They’re not quite ready to declare the production state of emergency in the City of Angels over, but today even the notorious pessimistic FilmLA saw things looking up – especially in the TV categories. A Q2 2014 report released by the nonprofit permitting group this morning said total on-location television production in LA County roared up 33.7% over the same quarter last year to 5,761 PPD. The report attributes the “ unseasonably strong” results to shifting production schedules as broadcasters get episode of shows like the upcoming TNT series, Legends in shape for summer airing. The news was nowhere near as good today when it came to feature film production in L.A. County this quarter compared to Q2 2013 but minimal ground was lost, which is a victory unto itself as the region as been hit so hard by runaway production in recent years. Quarter-to-quarter, year-to-year, Q2 2014 dipped 5.3% from Q2 2013 to 1,665 PPD. That reasonably steady result gets a bit sour when you look at Q1 2014. That quarter saw a 24.2% rise compared to the year before for features. However, this quarter, both features and TV production exceed their respective 5-year quarterly average with the former up a mere 0.1% while the latter rocketed up 34.0%.
EXCLUSIVE: Saturday Night Live is going through the first phase of annual cast changeover, which involves not bringing back some existing players. As usual, most affected are first-year actors. I’ve learned that the contracts of Noël Wells and John Milhiser, who joined SNL as featured players last September, are not being renewed, joining fellow rookie Brooks Wheelan, who announced his dismissal yesterday on Twitter.
Things are murkier about Michael Patrick O’Brien, who made his debut as a featured player last season after a four-year stint as a writer on the show. I hear discussions are underway for O’Brien’s future on the show that could involve him returning to the writing staff or continuing to have an-screen presence if he stays on. With anchoring experience on the popular Web series 7 Minutes In Heaven, some have been calling for him to get a shot at co-hosting Weekend Update.
At the top of ABC’s TCA presentation, topper Paul Lee announced an overall deal with Oscar-winning 12 Years A Slave writer John Ridley. The pact with ABC Studios comes on the heel of ABC’s pickup of his dark drama pilot American Crime to series for this coming season. “He is an extraordinary showrunner,” Lee said of Ridley, who started his career in television before segueing to features.
Spike TV is partnering with Pierce Brosnan’s Irish Dreamtime, Mark Sennet Entertainment, Michael Finch and Oscar-winning writer David Franzoni to develop a script for an event series based on the Crusades. The Crusaders takes place during the Third Crusade, after the fall of Jerusalem to Saladin’s armies, and centers on two very different knights who journey from Scotland to the Holy Land for very different reasons. This is the second Crusade-themed project to surface in recent months. In May, History announced it was teaming with Craig Zadan and Neil Meron on a four-hour miniseries which tracks the origins of the mystic medieval Christian order known as Knights Templar. The mini tells the true story of three brothers, all knights, during the first Crusade, as they make the long journey through the Holy Lands to recapture Jerusalem, ultimately bringing rise to the Knights Templar.
Oxygen Media is getting a makeover. The network debuted its new logo and tagline – “very real” – today at Summer TV Press Tour. It’s part of Oxygen’s rebrand targeting young modern women initally announced in April and scheduled to launch on Tuesday, October 7 across all platforms. The network also announced two additional series It Takes A Sister and After Happily Ever After, for a total 9 new shows, along with three development projects, The Assistants, Party Inc., and Stranded At Work. They join Oxygen’s upcoming lineup including Sisterhood Of Hip Hop, Nail’d It, My Crazy Love, Street Art Throwdown, Funny Girls, Living Different, Fix My Choir and a second season of the hit series Preachers of L.A. Here are details on Oxygen’s newly picked up series and projects in development:
EXCLUSIVE: Having just revived NBC’s Community, Yahoo might be looking to do the same with another recently cancelled cult broadcast comedy series, Fox‘s Enlisted. I hear talks are under way between the online giant and Enlisted producer 20th Century Fox TV for a second season of the military series, created by Kevin Biegel, on Yahoo’s streaming service Yahoo Screen. Sources cautioned that the conversations are preliminary and it’s unclear whether they would result in a deal.
Much like Community, Enlisted has a passionate and loyal following, something that is attractive to digital platforms which crave core groups of passionate fans. Interestingly, following the news of Yahoo’s deal for another season of Community, Enlisted fans targeted Yahoo Screen with a major save-our-show campaign, pitching the service a Community/Enlisted double feature.
The sixth and final season of Fox’s musical dramedy Glee will consist of 13 episodes, which will run consecutively in midseason. The decision is not unexpected, especially after the series was not featured on the Fox fall schedule for the first time at the upfronts. At the time, then-Fox chairman Kevin Reilly hinted the possibility that the final season order, originally at 24 episodes, could be trimmed. “We’re going to sit down and talk [with co-creator/exec producer Ryan Murphy] about how to end the show and how many that is,” he said. That discussion has been held, and a decision has been made for a 13-episode final chapter. Fox committed to a two-season pickup of Glee in 2013. But, following a ratings bump at the beginning of the season when the show dealt with the sudden death of star Cory Monteith, Glee‘s numbers slipped to very low levels. Because of Monteith’s passing, Glee‘s fifth season also was trimmed, to 20 episodes. The show is facing a major creative reboot in Season 6, moving to a new location. “It really is a lovely, fitting season that dwells on the original people on the show and what happens to them and how they give back,” Murphy said in April. “We’ll revisit some of the new kids that came and went, there’s a return of [Jane Lynch's Sue Sylvester] and [Matthew Morrison's Will Schuester] in a big way.”
Lifetime Orders Drama Pilot Based On ‘Clan Of The Cave Bear’ Novel With Ron Howard, Brian Grazer & Allison Shearmur Exec Producing
Lifetime has ordered drama pilot The Clan Of The Cave Bear based on Jean M. Auel’s Earth’s Children novels. The project, targeted for a potential 2015 launch, is being produced by Fox 21 and Lionsgate in association with Imagine Television and Allison Shearmur Productions. Ron Howard and Brian Grazer are exec producing along with Allison Shearmur (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Cinderella), Linda Woolverton (Maleficent, The Lion King), Francie Calfo (Gang Related, Empire) and Jean M. Auel. Woolverton is writing the pilot.
The first book in the series, The Clan Of The Cave Bear, takes place at a time in prehistory more than 25,000 years ago when Neanderthals shared the Earth with the first early modern humans and a band of cave dwellers adopt blond and blue-eyed Ayla, a child of the “Others.” As Ayla matures into a young woman of spirit and courage, she must fight for survival against the jealous bigotry of Broud, who will one day be clan leader.
BBC America said today that it has greenlighted Tatau, a drama from the producers of Being Human. The series is set in the Cook Islands, a paradise in the middle of the Pacific. The eight-episode season is written by Richard Zajdlic and co-produced by Touchpaper TV (Being Human) and South Pacific Pictures for BBC Three in association with BBC America. Filming starts in September, and casting will be announced.
The drama follows Kyle Connor and Pete “Budgie” Griffiths, twentysomething friends from London who set off to travel the world. They’ve worked hard, saved even harder and they’re now eager to soak up as many different cultures and experiences as possible. Ahead of the journey, Kyle gets a Maori-style tattoo to celebrate their eventual destination: the Cook Islands. But upon his arrival in the South Pacific, he is unsettled by the local people’s reaction to his tattoo – it clearly has a significance that he is entirely unaware of. Later, while snorkeling in a lagoon, Kyle discovers the dead body of a local girl, Aumea, tied up underwater. When he returns with the police, the corpse has disappeared. Budgie questions if his friend is going mad, but Kyle begins to believe that he instead has seen into the future. Kyle and Budgie find themselves sucked into a desperate race to prevent Aumea’s murder, as Kyle learns that his gifts don’t stop at prophecy — and the full meaning of the tattoo soon is revealed. Tatau is an ambitious drama that explores the questions of identity, love and destiny.
Kate Juergens, the executive behind ABC Family‘s defining original programming including Pretty Little Liars, The Secret Life Of The American Teenager, Switched At Birth and The Fosters, is exiting her post as Chief Creative Officer and EVP Original Content. The move was announced today via a staff memo from ABC Family President Tom Ascheim (read it below). He said her departure will result in a restructuring at the Disney cable network that includes the exit of SVP Acquisitions and Scheduling Lynn Stepanian, the odd person out in a new plan to combine Business Strategy, Planning & Development and Scheduling & Acquisitions under one roof and one leader. Both Juergens and Stepanian are departing later this week, and a search is underway for the new position.
Juergens was Michael Riley’s No. 2 until his departure in September as ABC Family president. She was tipped to be a front-runner for the top job, much as she was in the mix as the top development executive when Paul Lee left as network president in 2010 — she did not make a play for the post then. Ascheim, a former Nickelodeon GM and CEO of Newsweek, eventually was hired in December after a search led by Anne Sweeney, then co-chair of Disney Media Networks and president of Disney/ABC Television Group (Sweeney reportedly searched for an executive with a strong business background).
Juergens said in her own memo to staff today that she began discussions about leaving the network “several months ago.” Ascheim asked her to stay through pilot season, which originally included pickups for three drama pilots; one, Alice In Arabia, about an American teenage girl kidnapped by her extended royal Saudi Arabian family and forced to live with them, was pulled four days after it was announced amid pressure from a Muslim advocacy group.
Stepanian was hired by Riley for her current post in June 2012 from TV Guide Network. In her role she was responsible for off-network series and feature acquisitions as well as overseeing the strategic scheduling of all on-air linear content and longform video.
Here’s Ascheim’s memo, followed by one from Juergens:
The Americans’ Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields have inked overall production deals with FX Productions, the company announced today. The 2-year agreements between the Cold War-based drama’s creator/EP and showrunner will cover all projects developed for TV as well as their work on The Americans itself. “Working with Joe and Joel on The Americans has been nothing short of extraordinary,” said Eric Schrier as he and fellow Presidents of Original Programming, FX Networks and FX Productions Nick Grad made the new deals public. “Joel and Joe are two of the most talented, genuine, gracious, and hardest-working guys in the business. We look forward to creating more great programs with each of them.”
The feeling is obviously mutual as former CIA employee and novelist Weisberg made clear. “I actually wanted to sign a 30-year deal, but the actuaries wouldn’t sign off on it,” said Weisberg. “I look forward to continuing our work together on The Americans and to developing some terrific new material with them as well,” added Fields of his work with Weisberg and FX. The critically acclaimed The Americans recently completed its second season and is coming back for a third cycle next year.
EXCLUSIVE: He waited just over a month to make his next move and now Brian Wright is making his home at Netflix. The former Nickelodeon SVP of live-action development will lead the charge on original kids and family programming for the streaming service, I’ve learned. In his senior exec role, Wright will report to Cindy Holland, who is Netflix’s VP, Content Acquisition/Original Series. Wright’s new duties will see him overseeing exclusive live-action, animated and pre-school series for Netflix and Netflix Kids like DreamWorks Animation‘s Turbo FAST series.
As my colleague Nellie Andreeva reported on May 27, Wright exited Nickelodeon that day after 7 years at the kid’s basic cable network. His exit came just four months after Nickelodeon upped head of casting Sarah Noonan to SVP Live Action Content, overseeing live-action development and production. Previous to joining the Viacom-owned Nickelodeon, Wright was at Lifetime as well as Greg Berlanti’s production company at WBTV.
UPDATED, 12:50PM: Leaders of SAG-AFTRA, calling their new film and TV contract “historic,” have something to celebrate this Fourth of July. The tentative new contract, reached early this morning after two months of hard bargaining, achieved the major goal of the union going into the talks: the merger of its two separate TV contracts.
When SAG-AFTRA merged in 2012, it was stuck with two separate pension and health plans and two separate TV contracts, which allowed TV producers to shop for the best terms. This anomaly created a landslide of producers rushing to shoot their projects under AFTRA’s TV contract, which was threatening to dry up employer contributions to SAG’s pension and health plan.
The new contract also achieved the first industry-wide agreement for performers in basic cable production, which now will be incorporated into the new Television Agreement.
In short, it’s a huge victory for the union, and a major milestone on the road to completing the merger of the two unions that was started two years ago.
“Unifying the legacy SAG and AFTRA contracts was essential, and I am very pleased that we were able to achieve that,” SAG-AFTRA president Ken Howard said in a statement. “As important, we have established an industry-wide, basic cable agreement – something we have wanted for two decades. We’ve also secured a very competitive wage package for members and a large bump in our pension, health and retirement contributions. This is a great package with real, measurable gains in numerous areas of our …
FXX has ordered 10 episodes of half-hour comedy Man Seeking Woman, from Lorne Michaels’ Broadway Video. It’s slated for a 2015 premiere. Jay Baruchel stars in the project based on Simon Rich’s book The Last Girlfriend On Earth, Man Seeking Woman. It centers on Josh Greenberg (Baruchel) a naive romantic on a desperate quest for love. When his longtime girlfriend dumps him, Josh enters the dating scene, a nightmarish hellscape of untold horror. Despite the agony, Josh continues his search in the hopes of finding someone who will make all the misery worth it. Eric André (The Eric André Show, Don’t Trust the B– in Apartment 23), Britt Lower (Unforgettable) and Maya Erskine (Betas) round out the cast.
The game is on — again!, BBC One tweeted this afternoon. That was following clues it left Monday night alerting Sherlock fans that a surprise was in store for today. In the first missive, the channel — which had changed its handle to “Sherlock – #221back” for the occasion — posted a GIF of Andrew Scott as Moriarty from the last episode of Season 3, and the question, “Did you miss me?” An hour later, BBC One wrote, “It’s all gone dark… Something’s coming… Or someone. Details at 2.21pm tomorrow.” And now we’ve solved the mystery. The BBC has confirmed the sleuthing drama will return for a special, followed by a series of three new episodes. Shooting on the special will start in January 2015, with the series shooting later next year. “We’re ready to unleash the most shocking and surprising series of #Sherlock yet. The only thing is to expect is the unexpected…,” said BBC One today. A fourth season has unofficially been afoot for some time, but dates have never been specified — a lot of juggling is necessary given the big screen demands on stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. Today’s confirmation follows reports on Sunday that the high-functioning sociopath and sidekick/best pal Dr John Watson would be back for a special in 2015. Freeman told The Telegraph a period of filming looked “pretty likely” in early 2015 and that he thought it “might be for next Christmas.” Either way, fans have had to wait long periods before to catch up with the characters, and their fervor has not abated. When Season 3 kicked off on BBC One and PBS in January this year after a two year hiatus, it was the series’ most-watched episode ever, on both sides of the Atlantic.
Starz will develop an adaptation of FremantleMedia North America’s Neil Gaiman urban fantasy novel American Gods. Hannibal showrunner Bryan Fuller and The River and Heroes executive producer Michael Green will write the pilot and showrun the series. The 2001 novel, which has been translated into more than 30 languages, and centers on a looming war between the traditional gods of biblical and mythological roots and the upstart pantheon of gods who stand for society’s fixation with money, technology, media, celebrity and drugs. The story’s main character, Shadow Moon, is an ex-con who becomes bodyguard and traveling partner to Mr. Wednesday, a conman and older god. Both set on a cross-country mission to gather forces in preparation to battle the new deities.
Telemundo and Sony Pictures Television today announced a three-year agreement, under terms of which which SPT will produce one primetime series per year for Telemundo in the U.S. The Telemundo international sales division, Telemundo Internacional, will distribute the series worldwide. As part of the agreement, Sony Pictures Television’s production company Teleset will produce the series in México in association with Telemundo Studios. Production of the first series will begin in early 2015.
“We are very proud to enter this agreement with Sony Pictures Television to produce scripted content with the highest quality standards and talent selection,” said Marcos Santana, president, Telemundo International. “This agreement will provide us with appealing and attractive content at the level our international clients have come to expect from Telemundo Internacional.”
“We look forward to working with Telemundo in the coming years to bring these three new primetime series to life,” said Angélica Guerra, senior vice president and managing director of production for Latin America and U.S. Hispanic for Sony Pictures Television.
CBS Gives Series Order To Adaptation Of James Patterson’s ‘Zoo’ From Midnight Radio, Cathy Konrad & James Mangold
With Under The Dome last year and Extant this week, CBS has made the addition of a new thriller event drama series the highlight of its summer schedule. The network has locked in its high-profile drama entry for summer 2015 with a 13-episode straight-to-series order to Zoo, a drama based on James Patterson‘s best-selling global thriller. The project, which had a rare pilot production commitment for a pitch originating from sibling CBS TV Studios, hails from writer-producers Josh Appelbaum & Andre Nemec, Jeff Pinkner and Scott Rosenberg. The four are working under their new Midnight Radio moniker (formerly Space Floor) which has inked a two-year first-look deal with CBS Studios. Also producing are Cathy Konrad and James Mangold via their CBS Studios-based Treeline Films, with Mangold set to direct.
Fox said tonight that it is not moving forward with the midseason action-adventure drama it ordered in October. The network picked up the project straight to series so it could spend pilot money across multiple episodes but subsequent scripts and stories weren’t coming together as hoped. Written by Travis Beacham and originally developed several seasons ago, Hieroglyph centered a notorious thief (Max Brown) who is plucked from prison to serve the Pharoah (Reece Ritchie), navigating palace intrigue, seductive concubines, criminal underbellies and even a few divine sorcerers. Anna Fricke was tapped as showrunner in March, when she signed an overall deal with 20th, which produced the show with Chernin Entertainment. A trailer for the series was played at Fox’s upfront presentation in May to mixed reaction, triggering speculation that the network may shelve the project. Kelsey Chow, Condola Rashad, John Rhys-Davies, Caroline Ford and Antony Bunsee co-starred. Beacham also was an exec producer along with Peter Chernin, Katherine Pope and Miguel Sapochnik, who also directed the pilot. “We wanted to do a show about deceit, sex, intrigue in the court and fantastical goings-on — no better place to set that than ancient Egypt,” then-Fox Entertainment Chairman Kevin Reilly said when the series was greenlighted. Beacham’s fantastical action-adventure spec narrowly missed a Fox pilot order during the 2011-12 season.