman had been approached for showrunnersAllegiance, written-directed by George Nolfi, Tom Szentgyorgyi is eyed for State Of Affairs if The Mentalist is cancelled, which appears likely, while the field for hip-hop drama Empire, written by Lee Daniels and Danny Strong and directed by Daniels, appears wide open. State Of Affairs has no writing producer on board after Alexi Hawley, who penned the original script, left, and Joe Carnahan, who received high marks for rewriting and directing the pilot, was only contracted for the pilot as he is busy with The Blacklist. Meanwhile, Empire and Allegiance hail from top feature auspices with no series background. Bringing fresh TV talent (Mulaney, Hawley) or feature talent (Daniels, Strong, Nolfi) to TV is to be applauded. It’s the lack of showrunner talent to support their vision that is alarming.

It’s not that yesterday’s series orders came as a surprise. All pilots that received pickups at Fox and NBC this week had been early favorites, with orders appearing all but certain weeks ago when the showrunner searches started. There just aren’t that many available showrunners to choose from for a match on a specific project. Why is that?

Industry insiders trace the problem back a decade ago when the studios cut back on staff writers, breaking the merit based system for growing writing producers. Read More »

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3rd UPDATE: NBC Picks Up Dramas ‘Odyssey’, ‘State Of Affairs’ & ‘Allegiance’, Comedy ‘Marry Me’ To Series

By | Tuesday May 6, 2014 @ 6:10pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

3rd UPDATNBC_logoE 6:10 PM: NBC is wrapping its first day of new series pickups with a order to another frontrunner, drama pilot Odyssey, which already has backup scripts written and is ready to go. That brings the number of new NBC series picked up for next season to six, Russian spy thrilled Allegiance, CIA drama State of Affairs starring Katherine Heigl, Odyssey and the David Caspe comedy Marry Me, ordered today, and previously picked up comedies Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (form. Tookan) and Mr. Robinson.

Odyssey - Season PilotThe Traffic-like action drama Odyssey was written by Adam Armus, Nora Kay Foster and Peter Horton and directed by Horton. An international conspiracyexplodes when three strangers’ lives unexpectedly collide — a female soldier, a corporate lawyer and a political activist. After a team of American soldiers battling Jihadists in North Africa kill Al Qaeda’s top man. Sgt. Odelle Ballard (Anna Friel) — a soldier, mother, wife and the unit’s only female member — discovers computer files that suggest a major U.S. corporation is funding the Jihadists. Before she can tell anyone, her team is attacked by U.S. Special Forces and left for dead, with Odelle as the sole survivor. In New York, former U.S. Attorney Peter Drucker (Peter Facinelli) is working on a merger deal for the same company that was funneling money to the Jihadists. Meanwhile, Harrison Wolcott (Jake Robinson), a political activist and trust fund kid, meets a hacker who claims to have unearthed a massive military-industrial conspiracy. The cast also includes Jim True-Frost, Treat Williams, Nate Mooney, Elena Kampouris, Daniella Pineda, Sadie Sink, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje and Omar Ghazaoui. Armus, Foster and Horton executive produce with Simon Maxwell, Mikkel Bondesen, Henrik Bastin and Kristen Campo for Universal TV, Fabrik Entertainment and Red Arrow Entertainment Group.

2nd UPDATE 5:20 PM: AnothState of Affairs - Season Piloter hot NBC pilot getting a series pickup, the Katherine Heigl-starring drama State Of Affairs. The project, which marks Grey’s Antomy alumna Heigl’s return to TV, is in need of a showrunner as Alexi Hawley, who wrote the original script, has left, and Joe Carnahan, who is getting high marks for rewriting and directing the pilot, is busy with The Blacklist. I hear Tom Szentgyorgyi is eyed for the job if The Mentalist is not renewed, which appears likely. Each day the president is faced with hundreds of life-and-death decisions, and to prioritize the biggest international crises facing the country, one top CIA analyst – Charleston Tucker (Heigl) – assembles the president’s Daily Briefing. Aside from the political minefields she has to walk, Charlie has a close personal relationship with the president (Alfre Woodard) because she once was  engaged to her son before a terrorist attack took his life. Charlie survived that attack and now is determined to bring the perpetrators to justice. The cast also includes Adam Kaufman, Sheila Vand, Cliff Chamberlain, Tommy Savas and Leslie Odom Jr. Writer-director Carnahan serves as executive producer with Katherine Heigl, Nancy Heigl, Robert Simonds, Sophie Watts, Henry Crumpton, Rodney Faraon and Julia Franz. Universal TV produces with Bob Simonds Co. and Abishag Prods.

Related: 2014 NBC Pilots

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