'Practical Magic' Prequel, John Wells and Lena Dunham Pilots Ordered at HBO Max

Lena Dunham, John Wells and Melissa Rosenberg -Getty-Split-H 2019
David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Dave Benett/WireImage; Leon Bennett/WireImage; Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic

HBO Max is building its pilot slate.

The forthcoming streaming service from WarnerMedia has handed out pilot orders for a pair of dramas — Red Bird Lane and Practical Magic prequel Rules of Magic — and one half-hour dramedy — Generation — from the likes of John Wells (Shameless), Melissa Rosenberg (Jessica Jones) and Lena Dunham (Girls). These mark the first pilot orders for the service, which is overseen by Kevin Reilly and Bob Greenblatt.

Wells' Red Bird Lane is a young adult drama that is described as a morality and psychological horror show about eight strangers who arrive at an isolated house — all for different reasons — and who quickly realize that something sinister and terrifying awaits them. The project hails from Wells' Warner Bros. TV-based John Wells Productions and his head of development Erin Jontow. Sara Gran, who worked with Wells on Southland, will pen the script and executive produce. Dan Halsteed will serve as a consultant.

Rules of Magic has been picked up with a sizable pilot production commitment that comes complete with an additional 10-script order and mandate to open a writers room. From Rosenberg, the project is described as an epic, generational family drama that is set in 1960s New York City. It revolves around three troubled siblings — Franny, Jet and Vincent Owens — who wrestle with "abnormalities" that have kept them isolated. But the tumultuous times unearth the extraordinary discovery that they are, in fact, descendants of a bloodline of witches. In their aspirational journey toward self-discovery and self-acceptance, they will contend with grief, war, bigotry and dark magic, not to mention a centuries-old curse designed to keep them away from love. The two sisters, Franny and Jet, will become the revered, and sometimes feared, aunts in Practical Magic, while their beloved brother, Vincent, will leave an unexpected legacy.

The drama is based on the novels Rules of Magic and Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman. The effort hails from Warner Bros. TV, where Rosenberg (The Twilight Saga, Dexter) and her Tall Girls Production banner is now under a rich overall deal. Rosenberg will pen the script and exec produce alongside Dana Baratta (Jessica Jones), Denise Di Novi and Nina Tassler for PatMa Productions and Hoffman. The potential series is the latest adaptation from Hoffman's books, which were also the source of the 1998 feature Practical Magic, starring Sandra Bullock, Nicole Kidman, Stockard Channing and Dianne Wiest.

Rounding out the orders is the dramedy pilot Generation, which Girls grad Dunham exec produces. Described as a dark, yet playful half-hour, Generation follows a group of high school students whose exploration of modern sexuality (devices and all) tests deeply entrenched beliefs about life, love and the nature of family in their conservative community. Zelda Barnz, 17, will pen the script alongside her father, Daniel Barnz. Daniel Barnz exec produces alongside husband Ben Barnz, via their joint production company We're Not Brothers. Zelda Barnz will also be credited as a co-exec producer; Marissa Diaz will produce. Daniel Barnz will also direct the pilot.

HBO Max will launch in the fall in beta with scripted originals set to roll out in 2020. Cable crown jewel HBO will be central to the upcoming service, with its library titles — including Game of Thrones and The Sopranos — joining others titles including Friends, The Big Bang Theory and likely Seinfeld. HBO Max has been on a spending spree as it ramps up originals to stock the platform, as the streamer looks to compete with both established (Netflix, Amazon, Hulu) and new arrivals (Disney+, Apple, NBCUniversal) in the space. HBO Max's scripted roster includes a female-focused take on Dune, the Kaley Cuoco vehicle The Flight Attendant, a new take on Gossip Girl and Tokyo Vice, starring Ansel Elgort, among other comedies and dramas.