EXCLUSIVE: NBC has given a pilot order to Beautiful People, a character-driven futuristic drama spec by Cougar Town co-executive producer/director (and occasional actor) Michael McDonald. ABC Studios and Universal TV are producing. Beautiful People is described as an imaginative and thematically rich ensemble “what if” drama set 10 minutes into the future where families of mechanical human beings exist to service the human population… that is until some of the mechanicals begin to “awaken.” UPDATE: ABC Studios has released an updated logline for the project: “Set in the near future, Beautiful People is about a society where humans co-exist with mechanical androids that look like us but are treated like second-class citizens.” Former Mad TV co-star McDonald wrote Beautiful People 10 years ago. About two-and-a-half years ago, the script was set up at ABC and ABC Studios. ABC ended up passing on it, but ABC Studios kept rights to the spec, which was recently taken out with the studio attached. Beautiful People will mark NBC’s third off-cycle pilot order this season, along with 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. Beautiful People marks the first major foray into drama for actor-writer-director McDonald, who directs half of the episodes of ABC’s Cougar Town each season. UTA-repped McDonald also directed a slew of episodes of Bill Lawrence’s previous …
USA Network is doubling its bet on Jeff Eastin. The top-rated cable network is finalizing a deal for a pilot order to a one-hour drama from the White Collar creator, which follows agents from various federal and local agencies (DEA, FBI, LAPD) who all live at an undercover house in Southern California. The project is produced by the company behind White Collar, Fox TV Studios, where Eastin is under an overall deal. CAA-repped Eastin serves as executive producer/showrunner on White Collar, which was recently renewed for a fourth season. The series stars Matt Bomer as a con man who helps the FBI catch other criminals. The untitled Eastin project joins USA’s current batch of pilots: dramas Over/Under and Wild Card, also from FtvS, and comedies Paging Dr. Freed and the untitled Douglas McGarth project starring Nathan Lane, which mark the network’s foray into half-hours.
EXCLUSIVE: USA Network has passed on its pilot Eden. The hourlong project, from Universal Cable Prods. and writers Ken and Mary Hanes, centered on a young hotel worker (Nick D’Agosto) who, with the help of his escaped con artist cousin (Enver Gjokaj), gets a job as the concierge at an elite NYC hotel. Together they manage to provide the hotel guests with whatever they desire. Eden is the first USA pilot to get a pass this cycle, which included 2 batches of 3 pilots each. All 3 pilots from the first group, Necessary Roughness, Common Law and A Legal Mind, have been picked up to series. The remaining 2 pilots from the second batch, Over/Under and Wild Card, which were ordered at the same time as Eden in November, have been cast but not shot yet, with filming eyed for late August.
EXCLUSIVE: Disney XD, the cable network targeting boys 6-14, has handed a pilot order to Gulliver Quinn, a live-action comedy headlined by Napoleon Dynamite star Jon Heder. Written by Dan Kopelman (Malcolm In the Middle), the project centers on Gulliver Quinn (Heder), a grown man enrolled in the seventh grade after his family returns from a 15-year research expedition. Rob Schrab will direct the pilot, which is now casting the other roles. Heder and Kopelman are executive producing with veteran tween series producer Stan Rogow (Lizzie McGuire). “It’s an absolute coup for Disney XD to be working with Jon — he is a tremendous comedic talent, and Dan Kopelman’s brilliant script is the perfect project to showcase his quirky sense of humor,” said Adam Bonnett, SVP, Original Programming, Disney Channels.
EXCLUSIVE: From the network that made international stars out of Snookie and The Situation comes a comedy about young people’s obsession with celebrity and with reality TV as a way to become famous. MTV has given the green light to single-camera comedy pilot Zach Stone Is Gonna Be Famous, co-created by hot 20-year-old comedian Bo Burnham and writer Dan Lagana and starring Burnham. It is a mocumentary, which centers on Zach (Burnham), a kid fresh out of high school who hires a camera crew to film him because he wants to be famous. “It’s that idea that your life is not worth anything if you’re not watched,” Burnham said.
Burnham said he’s always been a fan of mocumentaries, but while they mostly are about subjects being caught in the act and often embarrassed, he decided to put a spin on the genre by giving the person who is being watched control. “The idea is of a kid who is filming his own life, and since he has control, we can see multiple takes as he is trying to make himself more appealing by thinking that you have to act like you are famous in order to be famous,” Burnham said. “He is the director and the star of a reality show.” Burnham cites a survey of 18- to 25-year-olds asked what they want to be in life. The winning “profession” by a wide margin — being famous. “People aspire to fame as if it’s a career,” Lagana said.
UPDATED: Gail Berman and Lloyd Braun’s three-year effort to turn the New York Times‘ column Modern Love into a TV series is bearing fruit: the project has received a pilot order at Lifetime. Additionally, the network’s resurgent drama series Army Wives will extend its five-year run – it is being renewed for a sixth season with a 13-episode order. On the unscripted side, the network has picked up 6 new series, including an all-star edition of Project Runway.
Created and executive produced by Sex and the City alumna Jenny Bicks, dramedy Modern Love will weave actual stories from NYT‘s column to explore the state of modern relationships. It follows newspaper science editor Simon McElvane as he faces a deteriorating marriage, the ramifications of potentially starting over and balancing his relationship with his adopted 15-year-old daughter. Unexpectedly handed the job of editor of the newspaper’s Modern Love column, Simon discovers he has a lot to learn about life and love. Berman and Braun optioned rights to the column in 2008. A year later, they set up an adaptation at HBO with Bicks attached to write and Alan Poul to direct. Because of Bicks’ deal at Sony Pictures TV, the studio came on board to produce with BermanBraun. The project, executive produced by Bicks, Berman, Braun, Gene Stein and Poul, was subsequently set up at Lifetime with all original auspices attached. Filming is expected to begin in the summer.
Veteran Army Wives has enjoyed a ratings resurgence in its current Season 5, which continues with Episode 9 this Sunday. Its season premiere averaged 4.2 million viewers, up 27% from the fourth-season debut last April. A month ago, Army Wives posted a series high in total viewers with 4.8 million viewers. Season to date, the series is averaging 3.7 million viewers and ranks as the top-rated drama on cable among women 18-49.
EXCLUSIVE: Chris Colfer is one of the best tune-ins for Fox’s Glee and is sure to be considered for an Emmy. But he’s multi-talented: Not only has he scripting an indie movie shooting this summer, but I’ve learned he has penned a pilot that the Disney Channel is about to shoot. It’s called The Little Leftover Witch, based on a children’s book of the same name by Florence Laughlin. The series would be about a little witch who was taken in by a family after crash-landing from her broom. The book was originally optioned by Rick Fine, the husband of Colfer’s Coast To Coast agent Meredith Fine, who brought the property to Chris to adapt. This is one busy guy even though he only turns 21 this May. After wrapping production on Glee this spring, Colfer joins the cast on tour and then returns to star in the indie feature Struck By Lightning, which he also wrote and which Brian Dannelly (Saved) is set to direct. He will then return for the third season of Glee this fall. Colfer is also repped by Inphenate and attorney Derek Kroeger.
EXCLUSIVE: I hear Spike TV is finalizing a deal for a pilot order to an untitled comedy from writers and executive producers Jim & Steve Armogida (Grounded For Life) and executive producer Walt Becker (Wild Hogs). Jay Hayden, Steve Monroe and Ethan Embry have been cast as the leads in the pilot, which will be directed by Hitch helmer Andy Tenant. The project, aka Thunderballs, was one of six comedies on Spike’s development slate announced in October. Developed by the Armogidas at the Walt Becker Co., it follows three life-long friends (Hayden, Monroe, Embry) who comprise a beer-league bowling team called the Thunderballs. The show chronicles their efforts to balance their battle for supremacy at the lanes with their crazy personal and family lives. Production on the pilot is expected to begin May 7 in Spokane, Wash. Hayden is with Venture IAB and Precision.
It’s like Deal or No Deal with envelopes instead of briefcases: CBS has ordered game show pilot Secret Fortune, which will be executive produced by American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance guru Nigel Lythgoe.
Based on a Wild River Prods. format, Secret Fortune will have contestants choosing from 24 sealed envelopes, each of them containing a check for amounts that varies widely from a buck to a fortune. Eventually, 23 of the envelopes will be destroyed, with the contestant left with the check in the remaining one. Lythgoe is exec producing with Wild Rover’s Phil Morrow.
Greg Mottola is set to direct Aaron Sorkin’s HBO drama pilot set behind the scenes at a cable news show. The project, which recent Oscar winner Sorkin is executive producing with Scott Rudin, centers on news anchor Will McCallister, a role Jeff Daniels has been in negotiations to play, who has his own cable show; his female executive producer; and his staff. After making his feature directing debut with the 1996 indie The Daytrippers, which he also wrote, Mottola ventured into TV directing, working on such cult faves as Undeclared, Arrested Development and The Comeback. Mottola then switched back to features with the boxoffice hit Superbad and went on to direct Adventureland and, most recently, Paul.
EXCLUSIVE: Comedy Central is finalizing a deal for a pilot order to Black Jack. The single-camera comedy, directed and exec produced by Pineapple Express helmer David Gordon Green, hails from Rough House, Green’s production company with Danny McBride, Jody Hill and Matt Reilly. Black Jack, written by Michael Starrbury, centers on Black Jack who, after 20 years as the most kick-ass special ops agent the US government has had on its payroll, finally goes too far and is de-commissioned. He’s sent home to begin the most treacherous mission he’s ever faced — normal life. The order is expected to be cast-contingent, with the pilot going to production if the network finds the right actor for the lead. Green, Starrbury, McBride, Hill and Reilly, all repped by CAA, are exec producing. Green most recently created the upcoming MTV animated series Good Vibes and helmed the feature comedy Your Highness starring McBride, Natalie Portman, James Franco and Zooey Deschanel, which opens April 8. Green also serves as consulting producer/director on McBride’s HBO comedy series Eastbound & Down.
Black Jack is the latest pilot order by Comedy Central, which recently greenlighted Playing with Guns, starring Danny Masterson and Ethan Suplee; Waiting…, based on the 2005 indie; an untitled comedy from comedian Matt Braunger and writer Brent Forrester; and an animated pilot from production company ShadowMachine.
EXCLUSIVE: HBO has given the green light to Spring/Fall, a half-hour comedy pilot staring Tea Leoni. The project is set in New York City against the backdrop of the fashion world and stars Leoni as half of a dysfunctional partnership between two women with different approaches to career, family and friendship. Kate Robin, who was a writer-producer on HBO’s Six Feet Under, wrote the script. She and Leoni are executive producing with documentary filmmaker R.J. Cutler, who explored the NY fashion scene with last year’s documentary The September Issue. Leoni’s manager, Jimmy Miller, also executive produces the project, which had been in the works at HBO for a while. The pilot is slated to shoot in June.
With the exception of a guest spot on her husband David Duchovny’s Fox drama The X-Files in 2000, Leoni, repped by UTA and Mosaic, has not done television since the end of her NBC comedy series The Naked Truth in 1998. Spring/Fall joins another female-centered HBO comedy pilot recently greenlighted by HBO, Armando Iannucci’s Veep, starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus as a female U.S. Vice President. Also recently picked up to pilot at HBO are Aaron Sorkin’s cable news show drama starring Jeff Daniels and Doug Ellin’s comedy 40 toplined by Ed Burns. Leoni and Robin are with UTA.
Law & Order veteran S. Epatha Merkerson has joined CBS’ untitled Susannah Grant supernatural medical drama pilot. Jonathan Demme is directing the pilot, from CBS TV Studios and Timberman/Beverly, which centers on Michael (Patrick Wilson), an ultra-competitive surgeon whose life is changed forever when his ex-wife (Jennifer Ehle), a doctor running a free clinic, dies and begins teaching him what life is all about from the hereafter. Merkerson will play Michael’s assistant Rita. Without her help, he probably wouldn’t make it through the day as she is really the person running the office. Sassy and strong willed, Rita is not someone you should cross. Merkerson joins another late addition to the cast of the medical drama pilot, Julie Benz. Merkerson was approached for several projects in her first pilot season following her 16-year stint on Law & Order. The Emmy-winning actress, repped by ICM and Bob McGowan plays the lead in the upcoming Lionsgate/Tyler Perry movie We the Peoples, now in post-production.
A week ago, Terriers co-star Laura Allen got good news when she was cast in a supporting role on NBC’s drama pilot REM. Today, which happens to be her birthday, she got even better news – in a pilot rarity, she was bumped up to female lead of the project opposite Jason Isaacs. Meanwhile, Law & Order: SVU alumna Michaela McManus, who tested opposite Allen for the supporting role of Tara, has now been cast in that role.
REM, from creator/executive producer Kyle Killen and 20th TV, is described as an Inception-style thriller and centers on Detective Michael Britten (Isaacs), who wakes up after an accident to find he is living in two different realities, one in which he has killed his son Rex (Dylan Minnette) and one in which he has killed his wife Hannah (Allen) in a car accident. McManus will play Rex’s tennis coach, who has become his confidante in the wake of the recent loss of his mother.
Trying out Allen for the Hannah role was an idea of former 24 showrunner Howard Gordon, who serves as exec producer/showrunner on the REM pilot. After what was described as a “terrific read” with Isaacs this afternoon, Allen landed the part. The cast of the pilot, directed/exec produced by David Slade, is now complete. It includes Isaacs, Allen, Cherry Jones, Steve Harris, Wilmer Valderrama, Minnette and …
Kathryn Hahn is set as the female lead opposite Hank Azaria in NBC’s single-camera comedy pilot Free Agents. The romantic comedy, based on the UK series of the same name, explores the attraction between two quirky PR executives working together — Alex (Azaria) and Helen (Hahn) — who both are on the rebound, Alex from a divorce and Helen from the loss of a fiance. Hahn, who fielded multiple pilot offers, had a development/talent holding deal with Fox earlier this development season, her second at the network. Hahn, repped by Gersh and Management 360, recently did an arc on HBO’s Hung. Her upcoming features include My Idiot Brother and Wanderlust.
EXCLUSIVE: Cherry Jones, who won an Emmy for her role on Fox’s 24, is reuniting with the show’s showrunner Howard Gordon and studio 20th Century Fox TV. Jones is set to co-star opposite Jason Isaacs in NBC’s drama pilot REM, from creator/exec producer Kyle Killen and 20th TV. The project, described as an Inception-style thriller, centers on Detective Michael Britten (Isaacs), who wakes up after an accident to find he is living in two different realities, one in which he has killed his son Rex and one in which he has killed his wife Hannah in a car accident. Jones will play Dr. Stephanie Evans, Michael’s shrink in the reality in which his wife has been killed. Gordon, who cast Jones in her Emmy-winning role as President Alison Taylor on 24, serves as executive producer/showrunner on REM. David Slade is directing/exec producing.
Natasha Henstridge has joined Kevin Williamson’s drama pilot for the CW The Secret Circle. It centers on Cassie (Britt Robertson). who moves to a new town and discovers that not only is she a witch and part of a secret coven, but she’s also the key that will unlock a centuries-old battle of good versus evil. Henstridge will play Dawn Chamberlain, Vice Principal of New Salem High School, who was once a friend of Cassie’s mother and knows all about the secret coven of witches that has ruled the …
UPDATE: TV Land just officially announced the series pickups of Fran Drescher’s Happily Divorced; Mark Reisman’s project, now called The Exes; and the second-season renewal of Retired at 35. As expected, the orders for Happily Divorced and The Exes are for 10 episodes each. Happily Divorced will premiere June 15, paired with Hot In Cleveland, while The Exes will launch next winter alongside the second season of Retired at 35.
PREVIOUS EXCLUSIVE: It looks like that for a second consecutive time, TV Land will pick up two new comedy series. As the network is finalizing the series order to the Fran Drescher sitcom Happily Divorced, I hear the cable network is also closing in on a series pickup for the untitled Mark Reisman project (aka Ex Men). Both shows are expected to receive 10-episode orders. The Reisman comedy revolves around three divorced guys (David Alan Basche, Donald Faison, Wayne Knight) who live in an apartment building where their landlord is their sexy female divorce attorney (Kristen Johnston).
Fifteen months ago, TV Land ordered its first two scripted pilots, sitcoms Hot In Cleveland and Retired at 35, both of which went to series. Hot In Cleveland has already been renewed for a third season, with a second-season pickup for Retired at 35 also likely. Last fall, TV Land greenlighted three pilots, Happily Divorced, the Mark Reisman project as well a sitcom from comedy writer Terri Minsky. Word is the last one may not be going …
Jimmy Smits has been tapped as the last major lead in NBC’s untitled Stephen Gaghan drama pilot (formerly S.I.L.A.), a complex ensemble drama in the style of Traffic and Syriana set in the world of crime, law enforcement and politics in sprawling modern-day Los Angeles. The pilot, from 20th TV, Chernin Entertainment and Gaghan’s Unsupervised, centers on Los Angeles Mayor Alfonso Morales (Smits) and his Special Investigations Unit led by detective Terry Mullins (Noah Emmerich), who has returned to LA to re-connect with his 15-year-old daughter Jennifer (Emma Dumont) and try to get along with his ex-wife, high-powered attorney Mary McCarthy (Madchen Amick). Morales is described as a man full of ambition who cares deeply about his city, power and women, perhaps in reverse order.
Smits was the first actor approached by Gaghan for the pilot. The NYPD Blue alum had originally planned to sit this pilot season out but was drawn to the opportunity to work with an A-list filmmaker like Gaghan on a character drama, a genre rarely seen on broadcast TV these days. Also appealing to Smits was the chance to reunite with new NBC chairman Bob Greenblatt, who ran Showtime when Smits did a season-long arc on Dexter, a stint that earned him an Emmy nomination. The pilot brings Smits back to NBC where he hit stardom with his Emmy-winning role on L.A. Law. The actor, repped by Brillstein Entertainment, attorney Tom Hoberman and UTA, also co-starred …
Lauren Cohan has landed the female lead in the CW supernatural drama pilot Heavenly. Ryan Eggold also has been tapped for a lead role in the project, from CBS TV Studios and writer Richard Hatem. Heavenly centers on Lily (Cohan), a dedicated young attorney, and a former angel, Dashiel Coffee (Ben Aldridge), only recently turned human, who tackle cases at the attorney’s legal aid clinic – she saves clients’ butts while he saves their souls. Eggold, repped by Gersh and Untitled, will play a pastor whom Dashiel seeks counsels from. Also previously cast in the pilot is Elizabeth Ho. Cohan has recurred on two CW series, Supernatural and The Vampire Diaries.
Kevin Zegers (Dawn of the Dead) has landed a lead role opposite Jimmy Wolk in ABC’s Georgetown. Written by Will Fetters, it centers on Andrew Pierce (Wolk), an effortlessly charming and brilliant Yale graduate and the youngest presidential speechwriter on record. Zegers will play Monty, an incredibly wealthy stockbroker from a well-connected family and an old rival of Andrew’s who has just proposed to an old girlfriend of Andrew’s. Canadian-born Zegers has been recurring on the CW’s Gossip Girl this season.