E! is making a regal entry into scripted programming. The network has picked up one of its first two scripted pilots, The Royals starring Elizabeth Hurley, to series. The one-hour drama, about a fictional British Royal family set in modern London that is informed by the regal opulence of the British monarchy and framed by Shakespeare’s Hamlet, hails from Lionsgate and a trio of One Tree Hill alums. OTH creator Mark Schwahn wrote and directed Royals, which he is executive producing with Brian Robbins and Joe Davola. Getting reality focused E! into the scripted space had been a priority for NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment topper Bonnie Hammer. Sibling cable channel Bravo had been put on a similar path and just greenlighted its first scripted series, Girlfriends’ Guide To Divorce. E!’s second pilot, musical drama Songbyrd, remains in contention. “The Royals will offer a fictional look behind the very public gilded façade of the palace gates to imagine the private, lush, fun, sexy world of the most-watched celebrity family on the planet,” said E! EVP Original Programming and development Jeff Olde said. Added the network’s scripted executive Kevin Plunkett who spearheads E!’s scripted efforts, “This is a big idea and Mark, Brian, Joe and the Lionsgate team delivered.”
Dexter alum Colin Hanks has signed on to co-star opposite Billy Bob Thornton and Martin Freeman in FX’s first limited series Fargo, executive produced by Joel and Ethan Coen. Inspired by the Coens’ 1996 film, FX’s Fargo, from FX Prods and MGM TV, features an all-new crime story and characters. It centers on Lester Nygaard (Freeman), a small-town insurance salesman henpecked by his wife, whose life is changed when a mysterious stranger, Lorne Malvo (Thornton), comes to town. Hanks will play Duluth Police Deputy Gus Grimly, a single dad who must choose between his own personal safety and his duty as a policeman when he comes face-to-face with a killer. Hanks, repped by UTA and The Schiff Co, co-stars in the upcoming feature Parkland.
E! Nears First Scripted Pilot Orders For Krista Vernoff/Diane Warren’s ‘Songbyrd’, Mark Schwahn’s Hamlet Drama ‘The Royals’
EXCLUSIVE: I’ve learned that E! is finalizing deals for its first two scripted pilots. The orders, which will be be cast-contingent, are going to dramas Songbyrd, from writer Krista Vernoff (Grey’s Anatomy), top songwriter Diane Warren and producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, and The Royals, from Lionsgate TV and the One Tree Hill team of creator Mark Schwahn and producers Brian Robbins & Joe Davola. Both projects were part of E!’s most recent scripted slate unveiled at the network’s upfront in April. Entering the scripted space had been a priority for E! under its new NBCUniversal leadership team led by Bonnie Hammer. Sibling cable channel Bravo has been on a similar path and recently produced its first scripted pilot, drama Rita.
Songbyrd was originally developed at E! sibling NBC by Universal TV this past development season. It centers on Lauren Byrd, a character loosely inspired by hitmaker Warren. Lauren, writer of hit love songs, employs a small staff, including her sister, to enable and manage her eccentric, yet wildly successful process.
E! Developing Scripted Projects From Diane Warren, Josh Schwartz, Kevin Spacey, Mark Schwahn, Ryan Seacrest & Gale Anne Hurd
Last April, E! announced its first scripted slate as the reality/entertainment news-driven cable network signaled plans to enter the scripted space under its new NBCUniversal leadership. As E! is gearing up to greenlight its first three scripted pilots by Memorial Day, at its upfront today the network unveiled its new slate of scripted projects that come from well-known writers and producers. Several of the projects were originally developed for broadcast networks earlier this season. Those include dramedies Songbyrd, featuring the songs and experiences of songwriter Diane Warren, from producers Neil Meron and Craig Zadan; and Laurel Canyon, from producers Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage. Songbird, written by Krista Vernoff, was originally set up at E! sibling NBC; Laurel Canyon, penned by Karen Croner, was at ABC.
E!’s scripted slate also includes three projects inspired by literary classics. Expectations, inspired by Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, is from Oscar-winning writer Ron Bass (Rain Man) and producer Dan Jinks. Interestingly, there were two modern-day Great Expectations projects in development at the broadcast networks this season — one at the CW produced by Reese Witherspoon, and one at ABC produced by Debra Martin Chase — none of which went to pilot. The Royals, a take on William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, is written by One Tree Hill creator/exec producer Mark Schwahn who executive produces with fellow OTH executive producers Brian Robbins and Joe Davola. The Stand-In is described as a darkly psychological re-telling of Mark Twain’s The Prince & the Pauper, executive produced by Ryan Seacrest. Fortunate Son is written by Joey Falco and executive produced by Kevin Spacey and Michael De Luca, who also had a joint project on E!’s inaugural scripted slate last year. According to E!’s original plans, the network was looking to launch its first scripted series in 2013. Here are details about E! scripted shows in development, which include dramas produced by Gale Anne Hurd and Becky Hartman Edwards: