Norman Lear to Go Obscure With New Sony TV Pact

Norman Lear - Ebertfest 2017 - Getty-H 2017
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Norman Lear is ready to go back in time.

On July 27 — his 96th birthday — Sony Pictures TV announced that it had inked the prolific TV creator to a first-look deal that includes the option to reboot titles from his extensive library, most of which it acquired when it bought Lear's Embassy Communications in 1985. But the Peabody- and Emmy-winning producer of One Day at a Time (both the CBS original and the Netflix reboot) says his iconic shows are the opposite of what he has in mind under the two-year pact.

"I'm not about to reimagine Good Times or The Jeffersons," Lear tells THR. While he and producing partner Brent Miller say they have yet to formally pitch Sony on anything, the plan is to mine lesser-known titles from Lear's career.

"If we're going to take properties and reimagine them, it would likely be from deeper in the library and things that people don't readily know," says Miller, production and development head for Lear's Act III banner.

That would be true of 1975's Hot L Baltimore, the 1970s ABC hotel comedy that was canceled after one season and was considered Lear's first flop. Lear and Miller are considering that hotel comedy as well as 1977's All That Glitters, a soap opera spoof that aired for 65 episodes in syndication and in which the female characters were the stronger sex, working as executives and breadwinners, while men were treated as sex objects. Says Miller of rebooting ?the gender role-reversed show, "It couldn't be more timely." 

Meanwhile, Lear's Sony TV-produced NBC comedy pilot Guess Who Died? is officially dead after Amazon passed on picking up the single-camera comedy starring Holland Taylor, Hector Elizondo and Christopher Lloyd. "I'm not done pursuing this world. I think we need a show out there that can accurately represent people living and not 'living' as the stereotype," says Miller of the idea that was inspired by his mother's neighborhood in Palm Springs. "I came home from Palm Springs and told Norman that these people are living and they're not there to die. I'm thinking we might look at [Guess Who Died?] as a film. It'd be really great." 

A version of this story first appeared in the Aug. 1 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.