EXCLUSIVE: Starz is developing an U.S. adaptation of the Italian drama Romanzo Criminale. It will be written by Steven S. DeKnight, creator/showrunner of Starz’s most successful original series, Spartacus, who is serving as executive producer and showrunner as part of his overall deal with the pay cable network. Lionsgate, which previously produced Boss for Starz, is the studio, with Steve McPherson, who has a first-look deal there, executive producing alongside Scripted World’s Alon Aranya and Rob Golenberg (Betrayal). The 2008 Italian drama revolves around a gang that controls Rome’s heroin trade in the 1970s and 1980s. The U.S. adaptation will be set in Philadelphia during the turbulent era of the late sixties and early seventies. The story will chronicle the rise of a gang of working class criminals who attempt to seize the American Dream by any means necessary.
Scripted World’s Aranya and Golenberg had been eyeing Romanzo Criminale for years. They finally landed the rights about 18 months ago and took the format to Lionsgate. When the studio signed a first-look deal with McPherson in April, it attached the executive-turned-producer to the project. The drama was taken to Starz, which brought in DeKnight.
The Italian series, which aired on Sky Cinema, was based on the 2002 novel by Giancarlo De Cataldo, which in turn was inspired by the notorious Magliana gang. The series was a followup to the 2005 feature adaptation of the book directed by famous Italian actor Michele Placido (La Piovra). You can watch below a trailer for the series in Italian and one for the movie with English subtitles that better explains the setup. Read More »
Fox has put in development, Ball & Chain, a drama written/executive produced by Peter Ocko (Fairly Legal) and executive produced by Steve McPherson through Lionsgate TV. The project, which falls under McPherson’s first-look deals at Fox and Lionsgate, centers on two ex-operatives with screwed up personal lives who are set up by their intelligence agency to become romantically entangled and run missions as a team. Ocko, repped by Vision Art, has comedy pilot Divide and Conquer at USA.
Fox also has bought a comedy project from Andrew Gurland and Justin Hurwitz, creators of the network’s half-hour pilot The Gabriels last season. Like The Gabriels, the new project, also produced by 20th TV, is based on Hurwitz’s life, but instead of his childhood, it involves his early adulthood. It centers on a brother and sister who develop an adult relationship that wreaks havoc on everyone else around them. Hurwitz has written multiple episodes of FX’s The League, while Gurland recently wrapped his FX pilot starring Nat Faxon and Judy Greer. The two are repped by Principato Young and WME.
EXCLUSIVE: In their second sale this season, Nichole Millard and Kathryn Price (The Game Plan) have set up drama Guilt at Fox with Stephen McPherson executive producing alongside them. The fictional project draws parallels to the story of Amanda Knox. Guilt, from Lionsgate TV and McPherson’s Wonder Monkey which has first-look deals at Fox and Lionsgate, is described as a sexy, soapy, twisted thriller about an American girl who is studying abroad in London. When her Irish roommate is brutally murdered, she finds herself the prime suspect and focus of an international media frenzy. The series will explore the different levels of guilt of everyone in this mystery – from the suspect, to the police, to the prosecution, to the defense team, to the tabloids, to the victim’s family. American Knox was studying in Italy when she was arrested and then tried for the gruesome murder of her English roommate. Earlier this month Millard and Price, repped by Paradigm, Kaplan/Perrone and Karl Austen, sold a drama to ABC with Mark Gordon producing for ABC Studios. Their feature Fallen, directed by Scott Hicks, is going into production later this year. This is the latest sale for McPherson who has been very prolific in his first season as a producer. … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: Steve McPherson is betting on young new comedy voices in his first turn as a producer this season. The former ABC topper is backing a half-hour project by Juilliard graduate student Kate Gersten, which has sold to Fox through McPherson’s first-look deal with the network. Lionsgate TV, where McPherson also has a deal, is producing, along with McPherson’s Wonder Monkey and Fishbowl. Gersten is heading into her third year as a playwright fellow at Juilliard. The Fox project, which marks her first TV sale, is based on a play by her and centers on two best friends from high school who reconnect later in life. Gersten has strongly gravitated to comedy, something rather unusual for a young playwright. Fox has a tradition fostering female comedy voices with New Girl creator Liz Meriwether, The Mindy Project creator-star Mindy Kaling and American Dad‘s Nahnatchka Khan, who has a high-profile project in development. McPherson is executive producing the Gersten project, with her serving as co-executive producer. The deal comes on the heels of McPherson selling another comedy from a young writer to Fox, a half-hour written by Brandon Schwartz. Gersten, who also has done some work as an actress, is with Paradigm and the Shuman Co.
For his first sale in his new role as producer, former TV executive Steve McPherson has teamed with young writer Brandon Schwartz. A half-hour project from Schwartz and McPherson has landed at Fox, where McPherson has a first-look deal. Lionsgate TV, where McPherson also has a pact, is producing. Written by Schwartz and developed by McPherson, the comedy centers on a young hopeless romantic guy who, after being dumped by his first and only girlfriend, moves into a West Hollywood apartment complex with a handsome former gigolo, two aspiring female supermodels, and a self-defense instructor who become his unlikely friends and support group and introduce him into a wild new world he could have never imagined exist. McPherson executive produces, with Schwartz co-exec producing. It’s the first network sale for Schwartz, who previously co-wrote two scripts for Nickelodeon. The writer, son of veteran TV lit agent Scott Schwartz, is repped by Matt Ochacher at New Wave Entertainment and Bob Getman.
Freelance writer Dominic Patten is a Deadline contributor
UPDATE, 2:57 PM: Former ABC Entertainment president Steve McPherson told the court this afternoon that he approved the killing off of Nicollette Sheridan’s Edie Britt character in May 2008, months before a head-hitting incident between Sheridan and Cherry on the Desperate Housewives set. He then told Deadline after his brief appearance on the stand that he is surprised the case ever got this far. ”It’s kinda crazy,” McPherson said outside the courtroom. “Both parties are really nice people, and I’m surprised it even made it to trial,” he said. McPherson, who left ABC abruptly in 2010, declined to discuss the Cherry-Sheridan incident but told Deadline it had nothing to do with the actress leaving the series. “We made the decision to get rid of the character six or seven months before anything happened — whatever happened,” he said, echoing his testimony.
On the stand, McPherson confirmed Cherry’s and Pedowitz’s previous testimony that he gave his approval of the decision on May 22, 2008. “I was running the network, they needed my approval to kill of the character”, he told the jury. “I gave my approval.” The alleged Cherry-Sheridan head-slapping incident occurred in September 2008. Under questioning from Cherry defense lawyer Adam Levin, McPherson said he had no emails or memos about the decision because “we wanted to keep it confidential”. He testified that the only people at the meeting in his office that day were himself, Cherry, Pedowitz and Housewives producers Sabrina Wind and Bob Daily. He added that he would have done exactly the same thing in regards to the killing off of any major character on any major network series. “We didn’t want it to get out”, he said. Read More »
Freelance writer Dominic Patten is a Deadline contributor
UPDATE, 4:45 PM: Here comes the big guy — former ABC Entertainment president Steve McPherson is slated to testify in Nicollette Sheridan’s wrongful termination and battery trial on Friday at 1:30 PM. McPherson, who left ABC in 2010, has been cited in testimony by Marc Cherry and former ABC Studios president Mark Pedowitz as having given the network’s permission to kill off Sheridan’s Edie Britt character in May 2008, four months before the Cherry allegedly struck Sheridan in the head during an on-set altercation. Sheridan claims she was eliminated from the show because of that latter incident.
Testimony today saw several witnesses take the stand out of order due to scheduling issues, and saw Cherry’s ongoing testimony pause yet again to accommodate those changes. Sabrina Wind, a Desperate Housewives producer and Cherry’s self-described “right-hand gal,” took the stand this afternoon and contradicted several statements her boss made during his testimony. Wind, visibly nervous, said she could not recall getting a call from Cherry shortly after the alleged head-hitting incident between him and Sheridan on September 24, 2008. Sheridan’s lawyer Mark Baute then read from Wind’s deposition last year, in which she said she “did not” receive a call from Cherry as he previously testified. Wind, in another contradiction to Cherry’s testimony, also said she did not keep the producer up to date on a human resources investigation into the alleged incident. Wind, who is Cherry’s partner in Cherry/Wind Productions, also said she knew of no discussions about financial savings or “unprofessional behavior” on Sheridan’s part as reasons for killing off the actress’ character. Read More »
Back in May, ABC’s previous boss Steve McPherson went for younger, hipper fare when programming new series Monday through Thursday. The show that seemed to be the closest to the ABC brand, Body of Proof - a female-driven procedural with a quirky central character and headlined by a familiar ABC star, Dana Delany – was sent to Fridays. Now, with many of those Monday-Thursday series crumbling and one, My Generation, already canceled, new ABC chief Paul Lee is taking a second look at Body of Proof and is planning to give it a time slot upgrade. Read More »
Peter Tolan’s 2005 line about Steve McPherson, “Steve, if you can hear me, fuck you,” has gone down in HRTS luncheon history as one of the most memorable panel moments ever. But five years later, Tolan was pretty subdued in his reaction to McPherson’s ouster at ABC. “Don’t speak ill of the dead,” is pretty much all he said at TCA today. But he also talked about how he and McPherson made up a month after the HRTS luncheon when they both happened to be lunching at the Palm. “We hugged at valet parking. That’s Hollywood right there.”
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Anticipating an avalanche of American Idol-related questions, Fox Broadcasting’s entertainment chairman Peter Rice made an opening statement at the top of the network’s executive session. “The only thing I an tell you with absolute certainty is there are no signed deals with anyone on either side of the camera who wasn’t on the show last year,” he said, referring to judges as well as returning executive producer Nigel Lythgoe. Rice did confirm that Ellen DeGeneres met with him at the beginning of June. ”We talked about the season and her feelings about the season, the idea that she wasn’t comfortable and that it was not a good fit for her,” he said. “I tried to persuade her that it would be different in the future, but we ultimately came to an agreement. We were going to begin looking for new judges anyway, because Simon was leaving, so as that was going to play out over the summer, we came to an agreement to go to her and say: we can’t replace you, or we can move on without you. [DeGeneres is in the middle of a 2-year deal with Idol.] That’s where we got to last week. We felt confident that we could come up with a panel that didn’t include Ellen as a judge, and at the same time we knew we were coming here on Monday. We felt it was disingenuous to sit here and talk about Ellen being … Read More »
Family Man: Showrunner Series Q&A Steve Levitan
During a coffee break at TCA today, Modern Family co-creator/executive producer Steve Levitan dived straight in about Steve McPherson’s sudden exit from ABC Entertainment. “My genuine reaction was this sucks. I’m sorry to hear it,” Levitan said to reporters, noting that he’s a long-time friend going back to when McPherson was a network exec on his NBC comedy Just Shoot Me. “We took Modern Family to ABC in large part because of Steve and that relationship. And because he promised us that he would launch us and support us, which he did. He’s always been a straight shooter. You knew where you stood with Steve, and I respect that. While I hear wonderful things about [McPherson replacement] Paul Lee, certainly I’m very sorry to see Steve go.”
Levitan shared the casting news that Nathan Lane has been tapped to guest star in the fall. He’ll play Cameron’s and Mitchell’s mentioned-but-never-seen flamboyant friend Pepper. Personally, I’m pretty psyched to see Lane go toe-to-toe with Eric Stonestreet’s Cameron; I always felt Cameron was modeled after Lane’s character in The Birdcage.
Levitan said he doesn’t have any immediate plans to do a show at Fox where he and Modern Family co-creator Christopher Lloyd’s previous series, Back to You, was canceled after one season. But “I’m open to the idea if they create an atmosphere that is conducive to my style of comedy,” he said.
He also wants to … Read More »
For a guy who confessed that as a Brit he is way too self-conscious to dance, new ABC Family Entertainment Group president Paul Lee did a pretty good job tap dancing around the controversial issues surrounding the departure of his predecessor Stephen McPherson. Facing the press and TV critics 36 hours after being officially appointed to the job, Lee looked confident, and the sleeves of his plaid shirt were symbolically rolled up. There will be no changes to ABC’s fall launch plans, Lee said. “We’re locked and loaded. If you make last-minute changes, you can make more damages than good. Nor is he planning to emulate ABC Family’s focus on “millennials” by making ABC skew younger. ”This is a core 18-to-49 channel,” he emphasized. Mostly Lee stuck to his talking pointsy, and, in his answers played up his status as an outsider. He also kept reverting to his previous experiences running BBC America and ABC Family and working as showrunner in the UK – rather than discussing his plans for ABC.
“There are a lot more people here than when we were trying to launch Wildfire on ABC Family,” Lee quipped as he was taking his seat on stage. He opened with a thank-you to the critics for their support through the years (smooth move). And a disclaimer. “I’m super unprepared, being in this job for 36 hours, so I apologize in advance if I don’t have all the answers.” He hardly had any. Lee’s comment on his boss, Anne … Read More »
Today is ABC’s day at TCA. Of course, the abrupt resignation of Entertainment Group president Stephen McPherson on Tuesday was expected to be the predominant theme of the day. So ABC decided to tackle it head-on with an intro by Disney-ABC TV Group’s EVP communications Kevin Brockman, who walked out on stage before the first session carrying a large pink elephant plush toy. He said he would address “the elephant in the room… I realize you all may have questions. Tuesday’s statement still holds, and it is literally all we are going to say on the subject. So you may ask, but you will get the same answer… That is where we are.” Then he picked up the elephant and carried it out. Coming up: new ABC Entertainment Group President Paul Lee in his public debut since he took over the job on Friday.
Diane Haithman is contributing to Deadline’s TCA coverage.
EXCLUSIVE: Last night, at 9:13 PM, outgoing ABC Entertainment Group President Steve McPherson’s pit bull litigator Marty Singer faxed the following letter to The Hollywood Reporter. It accuses THR of becoming an “outrageous scandal sheet” now that former US magazine editor Janice Min and new publisher Lori Burgess are in charge. “It appears that with a new editor and publisher, THR is adopting tabloid-like behavior”. According to my own reporting, McPherson worked at Disney/ABC without any sexual harrassment-related complaints brought to the company’s attention until 2010. This year, however, one sexual harassment complaint was made by a woman against McPherson, and HR conducted an investigation. My sourcing indicates that McPherson’s resignation was voluntary and unrelated to the probe:
I hear that Steve McPherson, who resigned as ABC Entertainment Group president this week, has asked pit bull litigator Marty Singer to specifically target The Hollywood Reporter. If you haven’t noticed, the front page of THR is increasingly resembling TMZ as a Hollywood scandal sheet now that former US magazine editor Janice Min has taken over. Today, Singer issued this statement; “Steve McPherson is not going to sit back idly regarding the false & defamatory stories fueled by unknown and anonymous sources that are now appearing in the media since his resignation from ABC. He has retained Martin Singer and Lavely & Singer to deal with these defamatory stories.”
Ever since Deadline broke the news that Steve McPherson was resigning as ABC Entertainment Group President yesterday, emails have been sent to media outlets filled with rumors about his personal and/or professional behavior. Disney wouldn’t respond to Deadline’s requests for comment. But tonight, McPherson’s longtime entertainment attorney Tom Hoberman issued this statement in response to Deadline’s inquiry earlier today about allegations of possible sexual harrassment with female employees which led to an internal Disney investigation: ”Upon Steve McPherson returning to work from his vacation on Monday, he made a voluntary decision to resign and ABC accepted his resignation. It is not uncommon for high level executives to be the subject of gossip and innuendo. That would includes rumors of internal situations which can easily be misinterpreted or misrepresented. Seems like it goes with the territory, and there is nothing further to discuss.”
CBS is first up at TCA, so the network’s entertainment president Nina Tassler was the first to get the Steve McPherson question this morning. Asked to comment on McPherson’s exit from ABC yesterday, she said: “Dammit, he got out of doing press tour.” Tassler noted that she is looking forward to “a case of Chardonnay over the holidays,” a reference to McPherson’s wine business, before adding, “He is a great guy, a good friend, and I wish him the best.” After the official presentation, Tassler was asked to compare McPherson’s wine and the wine made by another TV topper, 20th Century Fox TV chairman Gary Newman. “I think Steve’s is better,” she said jokingly. It’s probably good that the network already completed negotiations with Newman for Chaos.
Tassler faced questions about casting Julie Chen, wife of CBS Corp CEO Leslie Moonves, on the network’s mom daytime panel talk show pilot and especially for CBS’ recent decision to pick up the pilot to series over 3 other candidates. BTW, the show now has a title, The Talk (if there weren’t enough parallels to The View already) Tassler said it was the the series’ creator/executive producer Sara Gilbert who suggested casting Chen. As for the pickup to series, “I made the decision,” Tassler said. “I don’t think Les is unhappy with it,… but show screened great and tested the best of all the pilots.” … Read More »