Raimi new 'Wizard' of syndie

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LAS VEGAS -- Filmmaker Sam Raimi is looking to conjure up some syndication magic.

The "Spider-Man" director is teaming with Disney-ABC Domestic Television and ABC Studios on a new first-run, live-action weekly series targeted for a fall launch. The series, titled "Wizard's First Rule," is based on Terry Goodkind's best-selling epic fantasy series "The Sword of Truth."

"Sword" follows the extraordinary transformation of woodsman Richard Cypher into a magical leader who joins with a mysterious woman to stop a bloodthirsty tyrant.

Raimi is executive producing the hourlong series with Robert Tapert ("The Grudge"), Joshua Donen ("The Quick and the Dead") and "Xena: Warrior Princess" production executive Ned Nalle. Disney-ABC Domestic TV is distributing, and ABC Studios is producing.

Raimi called Goodkind a "brilliant author" and said he's a big fan of the books, which he read with his family.

"In discussing these incredible story lines and rich characters with my friends and partners Robert Tapert and Josh Donen, we agreed that 'Wizard's First Rule' would make an amazing television series -- one that could be produced with compelling, self-contained episodes," Raimi said.

Janice Marinelli, president of Disney-ABC Domestic TV, said "Wizard's" will be a "network-quality show" and touted the strength of the production team.

"The time is right to introduce a captivating new series from this well-established and successful genre that is sure to be an attractive fit for stations across the country," she said.

Production on 22 episodes is slated to begin in May.

"Wizard's" marks ABC Studios' first venture into broadcast syndication.

"We're very excited to move into the first-run syndication arena, especially with Sam Raimi, a visually dynamic filmmaker who's mastered the fantasy genre," ABC Studios president Mark Pedowitz said.

"Wizard's" also marks the return of the weekly syndicated fantasy series genre, which had disappeared following its heyday in the late 1990s with "Hercules: The Legendary Journeys" and "Xena."

Disney is bringing the show to the syndication marketplace for a fall launch, starting this week at NATPE's 2008 Conference & Exhibition at the Mandalay Bay Resort.

"Wizard's First Rule," Goodkind's first installment in the "Sword of Truth" series, was published in 1994, followed by 10 additional titles. The books have been translated into more than 20 languages.
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