ABC has bought comedy No. One Son from writer Cindy Caponera (Shameless, Saturday Night Live), Lisa Ling and DreamWorks TV. ABC Studios is producing. The single-camera show is about two completely culturally different families, one Chinese and the other Irish/Italian, that have to learn to co-exist because they are now related through the new marriage of their oldest children. Caponera is executive producing with Ling and DreamWorks TV’s Justin Falvey and Darryl Frank. This is the second comedy sale to ABC for DreamWorks TV, which also has Tracy McMillan’s single-camera comedy Why You’re Not Married set up there with a script commitment plus penalty.
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.
CBS has bought Legacy, a drama project from Jericho co-creator Jonathan E. Steinberg, DreamWorks TV and author James Frey’s book-packaging company Full Fathom Five. The project has received a script commitment plus penalty from the network and has been laid off at CBS TV Studios. It centers on a one-term president who goes back to work at his hometown law firm where he hand-picks the cases that really matter to him. Steinberg, who will write the script, is executive producing with Frey, Justin Falvey and Darryl Frank.
In one of Showtime’s most ambitious undertakings, the pay cable network is partnering with Steven Spielberg and Stephen King for Under the Dome, a drama series based on King’s 2009 novel, which will be produced by DreamWorks Television. The supernatural thriller revolves around locals at a Maine vacation spot who battle one another when a force field suddenly surrounds their town and cuts them off from the rest of the world. DreamWorks’ Spielberg and Stacey Snider nabbed the rights to King’s novel shortly after it was published in November 2009 to strong reviews. Search is underway for a writer to write the project, whose executive producers will include King and DreamWorks TV’s Justin Falvey and Darryl Frank. Spielberg has a longstanding relationship with King. He previously teamed with the bestselling author to adapt his 1984 novel The Talisman, which was originally developed as feature and then as a miniseries that was once set up at TNT.
This marks a return to genre series for Showtime, which took a break following the 2003 dramedy Dead Like Me, and the network’s latest collaboration with DreamWorks TV.
Exactly 20 years ago, German rock band Scorpions released Wind of Change, which became an anthem for our generation of young Eastern Europeans going through a dramatic political change: the fall of communism. Coming back from the broadcast upfront presentations in New York last week, I’ve been having a hard time getting the catchy tune out of my head. While less far-reaching and profound, there is a clear sense of changing of the guard and a new direction for the broadcast networks this year. I can’t remember a time where the majority of the networks had new heads at their upfront presentations. Paul Lee took over for Steve McPherson at ABC, Bob Greenblatt for Jeff Gaspin and Angela Bromstad at NBC, and Mark Pedowitz is succeeding Dawn Ostroff at the CW. There is a similar changing of the guard among the top TV producers this year. Upstart Chernin Entertainment and DreamWorks TV, which is re-entering the broadcast arena, topped the pods with the most new series, three each, with another recently launched company, Aaron Kaplan’s Kapital Entertainment, scoring two new shows. And in its first season, Marty Adelstein and Shawn Levy’s 21 Laps/Adelstein Prods.got one pilot, Tim Allen’s Last Man Standing, picked up to pilot, with another, Fox’s Family Album, in serious contention. Meanwhile, such longtime upfront fixtures as Jerry Bruckheimer TV, Mark Gordon Co. and Wonderland didn’t land any new series for next season.
Here is the second-annual honor roll of the best and brightest at the broadcast upfront. First off, to all who got their pilots picked up to series — congratulations. You’re already winners. This is a list of those who took their upfront success to an extra level:
Whitney Cummings: The undisputed queen of Upfront 2011. She is behind two new comedy series that are among the highest-profile new half-hour entries next fall. She created, stars in and executive produces her eponymous comedy for NBC, which was assigned the network’s best comedy slot, following The Office. She also co-wrote on spec with Michael Patrick King the CBS comedy 2 Broke Girls, which broke records as CBS’ best-testing pilot (comedy or drama) ever. Both were the first comedy pilots to get a series order at their networks. Cummings, who also has a talk show in contention at E!, will serve as an executive producer on 2 Broke Girls but will be full-time on Whitney, which was in first position. I hope that doesn’t impact 2 Broke Girls, which King is expected to run/co-run, because the pilot indeed looks great. Honorable mention in the category of creators with multiple projects for Andrew Reich and Ted Cohen. One of their two ABC pilots, Work It, was picked up to series, while the other, Smothered, is very much in contention for midseason.
What a comeback for J.J. Abrams! After his high-profile NBC drama Undercovers went bust last fall, some questioned whether the networks will continue to bet on him. But bet they did this upfront, with both pilots he produced, CBS’ Person of Interest and Fox’s Alcatraz, going to series. Person of Interest instantly became one of the most anticipated new fall series when CBS made it its new Thursday 9 PM anchor. The network also said it was its best-testing drama pilot ever. And over at Fox, Alcatraz prevailed over several high-profile pilots to land one of only two drama series spots. Then, as icing on the cake, Abrams’ modestly rated but well-liked Fox sci-fi series Fringe got a renewal for next season, bringing the producer’s series for next season to three.
Writers Jeremy Miller and Dan Cohn have set up two comedy projects: one at Fox based on a non-fiction book, and one Showtime, which has Ryan Phillippe and Breckin Meyer attached as executive producers. Additionally, the duo has inked two blind deals: one at Warner Bros. in conjunction with …
You thought a suburban home was scary. How about the Amazon river? Oren Peli, the writer-director of the indie phenomenon Paranormal Activity, is bringing to primetime The River, a cinema verite-style thriller drama in the vein of Paranormal Activity set on a mysterious river. After a heated bidding between ABC and NBC, the project is close to landing at ABC with a rich put pilot commitment. The TV division of DreamWorks, the studio that discovered Israeli-born video game designer Peli and his $15,000 supernatural thriller Paranormal Activity that ended up grossing almost $200 million worldwide, is producing with ABC Studios. Peli hatched the idea for the project with veteran TV writer Michael R. Perry (Law & Order: SVU) who penned the upcoming Paranormal Activity sequel. Perry is writing the pilot script, with Peli possibly directing. Peli also is executive producing with his producing partners Jason Blum and Steven Schneider as well as Perry and DreamWorks TV’s Darryl Frank and Justin Falvey. According to one description of the project floating around, The River follows the story of a famed adventuter/tv personality who goes missing and is presumed dead deep in the Amazon. His friends and crew go to look for him on their state-of-the-art research vessel.
Allison Miller has become the second actor after Jason O’Mara cast in Fox’s upcoming adventure series Terra Nova. The project, produced by Steven Spielberg and Peter Chernin, follows an ordinary family from 2149 led by Jim Shannon (O’Mara) who are transported back 85 million years to prehistoric Earth where they join Terra Nova, a colony of humans with a second chance to build a civilization. Miller will play Skye.