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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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 …
EXCLUSIVE: I have learned that after lengthy negotiations, Netflix is finalizing a deal with Lionsgate TV for a 13-episode straight-to-series order to Orange Is The New Black, a comedy from Weeds creator Jenji Kohan. This marks the second original series for Netflix, which earlier this year gave a 26-episode straight-to-series pickup to MRC’s David Fincher/Kevin Spacey drama House Of Cards. Kohan’s project falls under her rich overall deal with Lionsgate TV. Co-created and executive produced by Kohan and House co-executive producer Liz Friedman, it is based on Piper Kerman’s memoir Orange Is The New Black: My Year In a Women’s Prison and revolves around women in prison. The book chronicles nonprofit communications executive Kerman’s year-long stint at the minimum security correctional facility in Danbury, Conn., stemming from a conviction for her part in a drug smuggling and money-laundering scheme she got tangled up in 10 years earlier as a fresh college graduate.
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.
Charlie Sheen’s new sitcom Anger Management has landed at FX with an initial order for 10 episodes for a summer 2012 launch. If successful, that will be followed by a 90-episode order by FX as well as broadcast syndication launch by distributor Debmar-Mercury in fall 2014. After a marathon of pitches to broadcast and cable networks earlier this month followed by a short window of intense negotiations, the direct-to-series project has found a home at the cable network that already carries reruns of Sheen’s previous series, Two And A Half Men, to great ratings success. The cable network also owns the TV rights to the 2003 Jack Nicholson-Adam Sandler movie Anger Management — about a mild-mannered man (Sandler) ordered to attend group anger-management sessions led by a volatile therapist (Nicholson) – on which the series is loosely based. Sheen plays a version of Nicholson’s character on the show, produced by Lionsgate TV and distributed by sibling Debmar-Mercury. Joe Roth, who produced the movie, is producing the series with Sheen, who retains a significant ownership stake, and The Drew Carey Show creator Bruce Helford, who serves as writer/showrunner. Production is slated to begin in early 2012.
EXCLUSIVE: As the traditional broadcast pitch season is winding down, one of the most talked-about projects has hit the broadcast/cable marketplace. Star-producer Charlie Sheen has been out in full force pitching his new series Anger Management along with producer Lionsgate TV and distributor Debmar-Mercury over the past two weeks. There has been a healthy level of interest in the project, with a number of networks taking the pitch. I’ve learned that the list included broadcasters NBC, Fox and ABC as well as cable networks FX, USA Network, Comedy Central and TV Land and streaming company Netflix. I hear Sheen was present at all the meetings, which were held on both the East and West coasts. “It was a great pitch, very polished,” a person who has seen the presentation said, with Sheen described as “very buttoned up and passionate.” What is being pitched is a series version of the 2003 Jack Nicholson-Adam Sandler movie Anger Management about a mild-mannered man (Sandler) ordered to attend group anger-management sessions led by a volatile therapist (Nicholson), with Sheen playing a version of Nicholson’s character and The Drew Carey Show creator Bruce Helford writing/executive producing.
Word is cable networks FX, USA, Comedy Central or sibling TV Land are a possibility, along with Netflix. Getting meetings with broadcast networks was a coup for the producers, but they were always considered a long shot because of the type of deal Debmar-Mercury is seeking for the series: a trial 10-episode run that, if ratings guarantees are met, triggers a 90-episode pickup. (According to sources, the sizes of the orders in the two stages are not set in stone and Debmar-Mercury may be open to tweaking them, but the commitment is expected to remain very significant, especially for a broadcast network.) There had been talk about Fox possibly teaming with FX and NBC with sibling USA for such an arrangement, but that appears highly unlikely. The only pairing that seems possible is one between Comedy Central and TV Land, both part of MTV Networks Entertainment Group headed by Doug Herzog. Comedy Central, of course, has an in with Sheen as it did the Roast Of Charlie Sheen last month. Given its success, Comedy Central seems like a natural home for Anger Management — though, according to an industry source, Herzog had been joking privately that he wants the bad Charlie Sheen, not the nice one, a reference to Sheen’s recent image rehabilitation as he dropped the rants of warlocks and tiger blood, adopted a conciliatory tone towards his former employers at Two And A Half Men and settled his $100 million lawsuit against them. But while bad boy Charlie Sheen has entertainment value, even cleaned-up Charlie Sheen is probably difficult to insure, and the off-the-rails one last spring is certainly impossible to.
SANTA MONICA, CA, (October 13, 2011) – Continuing its expansion into non-scripted programming, LIONSGATE has entered into a three-year joint television venture with Banca Studio, the company recently formed by Roy Bank, an accomplished reality producer (Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?) and former President of Television for Merv Griffin Entertainment. As part of the launch of this new venture, Lionsgate has also made a deal with Merv Griffin Entertainment to purchase the slate of production and development originated under Bank’s recent tenure there, including this summer’s NBC game show It’s Worth What?, hosted by Cedric the Entertainer, Bloomberg Television’s The Mentor, and the upcoming Million Dollar Mind Game premiering October 23 on ABC. The announcement was made today by Lionsgate Television Group President Kevin Beggs.