Exactly a year after FX landed the spec for Tyrant in a competitive situation, the cable network has given the drama project from Homeland co-creators Howard Gordon and Gideon Raff and Six Feet Under alum Craig Wright a series order for a minimum of 10 episodes to debut next summer. The series pickup for Tyrant comes on the heels of FX’s series order to Guillermo del Toro and Carlton Cuse’s The Strain. Along with American Horror Story a couple of years ago, Tyrant and The Strain were the only projects to land FX pilot orders off a pitch/spec. All three had such big commitments that a series order was all but certain and all three had received orders for backup scripts in anticipation of a series pickup. Tyrant, produced by Fox 21 and FX Prods., was the riskiest of the three with its Middle Eastern setting. It did hit several bumps along the way — original director Ang Lee exited, with David Yates stepping in. There were questions about where the series would be filmed (It will be shot in Tel Aviv after the pilot was done in Morocco.) I hear FX brass had reservations about the first cut of the pilot but loved the final one. “With Tyrant, Howard Gordon, Gideon Raff and Craig Wright have produced a beautiful television pilot that will be a groundbreaking television series,” said FX Networks CEO John Landgraf. “Tyrant introduces characters and a world that have never been explored in a dramatic television series format. There is a reason a bidding war broke out over this project: it grabs you as all great epics do and simply refuses to let go!” Added 20th TV chairmen Dana Walden and Gary Newman, “This is one of the most ambitious series we’ve ever set out to make and we couldn’t be more grateful to John and everyone at FX who believed in its potential since the very first pitch.”
FX has given a pilot order to Tyrant, a drama from Homeland executive producers Howard Gordon and Gideon Raff, Six Feet Under alum Craig Wright and 20th Century Fox TV’s Fox 21. Tyrant, casually referred to as “reverse Homeland“, was created by Raff, creator of the Israeli drama Prisoners Of War on which Showtime’s Homeland was based. Tyrant, developed by Gordon and Wright, tells the story of an unassuming American family drawn into the workings of a turbulent Middle Eastern nation. Raff wrote the pilot script, which hails from Teakwood Lane, Gordon’s 20th TV-based production company. “The brilliant and wholly original concept just blew us all away,” FX’s EVP Nick Grad said. “It’s pretty amazing when you read a script and can instantly imagine it becoming one of the best shows on television.”
Gordon, Raff and Wright are executive producing in association with Keshet Broadcasting, the Israeli company behind Prisoners Of War, which also co-produces Homeland. Wright is set to serve as showrunner if Tyrant goes to series. For Wright, the project stems from the overall deal he inked with Fox 21 in August. Production on the pilot is tentatively slated to begin in spring 2013.
Fox 21, the cable division of 20th Century Fox TV, has signed writer/playwright Craig Wright to an overall deal. Under the pact, he will create projects of his own and supervise other writers. Wright, an Emmy-nominated writer of HBO’s Six Feet Under and creator of ABC’s Dirty Sexy Money, most recently created the MTV drama series Underemployed, which premieres Oct. 16. Wright ran the series in its first season, and the deal with Fox 21 will allow him to remain involved in the show, if it is renewed, while creating and running shows for the studio. “At Fox 21 we tend to go after very, very high-level writers you don’t normally see making these deals, and Craig is one of them,” said Fox 21 president Bert Salke. WME-repped Wright’s series credits also include Brothers & Sisters, Lost and United States Of Tara. He remains active in theater too. His play Grace, will open on Broadway in October with Paul Rudd, Michael Shannon and Ed Asner starring.
Diane Haithman contributes to Deadline’s TV coverage.
At today’s TCA, Craig Wright, creator and executive producer of MTV’s new one-hour scripted drama/comedy series Underemployed (premiere date TBA) was asked about obvious parallels between this show and HBO’s Emmy-nominated Girls.
Actually, the title Girls or the name of creator Lena Dunham was never specifically mentioned, but a questioner asked about “an HBO show” whose creator scoffs at the idea of being the “voice of a generation.” Does Wright, in his late 40s, see himself as the voice of the millennials?
MTV is beefing up its original slate with six new series: Craig Wright’s ensemble comedy Underemployed, comedy Zach Stone Is Gonna Be Famous co-created by and starring hot young comedian Bo Burnham, and four reality and docu-series: Catfish, based on the feature documentary; Hoods, about celebrities going back to their hometowns; Wake Brothers, about two pro wakeboarding brothers; and Wait Till Next Year, about a real-life Bad News Bears high school team. The pickups were made after MTV brass last month screened all pilots developed by head of programming David Janollari and Chris Linn, EVP of programming and head of production.
On the scripted side, MTV went 2-for-2, picking up both of its pilots to series. Underemployed, about a group of recent college graduates, “is the personification of our ‘life amplified’ mantra for the 18-24s who are coming out of high school and college and have to figure out how to make their dreams come true and their career aspiration fit into today’s tough economic times,” Janollari said. The show hails from playwright and Six Feet Under alum Wright, who modeled the lead character after his 21-year-old son. Zach Stone, from 3 Arts, stars 20-year-old Burnham as a kid fresh out of high school who hires a camera crew to film him because he wants to be famous. The project shines …
EXCLUSIVE: HBO Films has optioned the rights to Ann Hood’s bestselling novel The Knitting Circle as a starring vehicle for Katherine Heigl. In her first TV project since leaving ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy and her first collaboration with HBO, Heigl will also produce the movie with her mother and producing partner Nancy Heigl through their Abishag banner, along with Pine Street Pictures. Dirty Sexy Money creator and award-wining playwright Craig Wright will write the adaptation. This marks Wright’s return to HBO, where he started his TV writing career on Six Feet Under, a gig that earned him Emmy and WGA nominations.
Heigl is set to play the central character in Hood’s semiautobiographical novel, a mother mourning the death of her young daughter and struggling to overcome the grief that jeopardizes every aspect of her life, including her marriage. She begins to find her way back into the world through a knitting circle and the stories its members share. Paradigm-repped Heigl will next be seen in New Line’s New Year’s Eve, slated for a Dec. 9 release, and in Lakeshore/Lionsgate’s One For The Money, which will come out next January. WME-repped Wright recently landed a pilot order at MTV for coming-of-age comedy Underemployed.
Jared Kusnitz, Michelle Ang, Sarah Habel, Inbar Lavi and Diego Boneta have been cast as the leads in the project, which revolves around Lou (Kusnitz), Sofia (Ang), Daphne (Habel), Raviva (Lavi) and Miles (Boneta) – talented best pals who were confident that they were about to dazzle the universe with their brilliance on the eve of their college graduation but a year later find themselves going through a series of odd jobs, low-paying gigs, and comical situations – all in an effort to make ends meet. “It is a comedy about the millenial generation’s experience entering young adult life and the workforce in today’s economic climate,” MTV’s head of programming David Janollari said. “It’s about post-college reality versus the amplified expectations… exploring all the firsts from love, family, friends and career in today’s post-Gen X world.”
Wright, an award-winning playwright, has worked on Six Feet Under, Lost and Brothers & Sisters. It was through his stint on Six …
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 …