NBC drama 'Found' almost became a Doe

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It is a project that has lived up to its name: "Lost and Found." A year and a half ago, Chris Levinson penned the one-hour script for NBC. The network's old regime passed on it, and the project was lost in the shuffle until it recently was resurrected and ordered as a cast-contingent pilot.

"Lost and Found," from Wolf Films and UMS, centers on Tessa, an offbeat female LAPD detective who, after butting heads with the higher-ups, is sent as a punishment to the basement to work on John Doe and Jane Doe cases.

"There are exposed pipes, it's grimy and dingy and can't be further from the glossy 'CSI' shows," Levinson said.

Levinson originally was approached with the idea for a crime drama about cases involving unidentified victims by Wolf Films' Nena Rodrigue.

Levinson, at the time a co-exec producer on Dick Wolf's "Law & Order," said she was not interested in developing a procedural for a marketplace saturated by the genre.

But then she found a way to crack the idea by adding a twisted sense of humor and making the show an homage to the '80s crime series that influenced her as a kid and to her dad, TV writer-producer Richard Levinson. He, along with his partner William Link, introduced the mystery genre to TV by creating such classics as "Columbo" and "Murder, She Wrote."

Next, the title came to her: "Lost — find the name; found — solve the murder."

After NBC passed on the script last year, Levinson considered taking it to a cable network.

In the end, she was swayed by her loyalty to NBC and UMS, where she has a deal, and to Wolf, NBC drama head Katie O'Connell and UMS topper Katherine Pope, who had vowed to get the project made.

"There has been such a tremendous success with shows about strong women on cable, so I felt it was a great opportunity to do it right on a network," she said.

Chris Levinson was only two weeks old when her dad took her to the set of "Columbo" in 1972.

"He leaned over the crib and whispered, 'Produce, produce; this is the only way you can protect your words.' "

Endeavor-repped Chris Levinson followed her dad's advice: She is exec producing "Found" with Wolf, Rodrigue and Peter Jankowski. (partialdiff)
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