Last-minute magic for NBC 'Kings' pilot

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NBC beat the buzzer, handing out a last-minute pilot order Friday, the same day the WGA set the stage for a writers strike. The network greenlighted "Kings," a contemporary soap loosely based on the story of King David, the Biblical king of Israel.

Francis Lawrence is set to direct the one-hour pilot written by "Heroes" co-exec producer Michael Green. The two will exec produced the Universal Media Studios project with Lawrence's manager, Erwin Stoff.

Set in present day, "Kings" centers on "a regular small-town guy who gets mixed up with the upper crust social and political elite of a monarchy and eventually would become the new king," Green said. "It's a Cinderella story and a story of struggle for power."

The plot of the soap, which will feature magical elements, loosely parallels the story of the biblical David, a shepherd boy who went on to defeat the giant Goliath and become Israel's second king.

"It's a story of the underdog that anyone can relate to," said NBC programming chief Ben Silverman. "We love to beat Goliath."

"Kings" stems from an idea Green had carried for a long time: "To retell these sort of sex- and war-crazed Bible stories for a world that's convinced the Bible is all about virtue," he said.

He originally developed the project and penned the script last year. While then-entertainment president Kevin Reilly passed on it, "Kings" enjoyed wide support within the network and the studio. This summer, on the heels of the major stir the medieval-themed "The Kingdom" caused when it hit the marketplace, the script was put in front of Ben Silverman and his top lieutenant, Teri Weinberg, who responded to it and ordered revisions.

"Kings" fits into Silverman's programming initiative to bring popular classic stories to the small screen as series (HR 10/1). It follows the greenlight for "Robinson Crusoe," a 13-episode series based on Daniel Defoe's novel.

Seeing a longtime passion project finally come to fruition would normally be a cause for major celebration, but with a writers strike in the air, Green can't enjoy his success.

"It's hard to jump up and down when Rome is burning outside," Green said. "It's awful to say I'm lucky with a strike looming as large and real as it is. I'm just hoping everyone's luck will come together and bring about a meaningful and fair end to the contract negotiations soon."

UMS-based Green's series credits also include "Smallville" and "Everwood." On the feature side, he was recently tapped to co-write with Greg Berlanti and Marc Guggenheim a live-action adaptation of DC Comics' "Green Lantern" for Warner Bros., to be directed by Berlanti (HR 10/29). He is repped by Endeavor and attorney Patti Felker.

Lawrence most recently directed the upcoming Will Smith starrer "I Am Legend." He is repped by CAA and attorney Gretchen Rush.
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