Friday, August 18, 2006

The Boob Tube...TV Dweebing

Editor's Note: Just oodles of stuff to catch up on (since I've actually been WORKING this week....just to keep my hand in).

So let's get down to it, eh!?

CBS Signs Development Deal With Jackman
CBS has signed actor Hugh Jackman to a development deal, putting the screen and stage star behind the camera for the network. Editor's Note: Behind? Ah well, better than not at all I suppose. Still....such a waste of all that loveliness.....

Under terms of the agreement, Jackman will exec produce projects for the network through his production company, Seeds Prods. John Palermo, Jackman's partner at Seed, is also attached.

Deal is a three-for-one, whereby Seed will develop at least three projects, from which CBS will pick the best one for a pilot. Jackman is not expected to star, however. Editor's Note: Sniffle...

CBS to develop exorcism themed drama
CBS has given a pilot commitment to an exorcism themed drama from Barbara Hall (Joan of Arcadia) and Joe Roth (The Exorcist III).

The show is believed to revolve around exorcists and others who investigate supernatural phenomena. Hall will write the script as well as executive produce the project alongside Roth.
The network has hired Bob Larson, an expert on cults, the occult and supernatural phenomena, to consult on the project. Editor's Note: At the risk of being smited by an occultist or demon or something, is it really necessary to have an expert consultant on a project about make-believe stuff? (SEE....sometimes I DO know the difference between reality and the better places)!

Krakowski Joins NBC's '30 Rock'
Former "Ally McBeal" series regular Jane Krakowski is joining the cast of NBC's new fall comedy "30 Rock."

She has been hired to play the star of "The Girlie Show," a network variety show that serves as the backdrop for the workplace comedy.

Ms. Krakowski replaces Rachel Dratch, who played the role in the "30 Rock" pilot. Ms. Dratch, a fellow cast mate on "Saturday Night Live" with "30 Rock" creator Tina Fey, will have a smaller role on the series by playing a variety of characters in multiple episodes. Editor's Note: Ouch. That's going to be a fun gig for her, huh? Watching the diva come in and steal her role every week? Owie.

"30 Rock" debuts on Wednesday, Oct. 11 at 8:30 p.m. (ET).

The series is produced by Broadway Video and NBC Universal Television Studio. "SNL" executive producer Lorne Michaels, JoAnn Alfano, Marci Klein, David Miner and Ms. Fey are executive producing "30 Rock."

ABC Commits to Crime Prevention Unit
ABC has given the crime drama CRIME PREVENTION UNIT a pilot commitment. The show is from Daniel Cerone, the creator of CLUBHOUSE, and David Heyman, a producer on HARRY POTTER and THRESHOLD.

The show is based on the British series Murder Prevention, and chronicles the workings of a police division that tracks and apprehends criminals before they are able to commit a crime.
Cerone is writing the script and executive producing with Heyman

Lanter inks ABC, Touchstone pact
On the heels of his co-starring role on "Commander in Chief," Matt Lanter has signed a talent holding deal with the network and the studio behind the drama series, ABC and Touchstone TV.

Under the pact, Lanter will be cast in a drama or comedy project for ABC and Touchstone TV. Additionally, the actor has landed a recurring role on NBC's new drama "Heroes" and a potentially recurring role on CBS' new drama "Shark." Editor's Note: Who IS this suddenly very popular person, and does his skill warrant all this or is he just this week's flavor?

La Salle one for NBC's 'Four'
Eriq La Salle is reuniting with NBC for "The Four Next Door," an apocalyptic comedy project, which the former "ER" star is executive producing. Editor's Note: Pause for a moment and think about the phrase 'apocalyptic comedy project'.


Ok. Moving on....

Written by Mark Legan, "The Four" chronicles the exploits of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse who are forced to blend in and live among humans after arriving 10 years too early for the end of the world. Editor's Note: Giggle. Funny premise.

The project has been given a script commitment from the network. CBS Paramount Network TV, where La Salle has an overall deal, is producing with the actor's Humble Journey Films shingle. Legan and La Salle are executive producing.

AMC to Run Mad Men, Net's First Drama Series
Rainbow Media's AMC has greenlit its first dramatic series, committing to 13 episodes of Mad Men, a one-hour period piece about a 1960s-era Madison Avenue advertising agency.

Created, written and executive produced by writer Matthew Weiner (The Sopranos, Becker), Mad Men is set to debut in June 2007.

Filmed on location in New York City, the show’s cast includes Jon Hamm (We Were Soldiers), Elisabeth Moss (West Wing)Editor's Note: Ooooo....I LOVE her! and January Jones (American Wedding). AMC execs Vlad Wolynetz, vp of production, series and movies, and Christina Wayne, vp of scripted series and movies, will oversee development and production.

The network is banking that the series will be met with the same success as its first venture into original programming, the two-part miniseries Broken Trail. The June 25 premiere of the Robert Duvall Western delivered the largest audience in AMC’s history as some 9.8 million viewers tuned in. Editor's Note: I don't think advertising is as popular as Robert Duvall. (or westerns). And I'm not saying that cause I'm still quite bitter about the ad industry. (Well....not JUST cuz of that....)

Busy Berlanti lends a hand for 'Brothers'
The writers on ABC/Touchstone TV's upcoming drama "Brothers & Sisters" are getting help from within the Touchstone family.

Studio-based "Everwood" creator Greg Berlanti has been spending a lot of time in the "Brothers & Sisters' " writers room, lending a hand on the show after the departure of executive producer/showrunner Marti Noxon last week.

There is no formal deal in place for Berlanti's services on the series, a soap about adult siblings, but he is said to be getting along great with the writers-producers on the show.

"Everybody is thrilled about this collaboration," a Touchstone TV spokeswoman said. Editor's Note: With the possible exception of Marti Noxon?

ABC in line with 'Miss/Guided'
ABC has greenlighted "Miss/Guided," a single-camera comedy pilot from 20th Century Fox TV and Ashton Kutcher's studio-based Katalyst Films.

Written on spec by Caroline Williams, the project, to be directed by Emmy winner Todd Holland, attracted bids from ABC and NBC.

Gabrielle Allan has come on board to run "Miss/Guided," which centers on a woman who returns to her alma mater high school to become a guidance counselor.

Allan, Holland and Katalyst's Kutcher and Karey Burke are executive producing with Williams co-executive producing.

New TV scheduling is a sign of the times
By Nellie Andreeva
On March 28, Fox gave an early second-season pickup to its drama "Prison Break." Instead of celebrating that day, creator/executive producer Paul Scheuring was busy scouting locations for the show's second season. By mid-June, a mere three weeks after the end of the 2005-06 broadcast season, "Prison" already was in production on its sophomore season, slated to premiere Aug. 21.

In the past few years, the broadcast networks made a major shift in the way they schedule scripted series -- going for longer runs of original episodes, especially on serialized dramas, and adopting new launching patterns. Fox now premieres series in August, ahead of its postseason baseball coverage; in January, in conjunction with the return of its biggest hit, "American Idol"; and in March.

That, combined with an increased demand for additional footage for the series' DVD releases and for original short episodes to run on portable devices and the Internet, has put TV studios' production teams to the test.

"All this is changing what we do," 20th Century Fox TV executive vp production Jim Sharp says. "It's changing our thinking."

In the past, the networks' series premiered in late September with a couple of episodes, took a breather by going into repeats in October before returning with originals for the November sweep. Now, driven by increased competition, most networks want to air consecutive fresh episodes from the opening of the season through the end of November.

In response, Touchstone TV switched to a new production schedule two years ago, moving up its drama production start dates by about a month. Preproduction, which normally didn't start until after July 4, now begins right after Memorial Day, with the shows going into production shortly after Independence Day.

"We refer to it as 'turning back the clock,' " the studio's executive vp production Barry Jossen says. Editor's Note: Or, you could call it doing the obvious to compete in today's entertainment environment?

The schedule shift shortens the time window for the shows' creative teams to shape up a seasonlong story line and begin to deliver finished scripts from eight to 10 weeks to four to five weeks.

Hardest hit are new series, whose creators often don't know if their pilots are picked up to series until the networks' upfront presentations in mid-May. Within a month, they have to scramble to assemble a group of writers and start churning out scripts while working with directors on locations and casting and dealing with the inevitable glitches in a start-up production.

In the past two weeks, two new ABC/Touchstone shows, "Ugly Betty" and "Six Degrees," halted production for a week. Other freshman series that have done it include Touchstone's "Grey's Anatomy" and "Commander in Chief" and 20th TV's "The Inside."

At Touchstone, they plan for such hiatuses and even welcome them.

"We get time to look at the show, go through the list of what is working and what is not and build on the things that are working," Jossen said.

The boom in DVD releases and digital downloads of TV series has created new challenges for production executives. In addition to the need to carve out time for shooting DVD extras in what already are very tight filming schedules, the distribution of shows on other platforms is complicated by the music rights issues as studios have to clear the songs for every use.

To avoid having to replace expensive songs from the broadcast version with less expensive music on other platforms or to limit series creators in their music choices, studios have begun working with music companies on all-media deals that would allow series to be distributed everywhere -- on broadcast TV, the Internet, iPods -- for a flat fee.

Despite the production headaches TV's digital expansion brings, "I think it's fantastic," Sharp says. "Those things are going to continue to change, and they're impacting all of us." Editor's Note: Given the degree to which everyone is apparently playing 'catch-up' with new technology and its demands, and given the frantic production schedules, it's all the more amazing that so much good work....and there IS a lot, hush you cynics...comes out of the TV production maelstrom.


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