Diane Haithman contributes to Deadline’s TCA coverage.
Producer David Zabel appeared on two TCA panels today for two new ABC series: Betrayal and Lucky 7 (based on Kay Mellor’s British series The Syndicate), about a group of working class friends who win the lottery. (The show is set in multi-ethnic Queens, NY for the American version.) Without revealing any spoilers, critics at the panels noted that in both series the pilot opens with flash-forwards to some nasty consequences for some characters. Why?
Zabel described the technique as an effective way to hook viewers for episodes to come. “These are not procedurals, they are character dramas. The device teases audiences with how crazy, dramatic or elevated that things are going to become,” said Zabel, an EP on both dramas.
Seeking audience investment in characters has led to other changes from the British version: that program did only 5 episodes for its first two seasons (it’s been renewed for a third season of 6). Each of the 5 episodes has focused on just one of 5 lottery winners. Lucky 7 has a 22-episode order for Season 1 and has expanded its group to 7 people.
Bess Rous (Beth Henley’s play The Jacksonian) has joined the cast of Murder In The First, TNT’s drama pilot co-created by Steven Bochco and Eric Lodal. It is a murder mystery set in contemporary San Francisco that centers on two SFPD homicide detectives, Terry Seagrave (Taye Diggs) and Hildy Mulligan (Kathleen Robertson), as they take on a case that seems more like a maze. Rous, repped by Greene & Associates and The Coronel Group, plays Wexler, a techy that is Erich Blount’s brilliant CTO and head of R&D.
Christopher Thornton has booked a role in the CBS drama pilot The Surgeon General, which centers on Dr. John Sherman (Jason Isaacs), the most powerful doctor in the nation who has 315 million patients. Thornton will play a funny wheelchair-bound Russian computer scientist and master researcher with a 4.0 from MIT who has developed a life-changing algorithm. Confined to a wheelchair in real life, Thornton, repped by Sweeney Entertainment, recurs as David Spade’s new assistant on Rules Of Engagement.
Adam Goldberg has been cast in ABC‘s multi-camera comedy pilot Divorce: A Love Story, from Sony TV and ABC Studios. Written by Mike Sikowitz & Daniel Lappin based on an Israeli format and directed by Pam Fryman, Divorce centers on Kenny (Jason Jones) and Robin (Andrea Anders), a recently divorced couple who were bad together but discover they’re even worse apart and can’t seem to stay out of each others’ lives. Goldberg, repped by UTA and Luber Roklin, plays Ike, Kenny’s neurotic, overly analytical best friend and co-worker. He recently starred on CBS’ NYC 22.
Sons Of Anarchy alum Rockmond Dunbar is set for a co-starring role in Doubt, ABC’s legal drama written and executive produced by David Shore. The project, from Sony TV, centers on Vincent, a former cop who’s now a cunning but charming low-rent lawyer who uses his street smarts to work the system for his clients while battling his own demons and wooing his ex-wife. Dunbar, repped by Buchwald/Fortitude & LEG Management, plays Detective Steve Adams, Vince’s former partner in the force who now functions as Vince’s best friend and confidante. His directorial debut, Pastor Brown, premiered on Lifetime this month.
UPDATE: ABC Greenlights Adaptation of British Drama ‘The Syndicate’ From David Zabel, Jason Richman & Amblin TV
UPDATED: ABC has given green light to Lucky 7, a drama pilot based on Kay Mellor’s BBC series The Syndicate, which premiered last year and has been renewed for a second season. This is ABC’s 12th and last drama pilot pickup this season.
David Zabel and Jason Richman wrote the U.S. version, which is produced by ABC Studios and Amblin TV. Lucky 7 is about seven employees of a service station in Queens whose lives are changed in many unexpected ways when they win a lottery jackpot. The original series revolves around five supermarket workers who enter into a syndicate and win the lottery. (Watch a trailer below) Each episode of the series centers around a different character, and each season will follow a different group in similar circumstance. Zabel, Richman and Amblin TV’s Darryl Frank and Justin Falvey executive produce Lucky 7 alongside Mellor through her company Rollem.