EXCLUSIVE: Former Friends executive producer Wil Calhoun has signed a two-year overall deal with Universal Television. This marks Calhoun’s return to the studio where he was under overall deals from 2004-08. “Wil is a talented writer with a Southern upbringing which adds a distinct voice to his work,” Universal TV EVP Bela Bajaria said. “He has also both mainstream single-camera and multi-camera experience.” In addition to his five-year stint on the NBC/Warner Bros TV hit comedy Friends, Calhoun co-created/executive produced another multicamera comedy series for Warner Bros, the WB’s What I Like About You. UTA-repped Calhoun’s single-camera comedy experience includes Sons & Daughters, which he worked for while at NBC Universal. For the past several years, he has been developing projects and consulting on shows.
EXCLUSIVE: NBC has bought a half-hour comedy from actress-comedian Andrea Savage and director-producer Jay Roach. Savage will write and star in the multi-camera project, which is being produced by Universal Television, with Roach and Jennifer Perini executive producing through their Everyman Pictures. The untitled comedy centers on …
A month after Bela Bajaria was given the reins of NBC’s production arm with the mandate to re-establish it as a full-fledged, stand-alone studio, Universal Television has sold two projects to non-NBC networks, comedy End Of The World to ABC and untitled FBI drama to CBS. In addition to Bajaria’s hire, the company’s rapid transformation over the past month also includes the assembling of a top executive team under her with the appointment of heads of comedy, drama and casting, as well as a name change from Universal Media Studios to Universal Television and a new logo (above, animated version below). This marks a return to UMS’ old days, before it was consolidated into NBC 3 years ago, when it developed and produced series for other networks, including Sons And Daughters and Complete Savages for ABC. Here are details on the first 2 non-NBC projects to come out of Universal TV:
EXCLUSIVE: In what will instantly become one of this season’s highest-profile drama projects, I hear that Ethan Hawke and Vince D’Onofrio have teamed with writer-producer Chris Brancato for a cop drama that has been nabbed by NBC with a production commitment. Brancato conceived the project, titled Blue Tilt, and took it to Hawke and D’Onofrio, who helped shape it. All three will executive produce. The show will star Hawke and D’Onofrio as two seasoned homicide detectives — one married and one divorced — as they solve cases while dealing with their wives/ex-wives and kids. The title Blue Tilt refers to a cop term for homicide detectives who, as a result of dealing with particularly brutal crimes, become a danger to themselves and are put under psychiatric observation. I hear that the pilot is targeted for a production start by the end of the year in New York, where both Hawke and D’Onofrio live. The two actors are old friends and co-starred in the 2009 feature Staten Island together, while Law & Order: Criminal Intent star D’Onofrio worked with Brancato on the final season of the Law & Order spinoff, on which Brancato served as executive producer/showrunner. This marks D’Onofrio’s return to NBC, where Law & Order: CI started before moving to cable sibling USA Network. Blue Tilt will be produced by newly renamed Universal Television, which also produces the Law & Order franchise.
EXCLUSIVE: NBC’s sibling Universal Media Studios has assembled a new top executive team under EVP Bela Bajaria, who took the reins of the studio last month. Additionally, UMS is changing its name to Universal Television, reverting to the moniker held by Universal’s TV production company, known for such series as the Law & Order franchise, prior to its 2004 merger with NBC Studios.
Bajaria’s new team includes Russell Rothberg, formerly SVP Drama Programming, NBC and UMS, who has been named head of the studio’s drama department as SVP Universal Television. Joining him in the drama area will be Erin Underhill, formerly SVP Current Programming, NBC and UMS, who now becomes SVP Universal Television, reporting to Rothberg. Additionally, former WB head of comedy Tracey Pakosta comes to Universal Television to lead the comedy department as SVP Comedy. And Showtime veteran Beth Klein, who left the pay cable network in April after 23 years, has been named SVP Casting, Universal Television. An additional comedy executive will be announced shortly.