EXCLUSIVE: Lionsgate Television and Tandem Communications have set crime drama Sex, Lies And Handwriting at ABC. The project, now in development, is intended as straight-to-series, with a fall production start in Vancouver eyed should ABC move to greenlight the pilot script.
Sex, Lies And Handwriting is the first project to come out of the joint venture Lionsgate Television and Tandem Communications, a Studiocanal company, launched last year to co-finance and distribute hourlong dramas using the straight-to-series model Tandem employed for its first drama series, Crossing Lines, as well as its miniseries including The Pillars Of The Earth and its follow-up World Without End. As expected, the partners tweaked Tandem’s existing approach, in which the Munich-based company financed its series (mostly though international pre-sales) and completed the projects before taking the finished product to the U.S.. With Sex, Lies And Handwriting, an American network, ABC, is brought in much earlier in the process for more simultaneous sales in the U.S. and Europe and Canada. Other network development partners already on board for the potential series include Bell Media (Canada), TF1 Network (France) and ProSiebenSat.1 (Germany). The series would be produced in Canada by Sea To Sky, the Canadian studio joint venture between Lionsgate and Thunderbird Films. Read More »
Lionsgate has optioned TV rights to Ben Macintyre‘s best-selling biography A Spy Among Friends: Kim Philby And The Great Betrayal to be adapted by Flags Of Our Fathers scribe Bill Broyles for Allison Shearmur Prods. Shearmur and Broyles will executive produce. Published last month in the UK, A Spy Among Friends presents a riveting portrait of Philby, history’s most notorious master spy who rose to head Britain’s counterintelligence against the Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War while secretly working with the enemy. Macintyre’s account focuses on Philby’s relationships and betrayals of his two closest friends in the intelligence world: Nicholas Elliott of MI6 and CIA intelligence chief James Jesus Angleton. Crown Publishers is releasing the book in the U.S. on July 29.
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Under the multiyear overall pact, Dave Caplan will develop and produce unscripted programming through his Trooper Entertainment banner. Caplan joins Lionsgate TV from 51 Minds Entertainment, where he spent two years as VP Development and executive produced such series as Syfy’s Heroes Of Cosplay, MTV’s Scrubbing In, Syfy’s Ghost Mine and truTV’s Cash Dome. “Continued growth in the area of alternative programming is a high priority for our TV division and we are always looking for terrific partners,” said Lionsgate TV Group chairman Kevin Beggs. “Dave is an extremely creative producer and we anticipate a great collaboration.” Caplan’s move to Lionsgate comes on the heels of an executive restructuring at 51 Minds following the company CEO Cris Abrego’s appointment as co-chairman and co-CEO of parent Endemol North America that saw Christian Sarabia elevated to president of 51 Minds. Read More »
Ahead of Nurse Jackie‘s sixth-season premiere, Showtime has given the dark comedy starring Edie Falco an early seventh-season renewal. Clyde Phillips will continue as executive producer/showrunner after closing a new two-year overall deal with Lionsgate TV, which co-produces Nurse Jackie with Showtime. Phillips joined Nurse Jackie after Season 4. The series’ fifth season, the first with him at the helm, averaged 3.13 million weekly viewers across platforms, up 14% from Season 4. Under the overall deal, former Dexter showrunner Phillips also will develop new projects. “We are delighted to continue our longstanding relationship with Clyde Phillips, a creative powerhouse who has reinvigorated the Nurse Jackie series and who is also a prolific developer of television series in the auteur television arena,” said Lionsgate TV Group chairman Kevin Beggs. “His expertise in comedy and drama makes him a rare showrunner/creator and we are lucky to have him in the Lionsgate family.”
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Lionsgate TV has put in development a drama series based on Nick Bilton’s bestselling book Hatching Twitter: A True Story Of Money, Power, Friendship, And Betrayal, with former executive and now Lionsgate-based producer Allison Shearmur attached to executive produce. Bilton, a columnist and reporter for the New York Times, will write the script and serve as producer. Hatching Twitter gives behind-the-scenes account of the creation of the service by four friends and its evolution into a social media phenomenon. “Twitter has transformed almost every aspect of our lives from politics to business to friendship, and I can’t think of a more compelling story to adapt for television right now,” said Lionsgate’s Kevin Beggs. “Nick’s book has all the elements of a great drama with its complex characters, high-stakes power struggles and betrayed friendships.” Read More »
Fox has put in development, Ball & Chain, a drama written/executive produced by Peter Ocko (Fairly Legal) and executive produced by Steve McPherson through Lionsgate TV. The project, which falls under McPherson’s first-look deals at Fox and Lionsgate, centers on two ex-operatives with screwed up personal lives who are set up by their intelligence agency to become romantically entangled and run missions as a team. Ocko, repped by Vision Art, has comedy pilot Divide and Conquer at USA.
Fox also has bought a comedy project from Andrew Gurland and Justin Hurwitz, creators of the network’s half-hour pilot The Gabriels last season. Like The Gabriels, the new project, also produced by 20th TV, is based on Hurwitz’s life, but instead of his childhood, it involves his early adulthood. It centers on a brother and sister who develop an adult relationship that wreaks havoc on everyone else around them. Hurwitz has written multiple episodes of FX’s The League, while Gurland recently wrapped his FX pilot starring Nat Faxon and Judy Greer. The two are repped by Principato Young and WME.
Reporting from Jerusalem
With the TV business evolving at a rapid pace, Lionsgate COO of television, Sandra Stern, mused on Tuesday that “every generation is now 15 minutes old.” She made the remark on a panel here at Keshet’s Innovative TV Conference and was joined by eOne TV CEO John Morayniss and WME agent and partner Marc Korman. The execs discussed shifting paradigms, a potential talent shortage and the wisdom of remakes.
Business models are changing and “Everybody is looking around saying ‘How do we make noise?’” But “if you do good work, the audiences are going to find you,” Stern commented. Lionsgate’s Orange Is The New Black found a lot of love when it debuted on Netflix this summer. Morayniss noted that along with Netflix and other new entrants, there are “probably over 50 networks in the U.S. that are commissioning original scripted programming.” EOne is teamed with Discovery on Klondike, the net’s first original. “Good shows will rise to the top, there will be a market, and money will be made.” Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: The Chronicles Of Narnia‘s William Moseley is set to star opposite Elizabeth Hurley in the hourlong E! pilot The Royals, from Lionsgate TV and One Tree Hill creator Mark Schwahn. It is a contemporary drama about a fictional royal family informed by the regal opulence of the British monarchy and framed by Shakespeare’s Hamlet; a tale of men and women corrupted by power, wealth and desire. Moseley, repped by APA, Intellectual Artists and attorney Lev Ginsburg, will play Prince Liam, the younger brother to the beloved Prince Robert. When Robert is killed in a military training accident, Liam is thrust into a spotlight. Sexy, charming and smart, he’s in love with a young American woman, Ophelia, who helps him cope with the loss of his brother and his new position as the next King of England. Liam bristles at the strict rules, which govern the monarchy: being told what to say, where to go and how to it. At the root of it all, Liam has lived in Robert’s shadow and worries that he is not a credible successor. Hurley plays Liam’s mother, Queen Helena.
Related: Elizabeth Hurley To Topline E! Pilot ‘The Royals’
EXCLUSIVE: British actress Elizabeth Hurley is set for regal duty with a starring role in the hourlong E! pilot The Royals, from Lionsgate TV and the One Tree Hill team of creator Mark Schwahn and producers Brian Robbins & Joe Davola. Written by Schwahn, The Royals is a contemporary drama about a fictional royal family informed by the regal opulence of the British monarchy and framed by Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Part fairy tale, part cautionary tale, the show is described as a tale of men and women corrupted by power, wealth and desire. I’ve learned that Hurley will play the sexy, devious and conflicted Queen Helena, who struggles to cope with the death of her oldest son and the crisis of confidence this creates with her husband, King Simon, while working to deter the growing relationship between her middle son, now the heir apparent, and his American girlfriend. Hurley recently had a major recurring role on the CW’s Gossip Girl. The Royals is one of the first two scripted pilots greenlighted by E!, along with Songbyrd.
EXCLUSIVE: Steve McPherson is betting on young new comedy voices in his first turn as a producer this season. The former ABC topper is backing a half-hour project by Juilliard graduate student Kate Gersten, which has sold to Fox through McPherson’s first-look deal with the network. Lionsgate TV, where McPherson also has a deal, is producing, along with McPherson’s Wonder Monkey and Fishbowl. Gersten is heading into her third year as a playwright fellow at Juilliard. The Fox project, which marks her first TV sale, is based on a play by her and centers on two best friends from high school who reconnect later in life. Gersten has strongly gravitated to comedy, something rather unusual for a young playwright. Fox has a tradition fostering female comedy voices with New Girl creator Liz Meriwether, The Mindy Project creator-star Mindy Kaling and American Dad‘s Nahnatchka Khan, who has a high-profile project in development. McPherson is executive producing the Gersten project, with her serving as co-executive producer. The deal comes on the heels of McPherson selling another comedy from a young writer to Fox, a half-hour written by Brandon Schwartz. Gersten, who also has done some work as an actress, is with Paradigm and the Shuman Co.
For his first sale in his new role as producer, former TV executive Steve McPherson has teamed with young writer Brandon Schwartz. A half-hour project from Schwartz and McPherson has landed at Fox, where McPherson has a first-look deal. Lionsgate TV, where McPherson also has a pact, is producing. Written by Schwartz and developed by McPherson, the comedy centers on a young hopeless romantic guy who, after being dumped by his first and only girlfriend, moves into a West Hollywood apartment complex with a handsome former gigolo, two aspiring female supermodels, and a self-defense instructor who become his unlikely friends and support group and introduce him into a wild new world he could have never imagined exist. McPherson executive produces, with Schwartz co-exec producing. It’s the first network sale for Schwartz, who previously co-wrote two scripts for Nickelodeon. The writer, son of veteran TV lit agent Scott Schwartz, is repped by Matt Ochacher at New Wave Entertainment and Bob Getman.
EXCLUSIVE: It would be the biggest star pairing on a TV series in a long long time. Kelsey Grammer and Martin Lawrence are considering pairing up to star in and produce a multi-camera comedy together for Lionsgate TV and its subsidiary Debmar-Mercury. We hear it started with a November meeting right before Thanksgiving between Grammer, Lawrence and Lionsgate where the two actors showed great chemistry. The pair are repped by different agencies: Grammer by WME, and Lawrence by UTA. But Grammer’s financial settlement with recently divorced wife Camille wasn’t yet finalized and he ordered everybody not to discuss the project until it was. (We hear the concern was that Camille might try to lay claim to the project. She reportedly owned half of Grammnet Productions with its television shows including Girlfriends, Medium, and The Game and worked as a creator, writer, and executive producer within the production company.) That financial settlement finalized right before Christmas and now the project is on a fast track. In the past few weeks, the studio has quietly sent out feelers to writers. In coming weeks, the studio will start meeting with potential creators/showrunners to pin down a concept for the buddy series which sources say may have an “odd couple” feel. Read More »
There won’t be a third season of Starz‘s acclaimed drama Boss starring Kelsey Grammer and created by Farhad Safinia. However, I’ve learned exclusively that there are discussions between the pay cable network and Boss producer Lionsgate TV about possibly doing a two-hour movie that would wrap up the story of Chicago Mayor Tom Kane, played by Grammer. “After much deliberation, we have made the difficult decision to not proceed with (a third season of) Boss,” said Starz in a statement Tuesday. “We remain proud of this award-winning show, its exceptional cast and writers, and are grateful to Kelsey Grammer, Farhad Safinia and our partners at Lionsgate TV.”
Ratings-wise, Boss was soft but relatively steady. The series premiered to 659,000 viewers in October 2011. Season 2, which was ordered before Boss‘ series debut, opened with 317,000 viewers this past August, down 52% from Season 1, but subsequently recovered. It averaged 937,000 viewers over its weekend premiere airings on the Starz flagship channel and around 2.4 million across all platforms per episode. That was down slightly from Season 1 (1.1 million, 3 million). But Boss brought cachet to Starz, earning critical praise. It earned the first major awards nominations for the pay cable network, winning a Golden Globe for star Grammer who probably delivered the strongest performance of his career in Boss. Additionally, the show developed strong following by a small but devoted fan base. Its ratings performance was probably hampered by the fact it didn’t have a strong lead-in as Starz doesn’t have enough original series to go around, and that it aired on low-trafficked Friday night. (Though the network puts emphasis on a series’ cumed weekend viewership). Going into Season 2, the show beefed up the cast with new additions Sanaa Lathan, Jonathan Groff and T.I. while keeping its status as one of the less expensive Starz series. However, unlike Magic City, whose first season did only marginally better than Season 1 of Boss, the Grammer-starring drama was not owned by Starz, with Lionsgate TV controlling international and DVD rights. Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: What did Hawaii look like in the late 1960s? We’ll get a glimpse in the Season 6 premiere of AMC’s Mad Men. I’ve learned that the New York-set drama series is headed for a secretive two-day shoot on the islands. Sources say it will involve actors Jon Hamm and Jessica Pare, who play husband and wife Don and Megan Draper on the ad agency show. The two, joined by a very small crew, are expected to leave Sunday. As usual, Mad Men mastermind Matt Weiner is keeping things close to the vest, but I hear that the scenes will be part of Mad Men‘s sixth-season premiere. I hear Weiner and fellow Mad Men executive producer Scott Hornbacher did location scouting in Hawaii in late September. There is speculation that the scouting trip had not been authorized by Lionsgate TV, which produces the Emmy-winning drama, and that the studio may have initially objected to the shoot. Weiner and Lionsgate have long tussled over the budget for the series, which I hear has been substantially increased going into Season 6.
Season 5 of Mad Men ended with Hamm’s Don Draper sitting alone at a bar after helping Megan book an acting job with his connections — helping her advance in a career that has strained their relationship. A woman approaches him asking if he is alone, and the scene ends with him pondering … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Clyde Phillips has signed a new two-year overall deal with Lionsgate Television. Phillips recently joined Lionsgate’s dark comedy Nurse Jackie, and his duties as executive producer/showrunner on the Showtime series will fall under his new pact with Lionsgate, which also covers development.
Phillips was already talking to Lionsgate about renewing his overall deal when the opportunity to take over Nurse Jackie came up when original showrunners Linda Wallem and Liz Brixius stepped down. “All the stars aligned,” Phillips said. “I thought Nurse Jackie was really good, and I thought it could be great.” He also liked the prospect of working with Nurse Jackie star Edie Falco and the fact that he was not asked to just come in and “babysit” an established series. “I was asked to reboot the show, and that’s a challenge I willingly and happily accept.”
Related: Showtime Renews ‘Nurse Jackie’ For Fifth Season With Clyde Phillips As Showrunner
To do that, Phillips has assembled a team of writers, including bringing in longtime friend, comedy veteran Tom Straw, as an executive producer. The two first worked together on Phillips’ Fox comedy series Parker Lewis Can’t Lose, on which Straw served as co-executive producer. Straw’s credits include Grace Under Fire, Cosby, Whoopi and most recently, The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson. Phillips’ team also includes Michael Davidoff & Bill Rosenthal (Men At Work) as co-executive producers; Cindy Caponera (Saturday Night Live), current Nurse Jackie scribe … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Becker alumna Shawnee Smith has landed one of the female leads in Charlie Sheen’s FX comedy Anger Management. On the Lionsgate TV-produced series, which has an initial 10-episode order from FX, Sheen portrays Charlie, a former baseball player with anger issues who winds up as an unconventional anger management therapist. Smith will play Charlie’s ex-wife, who is searching for a life path after living in Charlie’s shadow for a long time. She was one of four actresses who tested for the role at the studio, and two, along with Kate Reinders, who went to the network today. A decision on the other adult female lead role, that of Charlie’s therapist, is pending; Selma Blair and Elaine Hendrix went to the network test today. In interviews at NATPE earlier this week, Sheen raved about the possibility of working with Blair. UPDATE: I hear that the network may want to read additional actresses before making a decision on the therapist role. Under the model employed by Lionsgate’s Debmar-Mercury, if the 10-episode run hits a ratings target, that will trigger a 90-episode order by FX, which would be produced on an accelerated schedule over the next two years. That wouldn’t be a stretch for Smith, repped by Kritzer Levine Wilkins Griffin Nilon Entertainment and attorney Todd Rubenstein, who did 124 episodes of CBS’ Becker starring Ted Danson. On the feature side, she will next be seen the Billy Bob Thornton-directed Jayne Mansfield’s Car … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: ABC is developing an English-language remake of mega hit telenovela Soy Tu Dueña, with Jorge Zamacona (10-8: Officers On Duty) writing and Desperate Housewives star Eva Longoria executive producing. ABC’s version will be co-produced by Televisa, the company behind the Mexican telenovela; Lionsgate TV; and ABC Studios. It centers on a Texas heiress who loses her fortune and is forced to move back to the ranch she grew up on. Zamacona will serve as showrunner and executive produce with Longoria though her Unbelievable Entertainment, as well as Tariq Jalil, who helped put the English adaptation together, through his Intrigue banner.
Soy Tu Dueña — which means I’m Your Owner but is translated into English as “A Woman Of Steel” — itself is a remake of the 1995 telenovela La Dueña. It became a ratings sensation when it aired on Univision from June through December last year, ranking as the most-watched telenovela ever and the second-highest-rated in 18-49 on the leading Spanish-language broadcaster in the U.S. Toward the end of its run in December, Soy Tu Dueña posted a string of timeslot wins over its English-language competitors and led Univision to a couple of nightly wins among 18-49 — including one for the telenovela’s December 27 finale, which was the highest-rated program of the night on any U.S. broadcast network and the second-highest-rated non-sports program of the week behind an original episode of Longoria’s Desperate Housewives. Read More »
Weed lovers Harold and Kumar are getting animated. Lionsgate TV is shopping around an animated comedy based on the hit Harold & Kumar feature franchise, with several cable networks interested. According to sources, Comedy Central and MTV are among them. Lionsgate TV is co-producing the project with Mandate, and I hear that original writers Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg are on board to write and produce and stars John Cho and Kal Penn to voice the lead characters and also produce. The latest installment in the franchise, A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas, opens today.