Fox Orders Ancient Egypt Drama 'Hieroglyph' Straight to Series

"Pacific Rim" writer Travis Beacham will pen the script for the 13-episode drama, which will begin production in early 2014.
Travis Beacham

Fox is making a big bet on an Egyptian fantasy.

The network is moving forward with a 13-episode straight-to-series order for Hieroglyph, a fantastical action-adventure show. The series, set in ancient Egypt, centers on a notorious thief who is plucked from prison to serve the Pharaoh, navigating palace intrigue, seductive concubines, criminal underbellies and even a few divine sorcerers.

The ambitious drama, which is set up at 20th Century Fox Television and Chernin Entertainment, is being written by Pacific Rim’s Travis Beacham. Chernin Entertainment's Peter Chernin and Katherine Pope, along with Beacham and Fringe’s Miguel Sapochnik, will serve as executive producers. Sapochnik, who helmed Repo Man, also is on board to direct the premiere episode, which is scheduled to begin production in early 2014.

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“We wanted to do a show about deceit, sex, intrigue in the court and fantastical goings-on -- no better place to set that than ancient Egypt,” Fox entertainment chairman Kevin Reilly said in a statement announcing the news Thursday. “Travis Beacham has an inventive mind, and he has wrapped this all together in this intoxicating new drama.”

Hieroglyph becomes the latest project ordered straight to series this development season. Fox also handed out a series commitment to Gotham, a Batman prequel series revolving around Commissioner Gordon as well as a comedy from 30 Rock trio Tina Fey, Matt Hubbard and Robert Carlock. Fox also handed out a series order to a John Mulaney (Saturday Night Live) comedy originally developed at NBC. CBS, meanwhile, has 13 episodes of the Vince Gilligan and David Shore drama Battle Creek, based on a 2002 spec from the Breaking Bad creator. 

In an executive roundtable published this week in The Hollywood Reporter, Reilly explained his motivation for bypassing the pilot system when the project calls for it.  As he said during a spirited conversation about the state of the television business, making straight-to-series orders is a way to “unwind us off the cycle" in broadcast. Reilly spoke candidly about the inefficiencies of the current development system, which he described as “silly.”

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“A lot of this town was sustained by the pilot system, where we were making an enormous and inefficient amount of product,” he said in conversation with Netflix's Ted Sarandos, Showtime's David Nevins and FX's John Landgraf. “Maybe one of the healthier things that could evolve as there are more series opportunities is to get off of that inefficiency of just throwing spaghetti at the wall. But it's very difficult to unwire the town. Even agents are still in this mode of ‘pilot season.’ What the hell is pilot season? It's an artificial boundary that makes no sense, and it makes you do things under duress.”

Beacham, whose other credits include Clash of the Titans, is repped by WME, Anonymous Content and Hansen Jacobson; Sapochnik is repped by WME, Casarotto Ramsay and Sloane Offer.


Twitter: @LaceyVRose