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Showrunners Wanted: Networks Grapple With Lack Of Experienced Writing Producers

By | Wednesday May 7, 2014 @ 3:52pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

panic-buttonIt is becoming an annual tradition: after pilots are shot and delivered, there is a scramble to find showrunners. More and more newly picked up series are in a need of a seasoned showrunner every year. Yesterday, NBC picked up four pilots to series. Half of them, dramas Allegiance and State Of Affairs, don’t have a showrunner. Similarly, Fox picked up three pilots to series and ordered 10 more episodes for comedy Mulaney. Of the four also half, drama Empire and comedy Mulaney, have required a showrunner hire. All four were were picked up to series without a showrunner locked in. Mulaney, which was ordered to series with a six-episode order in October, has since tapped veteran Jon Pollack for the job, working with creator-star John Mulaney. I hear Patrick Massett and John Zinman had been approached for showrunnersAllegiance, written-directed by George Nolfi, Tom Szentgyorgyi is eyed for State Of Affairs if The Mentalist is cancelled, which appears likely, while the field for hip-hop drama Empire, written by Lee Daniels and Danny Strong and directed by Daniels, appears wide open. State Of Affairs has no writing producer on board after Alexi Hawley, who penned the original script, left, and Joe Carnahan, who received high marks for rewriting and directing the pilot, was only contracted for the pilot as he is busy with The Blacklist. Meanwhile, Empire and Allegiance hail from top feature auspices with no series background. Bringing fresh TV talent (Mulaney, Hawley) or feature talent (Daniels, Strong, Nolfi) to TV is to be applauded. It’s the lack of showrunner talent to support their vision that is alarming.

It’s not that yesterday’s series orders came as a surprise. All pilots that received pickups at Fox and NBC this week had been early favorites, with orders appearing all but certain weeks ago when the showrunner searches started. There just aren’t that many available showrunners to choose from for a match on a specific project. Why is that?

Industry insiders trace the problem back a decade ago when the studios cut back on staff writers, breaking the merit based system for growing writing producers. Read More »

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UPDATE: Fox Picks Drama Pilots ‘Empire’ & ‘Red Band Society’ To Series

By | Tuesday May 6, 2014 @ 3:50pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

fox-tv-logo__130727010919-275x119UPDATE, 3:50 PM: Fox has made it 3-for-3, picking up all three of its drama pilots with a series order to Red Band Society, starring Octavia Spencer, from Amblin TV and ABC Studios. The adaptation of the acclaimed Spanish hospital series Polseres Vermelles was written by Margaret Nagle. Red Band Society, which has been a favorite staffing choice for writers this season, is a coming-of-age drama with humor set at redbandsocietya big-city hospital. It explores with dark humor the daily life of a group of teenage kids living in a hospital who become unlikely friends. Nagle is exec producing with Amblin’s Justin Falvey, Darryl Frank as well as Sergio Aguero; Carlos and Julio Fernandez of Filmax co-executive produce. The newly picked-up Fox drama series Red Band Society, Empire and Gotham join previously ordered Backstrom and Hieroglyph. On the comedy side, Sober Companion and Cabot College have been garnering buzz — I hear Sober Companion possibly for fall, Cabot College for midseason — with Dead Boss in the mix.

Related: PILOTS 2014: Strong Year For Drama & Latest Pilot Buzz

fox_empire_seriesPREVIOUS 3:10 PM: I’ve learned that Fox has added another new drama to its slate for next season, picking up to series Empire, its drama … Read More »

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Kaitlin Doubleday Joins Fox Drama Pilot ‘Empire’; Regina Hall In FX’s ‘Married’

By | Tuesday March 11, 2014 @ 11:58am PDT

doubleday1Fox’s Empire has rounded out its cast with the signing of Kaitlin Doubleday (Catch Me If You Can) as a series regular. The hip-hop industry drama pilot from Lee Daniels, Danny Strong and Brian Grazer centers on Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard), a charismatic, savvy music superstar who is about to take his company, Empire Entertainment, public. Doubleday will play Rhonda, the wife of Lucious’ oldest son Andre (Trai Byers), a sexy, manipulative woman who shares Andre’s Ivy League background and intends to help him scrap his way to the head of Empire. Doubleday, repped by Paradigm and MPG Management, appeared in features Home Of Phobia and Waiting and ABC’s Cavemen.

Related: 2014 Fox Pilots
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Gabourey Sidibe & 2 More Join Fox Pilot ‘Empire’; Andrew Lees In TBS’ ‘Your Family Or Mine’

By | Monday March 10, 2014 @ 2:00pm PDT

sidibeUPDATED: Gabourey Sidibe is set as a recurring in Fox’s hip-hop industry drama pilot Empire, from Lee Daniels, Danny Strong and Brian Grazer, while  Trai Byers and Grace Gealey have signed on as series regulars. It centers on Lucious Lyon (Terrence Howard), a charismatic, savvy music superstar who is about to take his company, Empire Entertainment, public. Sidibe, repped by UTA, Jill Kaplan and Fred Toczek, will play Becky, Lucious’ (Howard) hard-working assistant. The role marks a reunion for Sidibe with Daniels, who directed her in Precious, and with 20th Century Fox TV, for whom she recently starred in American Horror Story: Coven. Byers, repped by ICM Partners and Wishlab, will play Andre, Lucious’ oldest son, described as a tall, brilliant and compelling individual with a dark side, and Gealey, with Paonessa Talent Agency, will play Anika, the head of A&R for Empire and Lucious’ current lady friend.

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Malik Yoba Joins Fox Drama Pilot ‘Empire’

By | Friday March 7, 2014 @ 10:10pm PST
Nellie Andreeva

yobaMalik Yoba is set to co-star opposite Terrence Howard  in Fox’s hip-hop industry drama pilot Empire, from Lee Daniels, Danny Strong and Brian Grazer. It centers on Lucious Lyon (Howard), a charismatic, savvy music superstar who is about to take his company, Empire Entertainment, public. Yoba, repped by Innovative and the Arlook Group, will play Vernon Turner, Lucious’s longtime friend from the streets and business associate who is now the chairman of the board of Empire Entertainment.

Related: 2014 Fox Pilots

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Ryan McPartlin Joins NBC Pilot ‘Salvation’; Bryshere Y. Gray Cast In Fox’s ‘Empire’

By | Thursday March 6, 2014 @ 4:31pm PST
Nellie Andreeva

mcpartlinChuck alum Ryan McPartlin will co-star opposite Ashley Judd in NBC’s drama pilot Salvation. In the project, written by Elizabeth Heldens and directed by Jeffrey Reiner,  mega-church Pastor Daniel Strickland suddenly dies, and his loyal wife, Jennifer Strickland (Judd), must rally to keep their family together and save the church. McPartlin, repped by Gersh and Evolution, will play Congressman Todd Bishop, an ambitious man whose political life keeps him from home, making him a bit of an absent husband and father. His romantic comedy feature The Right Kind Of Wrong opens next week.

Related: 2014 NBC Pilots

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Music Producer Timbaland Joins Fox Drama Pilot ‘Empire’

By | Tuesday March 4, 2014 @ 10:30am PST
Nellie Andreeva

Fox‘s hip-hop industry drama Empire continues timbalandto add boldface names. Top music producer/songwriter Timothy “Timbaland” Mosley is the latest to board the pilot starring Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson, which hails from Lee Daniels, Danny Strong and Imagine’s Brian Grazer. Timbaland will serve as songwriter and song producer on Empire, a family drama set in the world of a hip-hop empire, which will feature a mix of new and existing music. Timbaland’s involvement resembles Nashville‘s signing of T Bone Burnett for the pilot and the first season. Empire centers on Lucious Lyon (Howard), a charismatic, savvy music superstar who is about to take his company, Empire Entertainment, public. Raised on the streets, he has never backed away from a fight and will resort to any measures, fair or foul, to defend his beloved Empire. Read More »

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Taraji P. Henson To Star In Lee Daniels’ Hip-Hop Fox Pilot ‘Empire’

By | Wednesday February 26, 2014 @ 10:00am PST
Nellie Andreeva

taraji-hensonTaraji P. Henson is reuniting with her Hustle & Flow co-star Terrence Howard for another drama project set in the hip-hop world, this time in TV. Person Of Interest alumna Henson has been tapped as the female lead opposite Howard in Esmolletmpire, Fox‘s drama pilot from Lee Daniels, Danny Strong and Imagine’s Brian Grazer. Also cast in the project, written by Strong and to be directed by Daniels, is Jussie Smollet. Empire is described as a unique family drama set in the world of a hip-hop empire. It centers on Lucious Lyon (Howard), a charismatic, savvy music superstar who is about to take his company, Empire Entertainment, public. Raised on the streets, he has never backed away from a fight and will resort to any measures, fair or foul, to defend his beloved Empire. Henson plays Cookie Lyon, Lucious’ ex-wife and former business partner.

Related: 2014 Fox Pilots

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Terrence Howard To Topline Fox’s Hip-Hop Drama Pilot From Lee Daniels, Danny Strong

By | Wednesday February 19, 2014 @ 11:45am PST
Nellie Andreeva

Lee Daniels,Terrence HowardLee Daniels’ The Butler co-star Terrence Howard is reuniting with the movie’s director Lee Daniels and writer Danny Strong, this time on TV. Howard is set as the lead in Empire, Fox‘s drama pilot from Strong, Daniels and Imagine’s Brian Grazer. Written by Strong and to be directed by Daniels, Empire is described as a unique family drama set in the world of a hip-hop empire. It centers on Lucious Lyon (Howard), a charismatic, savvy music superstar who is about to take his company, Empire Entertainment, public. Raised on the streets, he has never backed away from a fight and will resort to any measures, fair or foul, to defend his beloved Empire. 20th Century Fox TV and studio-based Imagine TV are producing, with Strong, Daniels, Grazer and Francie Calfo executive producing. Empire, which is geared toward series per Fox’s new development model, extends Howard’s relationship with the network where he co-stars on the upcoming event series Wayward Pines. His series credits also include Law & Order: LA. Howard is repped by CAA and Authentic.

Related: 2014 Fox Pilots

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Fox Picks Up Hip-Hop Drama Pilot From Brian Grazer, Lee Daniels & Danny Strong

By | Thursday January 23, 2014 @ 7:15pm PST
Nellie Andreeva

fox-tv-logoFox has given a pilot order to drama Empire, from the duo behind hit feature Lee Daniels’ The Butler – writer Danny Strong and director Lee Daniels —  and Imagine’s Brian Grazer, who brought the two back together. Per Fox’s new development model, the project will be geared toward series, with Fox likely picking up additional materials, but the nature of that supplemental order (backup scripts, bible?) is still being fired out. Empire had a put pilot commitment atdanielslee1dannystronggrazer Fox after sparking a heated bidding war in September. Written by Strong and to be directed by Daniels, Empire is described as a unique family drama set in the world of a hip-hop empire. 20th Century Fox TV and studio-based Imagine TV are producing, with Strong, Daniels, Grazer and Francie Calfo executive producing. The project marks Daniels’ TV debut, while Strong started his writing career in TV with the HBO telefilms Recount and Game Change, earning Emmy nominations for both and winning for Game Change. At Fox, Imagine has upcoming drama series Gang Related and event series 24: Live Another Day.

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