EXCLUSIVE: In what is believed to be the biggest commitment for a comedy project so far this development season, Marry Me, a single-camera half-hour from Happy Endings creator David Caspe, just landed at NBC. The Sony Pictures TV project — which has Seth Gordon, who exited Horrible Bosses 2 today, attached to direct and executive produce and Jamie Tarses to executive produce — sparked a bidding war when it was taken out two weeks ago. It ultimately commanded a pilot production commitment in a deal which I hear also includes a full license fee and series penalty. Last summer, NBC nabbed another Sony TV single-camera comedy project with a big commitment, giving a 22-episode order to The Michael J. Fox Show, one of four new Sony series on the NBC schedule next season along with fall drama The Blacklist, fall comedy Welcome To The Family and midseason drama The Night Shift.
Relationship Comedy From David Caspe, Seth Gordon & Jamie Tarses Lands At NBC With Pilot Production Commitment
UPDATE, 9:05 AM: After a premature tweet by Starz last week, Sam Heughan was officially set today as the male lead in the upcoming drama series Outlander, based on Diana Gabaldon’s novels. ”I am UTTERLY delighted to confirm that Sam @Heughan is cast as Jamie Fraser in #Outlander_Starz #Outlander“ Gabaldon said on Twitter today. ”From the very beginning, I knew the part of Jamie Fraser would be difficult to cast. I had no one in mind for the part. I knew that someone would just come into the audition and be Jamie Fraser. And that’s what Sam did,” added executive producer Ron Moore in a statement. The Scotland-born Heughan is repped by UTA and Ruth Young at United Agents. Outlander begins shooting this fall in Scotland and is expected to debut on Starz next spring.
PREVIOUSLY, FRIDAY PM: Turns out Starz says its digital division made a mistake earlier today posting the tweet confirming Sam Heughan as the lead. Starz now has taken down the tweet announcing Heughan as Jamie Fraser in the TV adaptation of the Outlander series. A press rep says the actor is in talks with no deal finalized yet. “I can’t confirm that contract is signed, but saw @heughan audition tapes. #jawdrop,” tweeted Outlander author Diana Gabaldon on Friday after Starz had taken down the initial tweet.
EXCLUSIVE: The McCarthys creator Brian Gallivan has signed an overall deal with Sony TV, the studio behind the comedy pilot that remains in contention at CBS. Writer-actor-comedian Gallivan was a staff writer on Sony TV’s cult ABC comedy Happy Endings when his spec The McCarthys, with Sony TV-based Will Gluck attached as executive producer, landed at CBS with a put pilot commitment. It went to pilot, which missed the cut for a series pickup earlier this month but is being kept in consideration by CBS and may undergo some retooling. Loosely inspired by Gallivan’s life, the big family comedy revolves around an Irish-Catholic, sports-crazed Boston clan and the gay son whose greatest sin is not his sexuality but his desire to spend less time with his family. Under the overall pact at Sony, Gallivan will continue on The McCarthys, where he serves as executive producer alongside Gluck, and will develop new projects.
UPDATED: Exactly a week after its upfront presentation, CBS has picked up another comedy series for midseason, the single-camera Bad Teacher starring Ari Graynor, which has received a 13-episode order. Sony Pictures TV produced the pilot, an adaptation of the 2011 movie, which will now be a co-production with CBS TV Studios. Bad Teacher was among a slew of half-hour pilots that CBS were brass were high on this season. It screened and tested well and, despite not making the cut before the upfronts, talks between CBS and Sony continued through and after upfront week until a deal was reached. Bad Teacher brings the number of new CBS comedy series on tap for next season to a whooping six, the most in almost two decades. (Last season the network picked up a total of two, only one of which, Partners, got on the air.) CBS’ 2013-14 comedy class is split evenly between multi-camera (fall entries Mom and The Millers and midseason’s Friends With Better Lives) and single-cam (fall’s The Crazy Ones and We Are Men, plus Bad Teacher).
Related: CBS New Series Previews – Video
The pickup brings the number of new Sony broadcast series for next season to eight, a record for the independent studio. It was able to land new shows on every network (The Michael J. Fox Show, The Blacklist, Welcome To The Family and After Hours at NBC, Rake and Us And Them on Fox, The Goldbergs on ABC and Bad Teacher on CBS). Sony was able to get The Blacklist, Welcome To The Family and After Hours picked up and Community renewed for a final season in a complex, hard-fought negotiation with NBC that went down to the wire and resulted in Sony getting all shows involved picked up and securing NBC’s best launching pad, the post-Voice Monday 10 PM slot, for Blacklist. Leveraging the red-hot Blacklist, which had tested through the roof, I hear Sony held firm, indicating it was ready to leave rather than take a bad deal. Meanwhile, I hear NBC got ownership in Blacklist, which could make hundreds of millions of dollars profit in success, and is paying license fee vs. full freight on Community.
EXCLUSIVE: Despite ratings hardship and real and clear danger of cancellation, Happy Endings may live up to its title even if ABC opts not to order a fourth season. I hear that Sony TV, the leading studio behind the underrated comedy series, has quietly reached out to a couple of networks, including USA Network and NBC, about the possibility of continuing the comedy there if ABC does not renew it. I hear USA, which has been looking to break into the half-hour original series space, has expressed interest and has had discussions about picking up Happy Endings in case of a cancellation by ABC.
If the financials can be worked out, a Happy Endings pickup would be fortuitous for USA, which has been actively developing half-hour comedies and has ordered several pilots but has yet to greenlight a half-hour series. USA had been looking to have an original comedy on tap for the fall premiere of its marquee off-network series Modern Family. Happy Endings would be a suitable companion for Modern Family as it already spent two seasons on ABC paired with the Emmy-winning family comedy. Happy Endings did well behind Modern Family, but its fortunes changed this past fall when it was moved to Tuesday to form a comedy block with Don’t Trust The B—- At Apt. 23 in a crowded comedy hour. Despite strong cult following and critical praise, Happy Endings struggled mightily on Tuesday and was recently relocated to Fridays. ABC brass had been strongly supporting the show from Day 1, but they will likely won’t be able to keep the series on broadcast TV at these ratings levels. In a last-ditch effort, the network recently launched a Save The Show-themed promo campaign for Happy Endings‘ move to Friday. The call to arms didn’t help, with the two back-to-back Friday originals drawing a 0.9/3 and a 0.7/3 in adults 18-49, down 25% and 46% from the show’s last Tuesday airings on January 29.
EXCLUSIVE: Emmy-winning comedy writer-producer Alex Reid has signed an overall deal with Sony Pictures TV. Under the two-year pact, which starts June 1, Reid will be joining the studio’s new NBC comedy series starring Michael J. Fox as executive producer. On the untitled project, which has a 22-episode order, Reid will serve as co-showrunner alongside creator Sam Laybourne. Reid, Laybourne and Will Gluck, who directed the pilot, will executive produce, with Richard Schwartz co-executive producing. Gluck’s Olive Bridge Entertainment co-produces the series, loosely based on Fox’s life, with Sony TV. It stars Fox as a husband and father of three in New York City dealing with family, career, and challenges — including Parkinson’s disease. Reid’s overall deal also calls for him to develop new projects, though he will initially focus exclusively on the Michael J. Fox series. Reid, who is finishing up a deal at Universal TV, most recently served as co-executive producer/director on the NBC/Uni TV comedy series Up All Night, reuniting with star Christina Applegate after serving in the same capacity on the actress’ previous series, ABC’s Samantha Who?
EXCLUSIVE: Sony Pictures Television/Overbrook’s new daytime talk show The Queen Latifah Show has assembled its senior producing team under executive producer/showrunner Corin Nelson. Todd Yasui will serve as co-executive producer, while Jack Mori, Catherine McKenzie, David Harte and Sierra Lindsey will be supervising producers. “These producers bring tremendous experience, diversity of background and some of the most creative minds in this business to our show,” said Holly Jacobs, EVP, Syndication and Reality Programming, Sony Pictures TV.
Global Showbiz Briefs: Savile Claims Hit BBC, Sony TV In Russia, TLC’s ‘Bizarre ER’, Fremantle’s ‘Family Harmony’ And More
BBC Hit With Civil Claims In Jimmy Savile Scandal
A lawyer acting on behalf of 31 victims of the late Jimmy Savile has lodged civil claims for compensation in the high court against the disgraced host’s estate and the BBC over allegations of sexual abuse. Attorney Alan Collins told The Guardian that all claims are against Savile’s estate with “seven or eight” against the BBC itself, which the suits allege has “vicarious liability” in the case. Another lawyer working on behalf of a further 62 victims told Bloomberg that the action was premature, because parties involved had agreed to wait for the results of the police investigation into Savile. “We do not believe the commencement of litigation at this stage to be either necessary or in our clients’ best interest,” she said. – Joe Utichi