After a 14-year stint at CBS TV Studios, longtime CSI showrunner Carol Mendelsohn is moving to Sony Pictures TV with a three-year overall deal. Mendelsohn has run the mothership CSI series since its 2000 launch and had been under an overall deal at CBS Studios, which produces the hugely successful crime drama franchise, since 2001. With her latest overall pact at the studio coming up, she was pursued by Sony TV brass who had had their eye on the veteran showrunner for a while. “Carol is a part of the fabric of television around the world and to work with someone who has not only created but sustains such an amazing global franchise is an honor,” said Sony TV president of programming and production Zack Van Amburg. Added fellow president Jamie Erlicht, “With her ability to tell stories that engage audiences everywhere, and the array of opportunities for great content, there is no limit to what we can accomplish together.”
With less than a month until the upfronts, we’re kicking off our annual Pilot Buzz series. As usual, the first edition only includes a limited number of projects that have been garnering early attention as many pilots are still filming. So, if a pilot is not mentioned, it probably means it is too early to weigh in or the feedback I’ve received is inconclusive at this time.
Shonda Rhimes. Viola Davis. Need we say more? ABC’s sexy suspense legal thriller How To Get Away With Murder, executive produced by Rhimes and starring Davis, is packing some heat early on. Secret & Lies starring Ryan Phillippe also is getting encouraging early response. It also has a seven-figure penalty and is directed by Charles McDougall, whose strong pilot record includes Desperate Housewives, The Good Wife and most recently, Resurrection last season. Then there is Marvel’s stealth Agent Carter project. Last year, the company went into Fort Knox mode on its Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. pilot, which was kept under lock and key. They took that a notch further this year with Agent Carter. Because there is a prototype — the project is inspired by a one shot, which was featured on the Blu-ray release of Iron Man 3 — word has been that it would forgo a pilot and go straight to series. The script was finished more than three months ago (“the script is great,” ABC’s Paul Lee said back in January), the option on one-shot’s star Hayley Atwell came up and was extended, but the green light never came. Now there is talk that a pickup for Agent Carter may come along with a renewal for Marvel’s freshman Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., with the new series possibly serving as a bridge between the fall and spring portions of S.H.I.E.L.D. Also getting various level of early traction at ABC is mystery Sea of Fire and several dark horses, alien drama The Whispers (aka The Visitors), medical drama The Warriors and mystery Clementine.
Patricia Arquette, who won an Emmy for Medium, is set as the lead of another crime drama procedural, CBS’ planted CSI spinoff. Written by the CSI franchise team of Carol Mendelsohn, Anthony E. Zuiker and Ann Donahue, the untitled spinoff (aka CSI Cyber) centers on Avery Ryan (Arquette), Special Agent in Charge at the Cyber Crime Division of the FBI in Quantico, VA, who is tasked with solving high-octane crimes that start in the mind, live online, and play out into the real world. The project, inspired by Irish Cyberpsychologist Mary Aiken, would be the first CSI series with a female lead. Avery will be introduced in a CSI episode this spring. Mendelsohn, Zuiker and Donahue exec produce with Jerry Bruckheimer and Jonathan Littman for CBS TV Studios and Bruckheimer TV. Arquette, repped by Gersh, 3 Arts and Ziffren Brittenham, recently completed the feature The Wanna Be and HBO drama series Boardwalk Empire, both produced by Martin Scorsese. She will next be seen in Richard Linklater’s Boyhood.
Exactly a decade after CBS launched the most recent CSI spinoff, CSI: NY, the network is at it again with a new planted spinoff, which will air as an episode of the venerable crime drama this spring. Just like CSI spinoff CSI: Miami and CSI: Miami offshoot CSI: NY, the new spinoff will be written by CSI creator Anthony E. Zuiker, longtime CSI showrunner Carol Mendelsohn and former CSI: Miami showrunner Ann Donahue. The new series, from CBS Studios and Bruckheimer TV, will mark a departure from criminal forensics, which has been the subject of the first three CSI series, focusing instead on cyber crimes, an area Zuiker had been exploring for several years. The new project is not related to the Cyber Crimes drama Zuiker created for CBS four seasons ago. Inspired by the work of Irish cyberpsychologist Mary Aiken, the proposed CSI spinoff centers on Avery Ryan, Special Agent in Charge at the Cyber Crime Division of the FBI in Quantico, VA, who is tasked with solving major crimes that start in the mind, live online, and play out into the real world. Zuiker, Mendelsohn and Donahue are executive producing with Jerry Bruckheimer and Jonathan Littman. Aiken will serve as a producer. Given the new setting for the latest CSI spinoff, it is unclear if it would keep the CSI moniker or switch to a new one the way CBS did with NCIS, which was spun off from military drama JAG. CBS is looking to spin off both of its long-running crime procedurals this season with NCIS prepping a New Orleans-set planted spinoff starring Scott Bakula, which also will air as an episode in the spring.
EXCLUSIVE: CAA has signed William Petersen, who’s ready to get busy again almost five years after leaving the CBS drama CSI after 10 seasons. He will be looking at movie, TV and stage opportunities. Petersen emerged from the Chicago theater scene to star in such films as William Friedkin’s To Live And Die In L.A. and Michael Mann’s Manhunter and is one of those highly selective actors who never wore out his welcome — which made a return seamless when he surprised everyone by signing on for CSI, on which he remains an exec producer. Petersen had been repped by WME for the past year. A founder of Chicago’s Remains Theater Ensemble, Peterson’s recent stage work includes A Dublin Carol and The Endgame at Steppenwolf Theatre and Blackbird at Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago. He continues to be managed by Cindy Chvatal at High Horse Films and is lawyered by Cliff Gilbert-Lurie at Ziffren Brittenham.
Original CSI cast member George Eads will miss at least portion of the crime series’ upcoming 14th season over a personnel issue. It is understood that Eads got into an altercation with a pregnant writer on the show over what was described as creative issues. “George Eads will not appear in several episodes during the first half of the season,” CSI producer CBS TV Studios said in a statement. “We look forward to him returning to CSI very soon.” It is unclear when Eads, who is under contract, will rejoin the show. Last year, another regular on a CBS/CBS TV Studios drama, Jennifer Esposito of Blue Bloods, was put on a temporary leave and never returned. For Eads, this is the second time off CSI after he was briefly fired over salary demands during 2004 renegotiations.
Just like it recently did with NCIS and its star Mark Harmon, CBS has signed a new contract extension with CSI: Crime Scene Investigation leading man Ted Danson and simultaneously renewed the veteran crime drama for the 2013-14 season. I hear Danson, whose original two-year deal for the show was up this season, has signed another two-year pact. His salary has been well over $200,000 an episode. Also set to return next season are co-lead Elisabeth Shue and original cast members George Eads, Jorja Fox, Eric Szmanda, Paul Guilfoyle and Robert David Hall, along with Wallace Langham, Elisabeth Harnois, David Berman and Jon Wellner. The renewal will extend CSI‘s run to 14 seasons. With CSI: Miami ending last May and CSI: NY expected to follow it this year, the mothership series is expected to be the only CSI on the air next season. On NBC, first spinoff Law & Order: SVU actually outlasted the original Law & Order series and the second spinoff Law & Order: Criminal Intent.
NEW YORK and LOS ANGELES, March 7, 2013 – Content Partners LLC, an entertainment finance firm that acquires cash flows from successful film, television and music properties, today announced that it has purchased a 50-percent interest in the blockbuster television franchise “CSI” (Crime Scene Investigation) from an affiliate of Goldman Sachs. The acquisition makes Content Partners an equal stakeholder in the second largest franchise in television history with CBS Corporation, which owns the other 50-percent interest. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
CBS’ CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, the most-watched TV show in the world, won the ratings-based International Television Audience Award for the fifth time in seven years as U.S. series dominated the awards handed out today at the 52nd Monte-Carlo Television Festival. ABC’s Desperate Housewives took the honor on the comedy side, while The Bold And The Beautiful won for soap opera/telenovela. Among the Golden Nymph winners were HBO’s Game Of Thrones (drama) and ABC’s Modern Family (comedy) for best international producer, Woody Harrelson as outstanding actor in a telefilm for HBO’s Game Change, 30 Rock‘s Tina Fey for comedy actress, and Jason Priestley as best comedy actor for HBO Canada’s Call Me Fitz. Here’s the complete list of winners: