EXCLUSIVE: Hawaii Five-0 showrunner Peter Lenkov has signed a new overall deal with CBS Television Studios, the studio behind the CBS crime drama. Under the two-year pact, he will continue as executive producer/showrunner on the Hawaii Five-0 reboot, which he developed and co-wrote with Alex Kurtzman and Bob Orci and has run since the pilot. Now in its fourth season, Hawaii Five-0 is an important asset for CBS TV Studios as it has a rich off-network syndication deal and is a strong international seller. The new overall deal secures Lenkov’s leadership on the show for the next two seasons and also calls for him to develop new projects for network and cable. This past season, he re-teamed with Kurtzman and Orci to develop high-concept drama Salvation, which sold to CBS.
They would be on more stable legal footing if they just jumped in the surf off the coasts of America’s 50th state. After being in, then out, and then in again, CBS today is really back in the multimillion-dollar lawsuit over the Hawaii Five-O reboot. In a downtown hearing today, LA Superior Court Judge Gregory Alarcon denied the network’s latest bid to be let out of the case brought by talent agent George Litto. In his ruling on the summary judgment motion, Alarcon made no finding on the merits of the actual case, which is now set for a January 21, 2014 trial date. However, the judge did agree with Litto’s contention that CBS had clear knowledge of the partials rights that the talent agent held to the series in conjunction with creator Leonard Freeman’s estate. The agent to Freeman, Litto is seeking $10 million in punitive damages and a share of the profits from the rebooted show, which CBS brought back in 2010. “Once again, this is a procedural hearing, and we remain confident that we’ll prevail on the actual merits of the case at trial,” a CBS spokesperson told me after today’s hearing.
It’s been quite a road to get where CBS is now. In January of this year, Alarcon agreed with CBS’ then demurrer and removed the network from the suit Litto first filed in May 2012. But in July, Alarcon changed his mind and put CBS back in the lawsuit with Freeman’s heirs after the plaintiff assured the court that legal battle over Five-O was about money and not CBS’ ability to continue to produce the show. In September, Judge Elizabeth Allen White denied CBS’ effort to again get out of the case.
It wasn’t enough for the makers of Hawaii Five-O to let viewers pick the ending of an episode last season, now they’re giving fans control over a full hour. CBS today unveiled its Fan Built Five-O initiative, a Mad Libs-esque stunt that lets the public vote online for an episode’s half-dozen key story points: scene of the crime, victim, murder weapon, evidence, suspect and takedown. After the polls close on Halloween, the show’s writers will use the winning elements to forge a script. Before production on the episode begins in February, fans will be able to weigh in on such things as wardrobe, props, music and the title. The series hula-ed over to Fridays this season, and after two episodes McGarrett, Danno and company’s ratings are down 21 percent in the demo compared with last year. But it’s up by nearly that percentage in total viewers (9.6 million) on the older-skewing night, which CBS is dominating. Hence the web-voted story ploy targeting the less chronologically challenged. And TV writers thought reality formats were a threat to their livelihoods. Check out the categories and options up for balloting after the jump:
The network isn’t out of the legal surf after all. Today, CBS’ motion to be dismissed as a defendant in the multimillion-dollar lawsuit over the Hawaii Five-O reboot has been denied. Judge Elizabeth Allen White turned down the network’s effort to again be let out of talent agent George Litto’s suit in a hearing Thursday in LA Superior Court. CBS was hoping to see a repeat of its temporary exit from the suit earlier this year. Not that CBS seemed to be sweating today’s decision. “Today was a procedural ruling only, not about the evidence of the case. We’re confident going forward that the facts presented will support a dismissal. Mahalo,” a spokesperson told me after the hearing.
In January, Judge Gregory Alarcon agreed with the network’s then demurrer and removed it from the suit that Five-O creator Leonard Freeman’s talent agent first filed in May 2012. But in July, Alarcon changed his mind and put CBS back in the lawsuit with Freeman’s heirs after the plaintiff assured the court that suit over the show was about money and not CBS’ ability to continue to produce the series. Litto claimed in his initial $10 million suit that the Freeman’s heirs and CBS keep him out of negotiations for the reboot.
CBS won’t be getting caught up in the rough currents of a Hawaii Five-O lawsuit after all. Monday the network was released from a lawsuit filed in May by the agent of Hawaii Five-O creator Leonard Freeman. “Defendant CBS Studios Inc.’s, erroneously sued as CBS Television Network, (“CBS”) Demurrer is sustained without leave to amend,” wrote LA Superior Court Judge Gregory Alarcon in his tentative ruling (read it here) made final Monday. While the network could be pulled back into the case on appeal, they are out of the case for now. “We appreciate the court’s ruling and are pleased that it brings an appropriate conclusion to our involvement in this lawsuit,” said a CBS spokesman today. Though many of his claims were substantiated, it was time that worked against Freeman’s former agent George Litto - specifically how long it took Litto to file his $10 million suit against the Freeman heirs and adding CBS to the complaint last fall. Litto contended in his suit that the heirs and CBS shut him out of 2010 negotiations for the reboot of the original series that ran from 1968 to 1980. After the 1974 death of Freeman, Litto and the producer’s widow Rose came to an agreement that gave him substantial rights in connection with future versions of the series.
CBS‘ Hawaii Five-0 will be making some TV history on Monday, January 14 when it will become the first primetime drama to allow viewers to choose the ending of an episode in real time. In the episode, the Hawaii Five-0 team investigates the death of an O’ahu State University professor. His boss, his teaching assistant and a student who he busted for cheating are all viable suspects. After each suspect’s motives are revealed, viewers will be able to choose the culprit, any of whom could have committed the crime.
Fans will be able to vote on CBS.com or Twitter during both the East and West coast broadcasts. The votes will be tallied immediately and the most popular ending will become part of each broadcast. All three endings will be available at CBS.com later that evening. “I’ve always felt the most fun aspect of watching a mystery is trying to figure out whodunit,” said Hawaii Five-0 executive producer Peter Lenkov. “Now the Hawaii Five-0 viewers will actually get the chance to tell us who they think committed the crime and we will listen.”