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Krista Vernoff, Diane Warren, Craig Zadan & Neil Meron Team For Music Dramedy At NBC

By | Thursday October 4, 2012 @ 11:39am PDT
Nellie Andreeva

Diane WarrenEXCLUSIVE: Smash executive producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron are developing another hourlong series for NBC in which music plays a key part. The duo is executive producing a dramedy written/executive produced by Grey’s Anatomy alumna Krista Vernoff. It will feature the music catalog of songwriter Diane Warren, who serves as a consulting producer.

Craig Zadan and Neil MeronThe hour-long dramedy centers on a 30-something songwriter who has written the most epic love songs of our time, despite, or perhaps due to the fact that she is painfully unlucky in love. While the logline understandably draws parallels to Warren, the central character is original and not based or inspired by her though the plot represents a fictionalized version of Warren’s career. Warren’s songs are expected to be organically integrated into the narrative with music used in a very different way than the Broadway-themed drama Smash. Warren’s catalog includes such songs as LeAnn Rimes’ How Do I Live, Celine Dion’s Because You Loved Me, Toni Braxton’s Unbreak My Heart and Aerosmith’s I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing. Read More »

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2012 Primetime Emmys: Oscar Producers Check Out TV’s Big Night Plus All The Behind-The-Scenes And Party Action

By | Monday September 24, 2012 @ 4:15am PDT
Pete Hammond

Who knew the Emmys might have such an impact on the Oscars? The newly minted Oscar producing team of Craig Zadan and Neil Meron actually spent the entire weekend following Emmy producer Don Mischer (who also produced the Oscars the past two years and will direct this year). The Oscar team told me they spent all day Saturday and Sunday in the booth watching how the big TV show came together to get a few helpful tips. This particular Emmy show and the Oscars both air on ABC. ”We’ve been shadowing Don Mischer all weekend to get an idea of how it is done,” Zadan told me at the Emmy Governors Ball. “We’re already having a ball doing the Oscars. We have ideas that have never been done before.” Meron assures they are actively beginning the Oscar process and hope to have a host in place sooner rather than later. Zadan says a host is key and sooner is better.

For his part Mischer, who produced and directed the Oscarcast for the past two years, does not want to be part of the producing team this year. “After last year I promised my wife I wouldn’t do it again,” he says. “‘But I am happy to come back and direct. That way I will actually get my holidays. And Craig and Neil  have wanted to do this for several years. They are consummate showmen.”

Mischer told me the reason the Emmy show seemed rushed at the end last was because he had to have it over by no later than 8 PM PT because the West Coast replay began then — if it was a few minutes late people tuning in might think they missed something watching the end rather than the beginning. He said the biggest West Coast audience by far watches the show at the 8 PM rerun rather than live at 5. But Mischer, a true veteran of the live awards show wars, regretted having to cut off winners in their acceptance speeches. Among those who got the hook were the Drama Series Writing winners for Homeland and Miniseries/Movie Supporting Actor winner Tom Berenger. But it was the very big final award for Best Comedy Series to Modern Family that really made Mischer feel bad: Presenter Michael J. Fox received an elongated standing ovation (the only one of the evening it turns out) when he was introduced and that took up precious time that cut into executive produer Steve Levitan’s speech. Mischer said he had no choice but to cut him off with almost zero seconds to spare until 8 PM. ABC was telling him in one ear they had to get off the air but he didn’t want to stop Levitan. At the Governors Ball, Mishcher apologized to Levitan who said he understood the timing problem — even though ironically Modern Family was Emmy network ABC’s big win this year. In fact, it was the biggest win for any broadcast network on the cable-centric Emmycast.

Related: Nikki Finke: Live-Snarking The 64th Emmys Read More »

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Craig Zadan and Neil Meron Producing White House Drama Project For NBC

By | Monday September 10, 2012 @ 12:14pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

EXCLUSIVE: Producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron have set up the first project through the first-look deal they signed with Universal TV and NBCUni’s international TV production division in July. NBC has bought an hourlong drama from the duo and former General Hospital head writer Sri Rao. Tentatively titled White House Confidential, the project is described as an upstairs-downstairs-type soap set in the White House, told from the point of view of a young female doctor who has a secret from her past. Read More »

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Academy President Hawk Koch Reveals Why He Chose Oscar Producers, Says They May “Speed Up” Presentations

By | Friday August 24, 2012 @ 2:09pm PDT
Pete Hammond

Hawk Koch has not even been President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences for a month yet but he’s already got his producers lined up for the Oscars -  no small feat considering the awkward attempt to put a producer and even a host  in place (widely reported to be Lorne Michaels and Jimmy Fallon) before he even got elected on July 31st. Koch always told me, on the record and off, that as far as he was concerned his first priority was to get a producer(s) hired and none of the media speculation about who it would be or how it was being done was going to affect that goal. He just forged ahead. And he said it was always going to be his decision, at least from the moment he got elected. And as he told me when we spoke Thursday evening that’s exactly how it has turned out with yesterday’s well-received announcement of Craig Zadan and Neil Meron as this year’s Oscarcast producers.

“I’ve been thinking about it for a long time but I have only been on the job for three weeks or so”, he said. “But about a week and a half ago it suddenly hit me at 2 AM in the morning. Neil and Craig! They’ve done movies, Broadway, TV, they have great taste and they’d be great to work with. They are real producers”.

Related: In Craig Zadan And Neil Meron, Oscarcast Gets Stability In Long-Running Team

The latter point  is particularly important to Koch who, in order to do the one term Academy gig, has taken a leave of absence from his post as Co-President of the Producers Guild. So after his brainstorm he called a mutual friend and ran the idea past him, getting a very enthusiastic agreement that this was the perfect team for the job. When he called Zadan to inquire as to whether they might be interested in producing the Oscars if such a role was offered he says Zadan didn’t hesitate a moment and  responded ‘yes’ immediately . “That really surprised me since usually it takes a lot longer to  get your choice to agree or they are too busy, not this time though. Craig and Neil are busy but Craig said producing the Oscars was at the very top of their own bucket list,” (the pair produced Rob Reiner’s movie The Bucket List). Read More »

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In Craig Zadan And Neil Meron, Oscarcast Gets Stability In Long-Running Team

By and | Thursday August 23, 2012 @ 1:08pm PDT

Craig Zadan & Neil Meron Named Producers Of 85th Academy Awards

Craig Zadan and Neil MeronBREAKING… In selecting Craig Zadan and Neil Meron to produce the Oscarcast, AMPAS president Hawk Koch has found the rare team that has been producing together since the beginning of the reign of another Koch. These guys actually go back to the origins of the Ed Koch administration, when their first real job together was producing a celebration of the Gotham mayor’s inauguration for Public Theater impresario Joe Papp.

While Tom Sherak’s recent inexplicable attempt to shoehorn Lorne Michaels as Oscar producer and Jimmy Fallon as host before he stepped down as AMPAS president wasn’t nearly as embarrassing as last year’s Brett Ratner-Eddie Murphy debacle, it certainly didn’t get Koch’s Academy administration off to a good start.

In Zadan and Meron, Koch has chosen producers who by their own admission have worked so long they finish each other’s sentences. They understand the feature game that the Oscarcast celebrates, and they boast a Broadway resume that indicates they know how to produce a live show, and their long resume of landmark TV miniseries and movies shows they know how to produce for the small screen. And they really, really wanted the job.

Now it remains to be seen whether they can overcome the restrictive format of an Oscarcast that almost guarantees that all but the opening and the last half hour will be boring … Read More »

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Craig Zadan & Neil Meron Extend Longform Deal With Sony, Set Up Anna Nicole Smith & Warren Jeffs Movies, ‘Bonnie & Clyde’ Mini

By | Thursday August 2, 2012 @ 4:17pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

EXCLUSIVE: Storyline Entertainment’s Craig Zadan and Neil Meron have signed a new two-year deal with Sony Pictures Television for TV movies and miniseries. The duo, who just closed a first-look deal with Universal TV and NBCUniversal International for series and specials, have set up several high-profile new longform projects: movies about Anna Nicole Smith and Warren Jeffs at Lifetime and a Bonnie & Clyde miniseries at History.

Sony’s TV movie/mini EVP Helen Verno brought Zadan and Meron to the Sony TV fold nearly twenty years ago, making Zadan and Meron’s partnership with the studio one of the longest in the TV movie/miniseries business. Their first collaboration was the award-winning 1994 movie Serving in Silence: The Margarethe Cammermeyer Story. Since then, Zadan, Meron and Sony TV have done more than a dozen movie and minis together, including new takes on titles from the Sony libraries like A Raisin In The Sun and Zadan and Meron’s upcoming passion project, a Steel Magnolias remake for Lifetime starring Queen Latifah, Phylicia Rashad, Alfre Woodard. “(Sony TV president) Steve Mosko is a one of a kind executive and a true inspiration and supporter of our longform work, while others have walked away from the genre”, Zadan and Meron said.

Storyline’s longform development slate with Sony TV includes a biopic of the late Anna Nicole Smith at Lifetime written by John Rice and Joe Batteer. Also in the works at Lifetime is a biopic of another controversial figure, jailed FLDS Church leader Warren Jeffs, which is written by Art Monterastelli. On the two movies, as well as Lifetime’s recently aired Blue Lagoon film, Zadan and Meron teamed with Judith Verno who executive produces with them. Also at Lifetime, Zadan and Meron are in early development on a movie about the true story of Constance McMillen, the lesbian student who was denied going to her own prom. The project, written and directed by John Gray, was previously set up at ABC Family.

On the heels of the runaway success of its Hatfields & McCoys miniseries, History has partnered with Zadan and Meron to develop another mini about another famous duo from America’s past. A four-hour event miniseries based on the true story of Bonnie and Clyde is being written by Rice and Batteer. Read More »

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Producers Craig Zadan & Neil Meron Ink With Universal TV & NBCU International

By | Tuesday July 31, 2012 @ 10:44am PDT
Nellie Andreeva

Craig Zadan Neil Meron NBCCraig Zadan and Neil Meron already executive produce NBC/Universal TV’s series Smash and recently teamed with the network for a live Sound Of Music TV special. Now the duo has inked a first-look deal with Uni TV and NBCUniversal’s international TV production division to produce series and specials for U.S. and international markets. “The incredible creativity, vision and intelligence that they bring to all their projects — on television, in film and on Broadway — is exactly what the future of Universal Television is all about,” Uni TV EVP Bela Bajaria said. Added NBCU International TV Prods president Michael Edelstein, “We look forward to bringing their extraordinary ideas to the global television marketplace.” Read More »

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NBC To Air Live Broadcast Of ‘The Sound Of Music’ Musical Produced By Craig Zadan & Neil Meron

By | Friday June 29, 2012 @ 10:35am PDT
Nellie Andreeva

Sound Of Music NBC SpecialNBC is looking to bring back to broadcast television event musical programming with The Sound Of Music, a live broadcast of a new production of the original Broadway musical to be produced by Smash executive producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron. “There used to be a tradition of broadcasting musicals live back in the 1950s and we’re thrilled to do it once again with a musical that has been a family classic for five decades,” said NBC chairman Robert Greenblatt. “There is no more talented and creative producing team than Craig Zadan and Neil Meron to bring Rodgers and Hammerstein’s final — and most beloved — collaboration to network television in this groundbreaking live telecast.” Casting will begin immediately and an air date will be announced shortly. Read More »

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Lifetime Greenlights ‘Blue Lagoon’ Remake

By | Friday December 9, 2011 @ 8:23am PST
Nellie Andreeva

Blue Lagoon RemakeEXCLUSIVE: Lifetime is heading back to The Blue Lagoon. The cable network has greenlighted a contemporary remake of the 1980 romance/adventure movie starring Brooke Shields, which centered on a boy and a girl marooned on a tropical island, where they grow up together, fall in love and discover sexuality. Neil Meron and Craig Zadan’s Storyline Entertainment and Judith Verno’s Peace Out Prods are producing the film in association with Sony Pictures TV, with Meron, Zadan and Verno executive producing. The project was originally set up at Lifetime in 2004 with Heather Rutman and Matt Heller as writers. Casting is already underway, with filming eyed for a February start in Puerto Rico. The Blue Lagoon movie franchise is known for giving young actresses their big break. The 1980 film made Shields a household name, while the 1991 sequel Return To The Blue Lagoon launched the career of Milla Jovovich. Read More »

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CW Buys Treasure Hunter Drama, Couples Comedy

By | Tuesday November 22, 2011 @ 1:30pm PST
Nellie Andreeva

The CW is joining the treasure hunt trend this development season with Golddigger. The project, from Bill Haber’s Ostar Prods., centers on a young female treasure hunter who tracks down artifacts for a variety of mysterious and interesting clients. Lauren Horowitz is writing, with Haber and Stephanie Germain executive producing. With Golddigger, the CW is putting a young female twist on a genre that has been pretty hot this pitch season. NBC bought an untitled adventure drama from John Glenn. Described as “Da Vinci Code meets National Treasure,” it centers on a young NYPD beat cop who, along with his family and friends, embarks upon the greatest treasure hunt in history. NBC also is developing an updated version of the 1984 action-adventure romantic comedy film Romancing the Stone, whose plot kicked off with a romance writer played by Kathleen Turner receiving a treasure map. Mark Friedman is writing. And in another book adaptation, ABC recently bought the Michael Seitzman-penned The Seven Wonders, a treasure hunt show in the spirit of Raiders of the Lost Arc and National Treasure based on the Jack West Jr. series of adventure books by Australian author Matthew Reilly.

Swordfighting, whose deal is still being finalized, is part of new CW president Mark Pedowitz’s efforts to re-introduce comedy series on the network with sellected few half-hour projects his team has put in … Read More »

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Lifetime To Remake ‘Steel Magnolias’ With All-Black Cast

By | Tuesday October 11, 2011 @ 11:46am PDT
Nellie Andreeva

EXCLUSIVE: The 1989 film Steel Magnolias is getting a contemporary remake with an all-black cast. Lifetime is developing an original movie based on the hit feature, which will be produced by Craig Zadan and Neil Meron and Sony Pictures TV, where the duo’s Storyline Entertainment has an exclusive deal for event long-form programming. Kenny Leon, who directed Storyline/SPT’s previous collaboration, the 2008 ABC movie A Raisin In The Sun, is attached to direct the new Steel Magnolias, which, like the movie, will be set in Louisiana and explore the bond among a group of women in the present day.

Both Lifetime’s Steel Magnolias and ABC’s A Raisin In The Sun are based on properties that span a famous play and a feature. But while the Emmy-nominated Raisin In the Sun was based on Lorraine Hansberry’s play (whose 2004 Broadway revival Leon directed), Steel Magnolias, penned by Sally Robinson (Iron Jawed Angels), is an adaptation of the screenplay for the movie, which was written by Robert Harling based on his play. The feature boasted an all-star cast of Sally Field, Dolly Parton, Shirley MacLaine, Darryl Hannah, Olympia Dukakis, and Julia Roberts. The goal of the TV movie’s producers is to assemble a similarly high-wattage cast of black actresses. The film, said to be a passion project of Lifetime president Nancy Dubuc and EVP Programming Robert Sharenow, has not been greenlighted but is on a fast track, with some preliminary work on casting choices for the leads expected to begin soon. Read More »

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‘Glee’ Star Darren Criss Eyed To Succeed Daniel Radcliffe In ‘How To Succeed’ On Broadway For 3-Week Stint

Nellie Andreeva

EXCLUSIVE: The news is brimming with symbolism – the young actor who portrayed Harry Potter in viral online videos to step in for the actor who played the boy wizard on the big screen. I hear that Darren Criss, breakout star of Fox’s hit dramedy Glee, is poised to make his Broadway debut, succeeding Daniel Radcliffe as the lead in the Broadway musical How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying. Negotiations between Criss and the musical’s producers, Craig Zadan & Neil Meron and Broadway Across America, are expected to begin shortly after Glee co-creator/executive producer Ryan Murphy and the series’ producing studio 20th Century Fox TV gave Criss their blessing for the stint. (I hear Murphy even encouraged the actor, who made his processional stage debut at age 10, to fulfill his Broadway dream).

If a deal is made, Criss will replace Radcliffe when the Harry Potter star finishes his run on January to return to movies. Criss will do a 3-week stint, from Jan. 3 through Jan. 22, in addition to 2 weeks of rehearsals in December, missing a total of an episode and a half of Glee. Additionally, I hear that Criss may make his feature debut opposite Kristen Wiig and Annette Bening in Imogene for American Splendor helmers Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini as the Glee producers have agreed to accommodate him for that too the … Read More »

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The Over-Achievers Of This Year’s Upfront

Nellie Andreeva

Here is the second-annual honor roll of the best and brightest at the broadcast upfront. First off, to all who got their pilots picked up to series — congratulations. You’re already winners. This is a list of those who took their upfront success to an extra level:

Whitney Cummings: The undisputed queen of Upfront 2011. She is behind two new comedy series that are among the highest-profile new half-hour entries next fall. She created, stars in and executive produces her eponymous comedy for NBC, which was assigned the network’s best comedy slot, following The Office. She also co-wrote on spec with Michael Patrick King the CBS comedy 2 Broke Girls, which broke records as CBS’ best-testing pilot (comedy or drama) ever. Both were the first comedy pilots to get a series order at their networks. Cummings, who also has a talk show in contention at E!, will serve as an executive producer on 2 Broke Girls but will be full-time on Whitney, which was in first position. I hope that doesn’t impact 2 Broke Girls, which King is expected to run/co-run, because the pilot indeed looks great. Honorable mention in the category of creators with multiple projects for Andrew Reich and Ted Cohen. One of their two ABC pilots, Work It, was picked up to series, while the other, Smothered, is very much in contention for midseason.

What a comeback for J.J. Abrams! After his high-profile NBC drama Undercovers went bust last fall, some questioned whether the networks will continue to bet on him. But bet they did this upfront, with both pilots he produced, CBS’ Person of Interest and Fox’s Alcatraz, going to series. Person of Interest instantly became one of the most anticipated new fall series when CBS made it its new Thursday 9 PM anchor. The network also said it was its best-testing drama pilot ever. And over at Fox, Alcatraz prevailed over several high-profile pilots to land one of only two drama series spots. Then, as icing on the cake, Abrams’ modestly rated but well-liked Fox sci-fi series Fringe got a renewal for next season, bringing the producer’s series for next season to three. Read More »

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Ellen DeGeneres Wants To ‘Sing You Home’

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: Ellen DeGeneres is teaming with Storyline partners Craig Zadan and Neil Meron to produce Sing You Home, a feature film based on the bestselling novel by Jodi Picoult. DeGeneres will be involved solely as producer on this, and I’m told it’s a passion project for her. She optioned it with her own money and enlisted Zadan and Meron. They will develop it themselves.

The novel is about a woman who spends 10 years before finally getting pregnant. Seven months in, the child is stillborn, her distraught husband can’t take anymore and leaves her. She throws herself into her career as a music therapist and unexpectedly develops a romantic relationship with a female guidance counselor. This newfound happiness makes her reconsider having a family again, and she remembers that she and her husband left behind several frozen embryos. Unfortunately, her ex has become involved with an evangelical church, run by a charismatic pastor who has pledged to fight the “homosexual agenda” he feels is endangering traditional family values. The ex-husband and pastor take issue with his ex-wife’s desire to use the embryos. Much the way that Picoult’s novel My Sister’s Keeper found an emotional way into the controversial topic of genetic planning (that book was turned into a movie directed by Nick Cassavetes), Picoult’s Sing You Home takes on the issues of in vitro fertilization and gay rights, arguments that end … Read More »

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NBC Developing Comic-Based Drama Starring ‘Heroes’ Alum Milo Ventimiglia

By | Wednesday November 3, 2010 @ 9:47am PDT
Nellie Andreeva

EXCLUSIVE: He just starred on an NBC drama series with comic book mythology. Now Heroes star Milo Ventimiglia is back at the network as the star/executive producer of Rest, a new drama project based on a comic book series he co-created. Ventimiglia will executive produce the project, which has received a script commitment with film/TV/Broadway producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron (Footloose, Drop Dead Diva). Also executive producing are Ventimiglia’s producing partner at Divide Pictures Russ Cundiff and Marc Silvestri and Matt Hawkins from Top Cow, the comic book publisher behind Rest. Writer Philip Levens (Smallville), who will also executive produce, is adapting the comic, which was created by Ventimiglia, Cudiff and Mark Powers based on a script by Mike O’Sullivan. It centers on John Barret (Ventimiglia), a normal twentysomething guy in New York City who spends every waking hour working. He enrolls in a testing program for a drug that eliminates the need of sleep and soon becomes addicted to it, which helps him accomplish more but also leads to serious consequences. Since the comic launched in 2008, there has been a lot of chatter among fans that Barret looks a lot like Ventimiglia and that Rest would be turned into TV series or film. Ventimiglia and Levens are with CAA.

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ABC Family Developing Film With Craig Zadan And Neil Meron About Lesbian Teen Who Was Banned From Prom

By | Thursday October 7, 2010 @ 2:23pm PDT
Nellie Andreeva

EXCLUSIVE: The topic of gay teen bullying has dominated the media lately with news reports of five teen boys taking their lives last month alone after being harassed because of their sexual orientation. One of the rare cases where the bullying led to a happy ending – the story of rural Mississipi lesbian high school student Constance McMillen who successfully sued the local school district for discrimination — will become a TV movie for ABC Family. The project, in early stages of development, hails from Craig Zadan and Neil Meron and Sony Pictures TV who have optioned the rights to McMillen’s story. Ghost Whisperer creator/executive producer John Gray will write the script and is expected to direct. Read More »

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Fox 2000 Wins Beach Boys Musical Pitch For North Of $2 Million

Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE AND UPDATED: Fox 2000 has beat out Universal Pictures by paying north of $2 million for a pitch by Susannah Grant and rights to songs from the Beach Boys song catalogue that will form the basis for an original musical that Craig Zadan, Neil Meron, and John Stamos (who used to regularly sit in with the band in more modern times) will produce. The template for the film is to do with the Beach Boys songs what the global blockbuster Mamma Mia! did with Abba. This is not a biopic of the famous musical group; instead the Beach Boys serve as a backdrop for an original narrative. According to the log line: “The story takes place in Southern California over a summer in the 60′s. It’s inspired by the sounds of the Beach Boys music and the beach culture of that time.” Much like Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan and Amanda Seyfried belted out Abba tunes in Mamma Mia!, the idea will be to pack the film with a cast that will sing Beach Boys standards. The 2 studios bid hard on the original musical and I heard both tendered 7-figure bids for Grant’s pitch. The trio of producers already teamed The Beach Boys: An American Family, a biographical ABC miniseries about the band.

Considering how much Beach Boys tunes are indelibly linked to movies that include American Graffiti to Love Actually (how perfect was the tune God Only Knows in the … Read More »

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