Oprah Winfrey Developing Complex Family Drama Project at HBO (Exclusive)

UP: Oprah Winfrey

Winfrey's OWN lures her buddy Tyler Perry to create much-needed scripted shows for the struggling network as ratings tick up for a third straight quarter.

HBO is back in the Oprah Winfrey business.

The premium cable network is developing a drama from Winfrey's Harpo Films. The untitled project centers on a wealthy academic who has become the first black president of a prestigious liberal arts college. He and his family are thrust into national headlines, forcing them to present an idyllic public façade, all while engaging in agonizing personal battles and struggling with dark obsessions.

PHOTOS: Oprah Through the Years

Playwright Thomas Bradshaw is on board to write and co-executive produce the hourlong effort, with Winfrey and Harpo's Kate Forte attached as executive producers.

Harpo first inked a long-term deal with HBO in late 2008 to develop miniseries, movies, documentaries and scripted series for the network. Before that, the production company behind such efforts as Tuesdays With Morrie and Amy & Isabelle was set up for many years at ABC.

For Bradshaw, the project follows a string of well-received plays, including The Bereaved, Southern Promises, Dawn and his latest, Job. By day, the 32-year-old recipient of a 2009 Guggenheim Fellowship is a professor at Northwestern.

Bradshaw is repped by AO International Talent Agency and Manage-Ment; Winfrey is repped by CAA.

E-mail: Lacey.Rose@THR.com; Twitter: @LaceyVRose