EXCLUSIVE: Imagine TV‘s Brian Grazer has optioned The Perfect Kill: 21 Laws for Assassins, the upcoming book by decorated CIA agent Robert B. Baer, whose portrayal in Syriana, an adaptation of his book See No Evil, earned George Clooney an Oscar. The drama project, titled The Perfect Kill, is geared for cable. It has been set up at Fox 21, the cable division of 20th Century Fox TV where Imagine TV has an overall deal. Imagine’s Grazer and Francie Calfo executive produce. In the book, set to publish in October, Baer chronicles the history of assassination as a political tool and outlines his rules for an effective kill.
EXCLUSIVE: One of the longest production relationships in the TV business is staying intact. Imagine Television has signed a new two-year deal with 20th Century Fox Television, where the company, overseen by Imagine Entertainment partner Brian Grazer, has been for the past 14 years. During Imagine’s most recent pact with 20th TV, the partners successfully rebooted two of Imagine’s signature series: the Emmy-winning 24 and Arrested Development. A 24 follow-up, event series 24: Live Another Day, is slated to premiere on Fox in May, and a new season of Arrested Development was released on Netflix last year. And there may be more in store for both properties. Fox has indicated interest in making 24 an event franchise. Netflix had been in conversations with 20th TV, Imagine and Arrested Development creator Mitch Hurwitz about more Arrested Development, and that now appears very likely, in the form of an original movie or another season.
EXCLUSIVE: Add Manny Coto to the names of 24 team members who have been signed on to Fox’s real-time action drama’s event-series reboot. Coto has closed a new two-year overall deal with 20th Century Fox Television and will join Evan Katz as an exec prod/ showrunner on 24: Live Another Day, from 20th Century Fox TV and Imagine Television. Coto, who was an EP on 24 during its Fox run, is currently an exec prod/writer for Showtime’s Dexter. “Manny is an incredible talent who wrote some of 24’s greatest episodes, and we’ve been eager to develop with him ever since,” 20th Century Fox TV chairman Dana Walden said of WME-repped Coto.
EXCLUSIVE: 50 Cent is getting animated. I’ve learned that Fox is in negotiations for an animated comedy project from the rapper-actor (born Curtis Jackson), feature producer Randall Emmett, Imagine TV and 20th Century Fox TV. The untitled project, loosely based on Jackson’s childhood, is expected to receive a pilot or presentation order. Written by Carl Jones, it follows a mischievous but well-meaning boy who often tangles with his eccentric family and neighborhood. Jackson, his producing partner Andrew Jameson, Jones, Emmett and Imagine TV’s Brian Grazer and Francie Calfo executive produce.
50 Cent’s life has already inspired a screen project, the autobiographical 2005 feature drama Get Rich Or Die Tryin’, in which 50 Cent made his acting debut as the lead. He will next be seen in The Frozen Ground and The Tomb. Emmett’s involvement in the 50 Cent Fox project stems from the duo’s long-time relationship, including a stint by Emmett running 50 Cent’s former company Cheetah Vision. The two are also executive producing Power, a drama project about a criminally-inclined New York nightclub owner, which is in development at Starz. Additionally, Emmett/Furla Films, Emmett’s company with George Furla that backs mid-budget feature films, launched a TV production division last spring. The unit’s first project, action drama Rescue 3 starring Dolph Lundgren, premieres next fall in primetime on the Tribune stations, which gave it a two-season pickup. 50 Cent is with CAA …
EXCLUSIVE: Finding a series set in the fashion world remains a priority for ABC. After last year’s pilot Americana, the network has given a put pilot commitment to Dress To Kill, a drama from writer Jessica Sharzer (American Horror Story). It is described as an erotic thriller/soap set in the New York fashion world with whodunit mystery at the heart of it.
Dress To Kill hails from 20th Century Fox TV and studio-based Imagine Television. It represents a rare major commitment for a pitch with no big-name talent or showrunner attached so late in the buying season when the networks’ coffers are almost depleted. Sharzer is executive producing Dress To Kill with Imagine’s Brian Grazer and Francie Calfo. This is one of several projects Imagine TV has set up this season, including a brother comedy at Fox and medical drama at CBS. On the feature side, Sharzer wrote and directed the 2004 indie Speak starring Kristen Stewart.
Veteran Imagine TV executive Robin Gurney, who recently left the company after a seven-year tenure, is reuniting with her former Imagine TV boss David Nevins at Showtime. Gurney is joining the pay cable network as SVP Original Programming, replacing veteran Pearlena Igbokwe, who is leaving the network at the end of her contract this month. She will develop and oversee original series, reporting to EVP Original Programming Gary Levine. “Robin and I had a great, creative working relationship for five years at Imagine,” Showtime’s entertainment president David Nevins said. “I am so thrilled to finally have an opportunity to work together here at Showtime.”
UPDATE 5:47 PM Saturday: Producers of the TNT competition reality series The Great Escape have reached an agreement with IATSE. The union called a strike this morning after declaring Profiles Television Productions unfair for interfering with IATSE organizing efforts. The crew is back at work after walking a picket line for seven hours today in Santa Clarita, Calif., where the show is shooting at the Placerita Canyon Power Plant. IATSE said the union and producers will negotiate a contract that provides crew members the health benefits, pension and safe working conditions that other entertainment industry workers have.
PREVIOUSLY, 10 AM Saturday: The IATSE has gone on strike today against Profiles Television Productions, producer of TNT’s new competition show The Great Escape after declaring the company “an unfair employer” earlier this morning. The union accuses Profiles of obstructing efforts to organize the show’s crew. The action-adventure reality series is hosted by Rich Eisen, one of NFL’s on-air talent. Headed by co-founders Bertram van Munster and Elise Doganieri, Profiles is the parent of both World Race Productions and Earthview Inc. The Great Escape is also produced by Ron Howard and Brian Grazer’s Imagine TV, Fox TV Studios, and creators Justin Hochberg and Charlie Ebersol. Picket line is set up at Placerita Power Plant, 20885 Placerita Canyon Road, Santa Clarita.
On the heels of Imagine principal Brian Grazer producing last month’s Academy Awards, he is looking to get the company into the live TV arena. I hear that Imagine TV is actively looking for other live TV projects to produce, primarily half-hour shows and event TV specials — including awards shows. I hear Grazer is spearheading the idea, which is being fast-tracked, after he loved the experience producing the Oscars. Despite coming on board relatively late after original producer Brett Ratner stepped down along with host Eddie Murphy, Grazer was able to quickly lock in a new host, Billy Crystal, and, along with fellow producer Don Mischer, deliver a show that drew 39.3 million viewers, up 4% from last year.
EXCLUSIVE: NBC continues its aggressive push this development season with early pilot orders. The latest project to get the green light is the comedy starring Sarah Silverman, which the network landed in August after a bidding war with a hefty put pilot commitment. The half-hour, from 20th Century Fox TV and Imagine TV, is a pet project of Imagine principal Ron Howard. Loosely based on Silverman’s life, the untitled single-camera comedy stars the comedian as a woman readjusting to the single life after a decade-long live-in relationship. Silverman wrote the script with Dan Sterling and Jon Schroeder, who were writer-producers on her self-titled Comedy Central series. Silverman, Sterling and Imagine’s Howard, Brian Grazer and Francie Calfo are executive producing, with Schroeder serving as co-exec producer. The order for the Sarah Silverman project follows NBC’s recent pilot pickups for Beautiful People, a futuristic drama by Michael McDonald, and comedies Isabel and Save Me, which are now casting. Additionally, the J.J. Abrams/Eric Kripke adventure thriller Revolution and crime drama Blue Tilt have pilot production commitments at the network. NBC now houses 3 female comedians known for their raunchy, no-holds-barred standup: Silverman, Whitney Cummings, creator and star of her own eponymous comedy series, which has received a full-season pickup by the network, and Chelsea Handler, who is behind the midseason series Are You There, Chelsea?, which will be paired with Whitney.
EXCLUSIVE: Feature director Paul Greengrass has joined Fox’s untitled CIA drama project from writer Joe Weisberg (Falling Skies), Imagine TV and 20th Century Fox TV. This marks the first foray into U.S. television for British director-writer Greengrass, who will serve as an executive producer on the CIA drama alongside Brian Grazer and Weisberg. I hear Grazer was instrumental in bringing the Bourne Supremacy and Bourne Ultimatum helmer on board. Greengrass’ deal is limited to producing, but I hear that he may also direct the potential pilot subject to availability. Penned by CIA officer-turned-writer Weisberg, the project, which was sold without Greengrass last month, is described as a high-stakes character-based drama centering on the young assistants of high-ranking officers in the U.S. Intelligence community. The show takes place within the walls of the CIA, as well as the DIA, NSA, FBI and the intelligence components at the White House. Greengrass was nominated for an Oscar for his 9/11-themed 2006 movie Flight 93.
Fox has bought a CIA drama from writer Joe Weisberg (Falling Skies) and a multi-camera comedy from actor-writers John Ross Bowie and Kevin Sussman, best known for their recurring roles on CBS’ hit comedy The Big Bang Theory. The hourlong project, from former CIA officer-turned-writer Weisberg, Imagine TV and 20th Century Fox TV, is described as a high-stakes character-based drama centering on the young assistants of high-ranking officers in the U.S. Intelligence community. The show takes place within the walls of the CIA, as well as the DIA, NSA, FBI and the intelligence components at the White House.
The comedy, from Bowie and Sussman, Principato-Young Entertainment and Sony TV, is tentatively titled The Ever After Part. It centers on a hip couple who go to extreme lengths to support their eccentric 5-year-old daughter, including moving in with the groom’s tyrant mother to take advantage of the great public school in her area. Peter Principato, Paul Young and Joel Zadak of Principato-Young, which manages Bowie, will executive produce, and Sussman’s manager Jill McGrath will co-produce. Bowie and Sussman met and became friends while guest starring together on The Big Bang Theory, where they recur as Leonard and Sheldon’s nemesis Barry Kripke and comic book store owner Stuart, respectively. The two wrote comedy spec Dark Minions, which caught Sony TV’s attention …
Almost 2 decades after they created ABC’s groundbreaking cop drama NYPD Blue, Steven Bochco and David Milch have reunited to create a new drama series, this time for NBC. The network has given a script commitment with significant penalty to an untitled legal drama from Bochco, Milch, Imagine TV and 20th Century Fox TV. The project is set inside DC’s hottest law firm, Tapman Rose, which boasts a perfect record of billion-dollar settlements. It centers on Ted Tapman, a charismatic “rainmaker” lawyer with a dark secret. Bochco and Milch co-created the project and will write the story together. Milch will write the teleplay. Bochco, Milch and Imagine’s Brian Grazer and Francie Calfo are executive producing. The new project won’t interfere with Milch’s duties on the upcoming HBO drama Luck, the writer’s collaboration with Michael Mann. I hear that Milch is slated to return to the horse-racing drama starring Dustin Hoffman after the pilot for the NBC show, with Bochco set to run the potential series.
The impetus for the new project came from a call Grazer made to Bochco, whom he had known for a long time. Grazer invited the veteran writer-producer to come over for a meeting and asked him whether he could bring his former collaborator Milch with him. This marks a homecoming for Emmy winners Bochco and Milch who first worked together on the NBC drama Hill Street …
EXCLUSIVE: In the highest-profile migration of feature talent to television so far this development season, Oscar-winning filmmakers Ethan Coen and Joel Coen are set to executive produce an hourlong single-camera comedy for Fox, which the two co-created with another feature writer, Phil Johnston (Cedar Rapids). The project, titled HarveKarbo, has received a script commitment with significant penalty from Fox. It hails from Imagine TV, whose principal Brian Grazer is credited with luring the Coen brothers to television. (Ethan and Joel Coen did their 2003 feature Intolerable Cruelty with Imagine). HarveKarbo, which will be written by Johnston, features the type of quirky, offbeat characters that have become a staple of the Coen brothers’ movies. It follows the title character — an ill-tempered LA private investigator whose cases frequently involve the depraved doings of the Hollywood elite — and his deadbeat friends in Los Angeles’ El Segundo. Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, Johnston, Grazer and Francie Calfo are executive producing for Imagine TV and 20th Century Fox TV.
Fox has bought a drama script from Greek creator Patrick Sean Smith. Titled Wanderlust (not to be confused with the upcoming Jennifer Aniston-Paul Rudd feature comedy of the same name), the hourlong project is set in the world of young international travelers. Imagine TV and and 20th TV are producing, with Smith, Brian Grazer and Francie Calfo executive producing. More from our sister site TVLine, which has the story.
EXCLUSIVE: Comedy’s red-hot selling season continues with another half-hour project landing a major commitment after a bidding war. In a competitive situation that went down to the wire between ABC and NBC, ABC just snagged How to Live With Your Parents for the Rest of Your Life, a multi-camera/hybrid comedy from Accidentally on Purpose creator Claudia Lonow, 20th Century Fox TV and studio-based Imagine Television. The project, which is in the mold of another 20th TV comedy, How I Met Your Mother – a multi-camera comedy that is shot without live audience and features more scenes than a regular sitcom — has received a put pilot commitment from the network. Based on Lonow’s own life, How to Live With Your Parents for the Rest of Your Life, which can certainly vie for the longest series title crown, is described as an outrageous comedy with lots of heart. It centers on a single mom who moves in with her parents to help raise her daughter. WME-repped Lonow is executive producing the project with Imagine TV’s Brian Grazer and Francie Calfo. This marks the second big comedy sale for Imagine/20th TV so far this season following the Sarah Silverman semi-autobiographical comedy, which also sparked a bidding war between NBC and ABC, ultimately landing at NBC.
Part of a series that takes an analytical look at the current broadcast pilot season and some of its trends and heroes.
It has been a big year for non-writing producers this pilot season, the biggest since the so-called “invasion of the pod people” in 2003 when the broadcast pilot season and May series pickups for the first time were dominated by shows developed via pods, i.e. companies run by non-writing producers based at major studios.
There are a lot of familiar faces – some of the overachievers of the 2003 season are back in full force: Eric and Kim Tannenbaum, Brillstein Entertainment and Reveille as well as Imagine TV and Marty Adelstein. But Bruckheimer TV, a pilot season staple for the past decade and a top performer in 2003 with 3 pilots, all picked up to series, is without a pilot for the first time in years. (However, the company’s Fox project, a dramedy based on the life of music supervisor Kathy Nelson, has been pushed and remains in contention.)
But the big news this pilot season are the upstarts, companies formed in the past year-and-a-half, which have done very well. Leading the pack is the 20th TV-based Chernin Entertainment, which has had a dominating performance with 5 pilots this season: the Kiefer Suthaland starrer Touch, which is expected to get an episodic order at Fox, Stephen Gaghan’s cop drama S.I.L.A at NBC, Fox’s untitled Liz Meriwether comedy starring Zooey Deschanel, Fox comedy Outnumbered and NBC comedy Lovelives. The company already has 3 upcoming series, Fox’s Terra Nova - which it is co-producing with 2 of the other top performers this pilot season, DreamWorks TV and Kapital Entertainment – Fox’ animated comedy Allen Gregory and A&E’s Breakout Kings, which also started on broadcast.
Other recently formed TV companies that landed pilots this season include Aaron Kaplan’s indie Kapital Entertainment (ABC’s comedy Bad Mother, ABC dramedy Good Christian Bitches, NBC Western The Crossing), Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci’s 20th TV-based K/O Paper Products (Fox’s Ethan Hawke starrer Exit Strategy directed by Antoine Fuqua and another Fox drama, graphic novel adaptation Locke & Key), Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage’s Warner Bros.-based Fake Empire (ABC soap Georgetown starring Jimmy Wolk, the CW drama Hart of Dixie starring Rachel Bilson), Shawn Levy and Marty Adelstein’s 20th TV-based 21 Laps/Adelstein (ABC’s untitled Jack Burditt comedy starring Tim Allen), Wyck Godfrey and Marty Bowen’s ABC Studios-based Temple Hill (ABC’s drama Revenge directed by Phillip Noyce) and Scot Armstrong and Ravi Nandan’s UMS-based American Work (NBC’s untitled Lennon Parham/Jessica St. Clair comedy)
In another twist this year, three independent production companies that operate outside of the studio system are having a great year. DreamWorks TV, a strong performer in 2003 with 5 pilots, 2 of which, Las Vegas and Line of Fire, went to series, has 3 pilots this year, second only to Chernin Entertainment, and tied with two another indies, Reveille and Kapital, as well as the ABC Studios-based Brillstein Entertainment and CBS TV Studios-based Tannenbaum Co. DreamWorks has NBC’s Broadway-themed Smash starring Debra Messing, ABC’s horror thriller The River directed by Jaume Collet-Sera and Fox’s Locke & Key. Reveille, which in 2003 had its Coupling remake picked up to series, has NBC comedy pilot My Life As an Experiment, Fox comedy Tagged and CW drama Awakening.
NBC has made its first drama pilot order this development season and it has gone to Playboy, a period drama about Playboy bunnies in the Chicago club in the 1960s. The project, set against the background of the political and moral changes in the 1960s, was written by Chad Hodge. 20th Century Fox TV and Imagine TV, which first took a stab at the concept last season with a different writer, are producing. Hodge is executive producing Playboy with Imagine’s Brian Grazer and and the company’s new TV chief Francie Calfo. This is the first pilot order this month as the New Year marks the beginning of the traditional pilot pickup season. The green light for Playboy comes before NBC’s new top programmer Bob Greenblatt has officially joined the network, something expected to happen later this month when the Comcast-NBCU gets government approval.
EXCLUSIVE: Zach Cregger has landed a lead role on NBC’s midseason ensemble comedy series Friends with Benefits. The 20th TV/Imagine TV project, whose pilot was directed by David Dobkin, explores modern-day romance through the eyes of five friends, each looking for “the one” but in the meantime settling for “friends with benefits.” Cregger will play one of them, a nerdy but cute hopeless romantic who is worth $12 million after selling an algorithm to Google. He replaces Fran Kranz who played the role in the pilot, one of two Friends with Benefits leads that were recast after the upfronts. Andre Holland was recently tapped for the other, replacing Ian Reed Kesler. Cregger starred in another NBC comedy pilot this past development season, The Pink House. He also is a founding member of The Whitest Kids U’Know sketch comedy troupe.
Veteran TV executive/producer Francie Calfo is joining Imagine TV as president after more than 20 years at ABC. Calfo will replace David Nevins who is leaving to become entertainment president at Showtime, replacing Robert Greenblatt. Calfo’s deal with 20th TV where Imagine TV is based came after a couple of weeks of negotiations, mostly over financial terms.
Calfo most recently served as an ABC Studios-based producer, executive producing several pilots and one series, this summer’s struggling dramedy Scoundrels. Before that she was EVP at ABC, serving as entertainment president Stephen McPherson’s No.2. She segued into that job after spending a year as a producer, partnered with Stu Bloomberg when the two executive produced the short-lived ABC drama series Life As We Know It.
Calfo was previously an executive at ABC Studios’ predecessor Touchstone TV where she helped develop Alias and CSI under then-boss McPherson. Calfo first joined Disney’s TV team in 1989, in Buena Vista’s TV research department, eventually working her way into programming at Touchstone.
Calfo is the second ABC Studios-based producer to land a president-level job at a 20th TV-based company this week. On Tuesday, Bert Salke was named president of 20th TV’s cable/unscripted division Fox21.