'The Grisham Universe' Two-Show Franchise Scrapped at Hulu

Michael Seitzman - Publicity - H 2019
Courtesy of Subject

Hulu's innovative plans to bring the so-called Grisham Universe to television are no longer happening.

Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that the Disney-controlled streamer has scrapped efforts to bring author John Grisham's The Rainmaker and Rogue Lawyer to television as part of an interconnected universe.

Announced in December, Hulu was teaming with ABC Signature to develop The Grisham Universe, a format that was poised to start with two scripted series — The Rainmaker and Rogue Lawyer — that would share one storyline with the potential to grow the franchise with other shows.

Code Black's Michael Seitzman and Detroit 187's Jason Richman were set to serve as writers and executive producers on both potential series, with Grisham and Seitzman's Maniac Productions' Christina Davis also on board as exec producers. The project was in the development stage with one writers room working on both shows. Grisham was set to exec produce.

The Grisham Universe was to begin with The Rainmaker and Rogue Lawyer and combine them to create what ABC Signature called something "wholly original": two books, two shows, one shared storyline. The two series were to be independent of one another but feature intersecting storylines that create a new template uniquely designed for Hulu's platform. The plotlines of each show were to be told in a way that a viewer can watch vertically, viewing all of one without the other, and be told a story. But the plan was to focus storytelling in a way that a viewer can watch horizontally, navigating from episode 101 of The Rainmaker to episode 101 of Rogue Lawyer, then episode 102 of Rainmaker to 102 of Rogue Lawyer, and so on. While some characters were to live in just one show, many characters from each show will cross into and become integral to the other.

The project arrives at a time when streamers, cable networks and broadcasters alike are taking a page from the film world and looking for intellectual property that can be turned into franchises of multiple series in a bid to own content, define their brands and lure viewers and subscribers.

The decision to scrap The Grisham Universe comes as Hulu earlier this week announced plans to expand the world of its Emmy-winning drama The Handmaid's Tale. The streamer is reteaming with MGM TV to adapt The Testaments, the forthcoming follow-up to Margaret Atwood's best-selling book, for television, with Handmaid Tale's showrunner Bruce Miller exploring ways to make the sequel "an important extension" to the Elisabeth Moss-led drama.

Hulu is also teaming with Game of Thrones author George R.R. Martin to bring his Wild Cards universe into a multiple-series world on its platform. The streamer currently has one writers room working on two series in the Wild Cards world.

Elsewhere, Netflix and Amazon each spent nine figures to acquire rights to The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings, respectively, with the hope that those properties can deliver multiple TV series and films and help bring subscribers to their respective platforms in an era of increased competition (and 520-plus scripted originals).

For Seitzman, The Grisham Universe is the latest high-profile streaming project to be scrapped for the Code Black alum. Disney+ recently nixed plans for Book of Enchantment, the villain-focused drama from ABC Signature.

Hulu and reps for ABC Studios' cable- and streaming-focused arm, ABC Signature, declined comment on Grisham Universe.