EXCLUSIVE: NBC is taking a shot with a project from an up-and-coming comedian. The network has ordered a presentation for a comedy created by and starring Jerrod Carmichael, a Los Angeles-based standup and performer. Scott Ellis has come on board to direct the project based on Carmichael’s life and comedy. It centers on a consummate optimist (Carmichael) who is eager to take on the world, but is too busy taking on everyone and everything in his small corner of it. Mike Pennie and Ravi Nandan executive produce. Filming is eyed to begin next week. Carmichael, who had an arc on Fox’s The Goodwin Games, is with CAA, Mosaic and Zifren.
EXCLUSIVE: Sofia Vergara and Luis Balaguer’s Latin World Entertainment and Ben Silverman’s Electus have teamed with Royal Pains co-creator Andrew Lenchewski and writer Benjamin Brand for Speak American, a half-hour comedy that has been sold to Fox. Universal Cable Prods, where Lenchewski is under an overall deal, is producing. Written by Brand (IFC’s Bollywood Hero), Speak American centers on America Aviles, a young accent-reduction teacher of Latin descent who hires a stranger with unconventional methods to teach her class. Brand and Lenchewski originally developed Speak American at USA with the lead of European heritage. The two then changed direction and approached Silverman and Modern Family star Vergara, who have extensive experience in Latino-themed projects. Silverman executive produced ABC’s Ugly Betty, based on a Colombian telenovela, and he and Vergara executive produce ABC’s upcoming drama Killer Women, based on an Argentine series. They also have partnered on their premium YouTube channel, NuevOn along with an Electus/LatinWE partnership to bring programming formats to the U.S.
With fifteen months to go on Ben Silverman‘s current deal with Barry Diller’s IAC, the Electus founder and chairman is deep in negotiations with IAC about an extension. The talks are drawing a lot of attention and speculation that his relationship with IAC could be transformed into a pod deal. I hear the talks are far more complicated and include Electus taking on more digital business and branching into new areas, including management. While Silverman’s previous company, Reveille, made its name early on in scripted with The Office and Ugly Betty, Electus has largely been building an unscripted and digital portfolio. The company has a new drama series, Killer Women, on ABC this fall. I hear under the current setup, Silverman has no producing participation in Electus’ series, something that is subject of the ongoing extension negotiations, especially on the scripted side. According to IAC, Electus has doubled its revenue in the past year.
ABC has greenlighted Bet On Your Baby, an eight-episode primetime game show series to premiere in April. Hosted by Melissa Peterman, co-star of the ABC Family comedy Baby Daddy, Bet On Your Baby is produced by Ben Silverman‘s Electus and 5×5 Media, who together co-produce NBC’s Fashion Star and TBS’ King Of The Nerds. The series was inspired by the huge popularity of baby videos online. Each hourlong episode will feature five families with toddlers between the ages of 2 and 3 1/2. While their parents and other relatives compete in the game show, the kids, oblivious to the game, will play and complete simple tasks at a giant playground, with the adults trying to predict the outcome. The individual rounds determine which parent/relative in each of the five families know their child best. At the end of the show, the five families return to play the college round for the chance to win $50,000 towards a college education for their child. “The concept of the show just appealed to me on many levels because as a mom I liked the fact that the kids are having fun and being themselves, it’s the parents playing the game,” Peterman said.
Lone Star and Awake creator Kyle Killen has received a pilot order by ABC for his latest drama project, Influence. The network also has given the green light to Killer Women, a soupy procedural written by Hannah Shakespeare and produced by Modern Family star Sofia Vergara, Ben Silverman and director Martin Campbell.
Influence, from 20th Century Fox TV where Killen is under a deal, is described as a provocative workplace ensemble centered on the complicated relationship between two brothers — a bipolar genius in human psychology and a slick ex-con — who head a unique agency designed to solve their clients’ problems using the real science of human motivation and manipulation. In addition to helping their clients, the agency’s staff sometime turn their powers to pull strings on one another. Killen is the writer/executive producer. Influence, which had a put pilot commitment, marks a departure from Killen’s previous two series projects, Fox’s Lone Star and NBC’s Awake, which both had very complex, non-linear narratives as they centered on protagonists living dual lives. Still, Killen kept a duality element in his new show too, making one of the main characters bipolar.
Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s coverage of TCA.
The nerds inherited the stage at TCA in Pasadena this morning, led by a self-professed nerd named Ben Silverman, as Turner — undaunted by recent failures in the reality space as Wedding Day and The Great Escape — introduced a quartet of new unscripted projects to the gathered critics. The first of them to premiere (on January 17) is TBS‘ King Of The Nerds, featuring hosts/exec producers Robert Carradine and Curtis Armstrong of Revenge Of The Nerds fame and Silverman also exec producing. The show features 11 competitors going head-to-head (literally) in activities that span the “full nerd spectrum” while living together in “Nerdvana.” With a straight face, Silverman admitted, “We debated nerds and geeks (with great gusto) because geeks identify differently. We didn’t want to alienate geeks by calling them nerds, and vice-versa. It was all about how to do things in a different way…We’ve seen more and more people stand up and say, ‘Hey I’m smart and I don’t need to hide it’.” The point of King Of The Nerds, Armstrong added, isn’t to put down or make fun of nerds but to “celebrate nerd culture…We got 11 amazing nerds on this show”.
Writer Nina Colman (Dr. Dolittle 3) has set up three projects at three different networks. She has teamed with producers Ben Silverman of Electus and Teri Weinberg of Yellow Brick Road for a comedy at NBC and a drama at Lifetime. The projects reunite Silverman and Weinberg, who worked together at Reveille and NBC.
Tentatively titled WTF, the NBC project, from Universal TV, is a dark comedy about four friends whose bad luck suddenly turns into a golden opportunity. The Lifetime drama Flesh And Blood is set in New York and centers on a girl from the wrong side of the tracks who infiltrates a very powerful New York family. Silverman and Weinberg executive produce both projects alongside Colman.
EXCLUSIVE: TV Land has given cast-contingent orders to two new comedy pilots, the single-camera I’m Not Dead Yet from Ben Silverman’s Electus and the multi-camera Brothers-In-Law, executive produced by Scott Stuber. I’m Not Dead, based on the DBS-produced Israeli format Zanzuri, marks TV Land’s first single-camera pilot. Written by Jon Sherman (Frasier), it is about a man who finds out that he has a rare heart condition that could cause him to die at any moment and decides to finally start speaking his mind and live life to the fullest. Silverman is executive producing, with Electus’ Jimmy Fox co-executive producing.
Written and executive produced by comedy veterans Bill Martin and Mike Schiff (3rd Rock From The Sun), who will serve as showrunners, Brothers-In-Law revolves around the family dynamic between a husband and the eccentric fiancé of his wife’s twin sister, who have nothing in common but the sisters constantly force them to bond. Stuber is executive producing, with his development executive Quan Phung producing. “With these pilot orders, TV Land continues down a path to build its own library of original sitcoms that will be paired up with some of the best sitcoms ever made,” said TV Land president Larry W. Jones. “This year, we are expanding beyond the multi-camera format — which has been so successful for us — to include one single-camera project.”
Ben Silverman’s Electus is teaming with Dwayne Johnson on TV and social media competition series The Hero. The show will lead a search for the next great hero by setting ordinary people on a high-stakes global adventure. Three teams will simultaneously be stationed on three different continents where they will face moral dilemmas testing their courage, leadership skills and self-sacrifice limits. The show was created by Craig Armstrong and Rick Ringbakk of 5×5 Media and Silverman. It’s exec produced by Electus, 5×5, Charles Wachter, WME-repped Johnson and Dany Garcia. Electus International has worldwide distribution.
The Reveille cohorts are back in business together. In one of his first major deals since taking the reins of National Geographic as president, Howard Owens has signed a three-for-one project deal with Ben Silverman’s Electus. It includes the development of three projects, one of which is guaranteed to be picked up to series. The pact reunites Silverman and new Electus CEO Chris Grant with Owens. Grant and Owens were members of the core troika Silverman brought with him when he launched Reveille in 2002. Both left Shine, which acquired Reveille in 2008, last year. “National Geographic Channel is making a targeted effort to be in business with the best and brightest television makers in the world and Ben and Chris set the standard,” Owens said.
One of the three concepts in development under the deal is a large-scale reality series based on the Mayflower expedition, which will re-create the actual 60-six day journey the passengers took in search of the new world. Some of the people featured in the series will be descendants of the original Mayflower passengers. “Our vision for the Mayflower series is to re-create, as closely as possible, the real experiences that the original passengers faced,” Grant said.
Back by popular demand, Harvey and Bob Weinstein and Ben Silverman will be hosting a big A-list party at the Stein Eriksen Lodge in Deer Valley tomorrow to watch the NFC Championship Game between the New York Giants and the San Francisco 49ers. I’m told Weinstein didn’t plan to stage a party, like he and Silverman did last year at the same place when his beloved New York Jets played. But they decided to do it at the last minute. Let’s hope the outcome is different than last year, when the Jets were eliminated by the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Washington, DC — Bruce Rosenblum, president of Warner Bros. Television Group and newly sworn in chairman/CEO of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, and Ben Silverman, founder and chairman of multimedia studio Electus, will speak at the upcoming 2012 NAB Show, the annual conference and expo for professionals who create, manage and distribute entertainment across all platforms. The 2012 NAB Show takes place April 14-19, in Las Vegas, Nevada. Bruce Rosenblum will be a featured 2012 NAB Show Super Session speaker, addressing attendees from noon to 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday, April 17. Ben Silverman will deliver the keynote address to the Disruptive Media Conference at NAB Show on Tuesday, April 17 from 10:30-11:30 a.m.
Ray Richmond is contributing to Deadline’s TCA coverage.
Ex-NBC programming chief Ben Silverman was back in a familiar spot this morning: At TCA in Pasadena, representing NBC. But this isn’t 2009, and there is a different guy atop of NBC Entertainment in Bob Greenblatt. Silverman was here as executive producer of the new NBC reality competition series Fashion Star that features host Elle Macpherson and mentors Jessica Simpson, Nicole Richie and John Varvatos. So it was a different Silverman — more relaxed to be sure — but also in many ways the same guy: He still looked fashion-plate lean and the epitome of shrewd salesman. Silverman admitted that he didn’t see Greenblatt’s session earlier in the morning, quipping, “They were doing my hair.” Also not changed from the time Silverman was in Greenblatt’s chair is the plight of NBC, which continues to be stuck in fourth place, something the Jeff Zucker-Ben Silverman regime contributed to. When a critic pointed out that Greenblatt painted “such a sad picture” of NBC during his presentation, Silverman replied: “I’m thrilled to be making this show on NBC. I can’t imagine a better time period on television than following The Biggest Loser (also produced by Silverman) for the audience we want. … I feel incredibly happy and excited, and I’m betting on Bob. I love his creativity.” And how does it feel for Silverman to be back with so many of his “friends” in the media …
Continuing to round up the old troops, Ben Silverman’s IAC-owned multimedia studio Electus has named John Pollak president of the newly-formed Electus International. The former EVP of Shine International worked with Silverman and Electus CEO Chris Grant at Reveille to launch Reveille International which later became Shine International. At Electus, Pollak is overseeing the international strategy and execution for the group’s content labels. He is responsible for the distribution of Electus’ programming as well as 3rd party programs and formats. Said Grant: “Similar to the early days at Reveille, we are implementing a strategy to deliver the greatest possible revenue to our creative partners. We will not force our content through any one specific partner around the globe. For that reason, it is essential that we have the best sales team and the best leader for that team. I am thrilled that John Pollak is joining us as President of Electus International. John is, without a doubt, the right person for this job.” At Shine, Pollak drove sales for such non-scripted formats as Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?, The Biggest Loser, American Gladiators and MasterChef. At Electus, he will continue the international expansion initiated by the partnership between Electus and Chris Philip’s production and distribution company Engine Entertainment. Philip will remain president of Engine and will spearhead a new global scripted production initiative.
In a competitive situation, ABC is finalizing a deal to buy two projects from Friends co-creator Marta Kauffman: one with DreamWorks TV, Red Band Society, and one with Ben Silverman’s Electus, The Avalon. Both are based on international formats and neither is cookie-cutter, traditional broadcast fare. Red Band Society, which Kauffman will write and showrun, is based on the Spanish format Polseres Vermelles and revolves around young hospital patients. The Avalon, which Kauffman will write with Jessica Queller (Gossip Girl), is based on the Pan Asian format The Kitchen Musical and is a musical drama set at a restaurant. Both shows have been laid off at ABC Studios. I hear that ABC made a substantial, seven-figure commitment to Kauffman, which makes a pilot order likely. This marks Kauffman’s first year developing without Warner Bros TV, where she was based for nearly 20 years. She opted not to renew her deal there and take the indie route so she can partner with different companies on different projects and explore both broadcast and cable development.
EXCLUSIVE: Warner Bros has acquired the Adam Gibgot pitch The Accidental Genius for Robert Downey Jr and Susan Downey’s Team Downey to produce with Ben Silverman’s Electus. In the drama, an ordinary man awakens from a coma with astonishing intelligence, and visions of a bizarre symbol recognized only by a burnt-out prodigy. Together, the two men set out to solve a hundred-year-old mystery that could change the world. The title refers to a rare but true medical condition in which a person emerges from a physical trauma with heightened mental abilities. Gibgot will be executive producer with David Gambino. Gibgot developed several pilots with Silverman at NBC, and it was Silverman who hooked up a meeting with the writer and Susan Downey, who runs her husband’s production company that was set up at Warner Bros to develop star vehicles for Downey Jr. Gibgot most recently delivered the Oliver Stone hourlong drama pilot Darkhorse for FX. He’s repped by attorney Stewart Brookman.
Ben Silverman and Chris Grant are reuniting at another startup backed by Barry Diller. Grant is joining Ben Silverman’s new company, IAC-owned Electus, as CEO effective November 1. He will be partnered with Electus COO Drew Buckley, both reporting to Silverman. Grant was one of the original staffers Silverman brought with him when he launched the Diller-financed Reveille in 2002. Grant headed international distribution for the company and, after Silverman’s departure to run NBC, Grant became a managing partner. Following Reveille’s acquisition by Shine Group, he became president of Shine International, the international sales and distribution arm of Elisabeth Murdoch’s company. Grant stepped down from his post in May after Shine, following its acquisition by News Corp., decided to relocate the headquarters of its sales and distribution unit from Los Angeles to London where Shine’s main offices are. Grant chose not to relocate but stayed on for a transitional period. “Watching Chris Grant grow into the finest and most sought after executive television has seen in a long time has brought me tremendous joy and pride,” Silverman said. “He was an amazing partner at Reveille, and will be an amazing leader for Electus.”
EXCLUSIVE: Viacom’s Logo network is set to unveil a development slate the includes four new projects designed to continue expanding the channel’s appeal. The projects range from scripted to reality competition shows and include a docu-series starring comedian Lisa Lampanelli that is produced by Chelsea Handler’s Borderline Amazing production company. The four titles:
Adam Mazer, who won an Emmy last year for penning the HBO movie You Don’t Know Jack, has made a deal to write a pilot for the network based on Susanna Moore’s book The Big Girls, which Joel Schumacher is in discussions to direct. Electus’ Ben Silverman and Original Media’s Charlie Corwin are producing. The novel centers on a young psychiatrist at a maximum security women’s prison who attempts to treat the criminally insane while dealing with her own damaged psyche. Mazer is with ICM and Inphenate.