5:00am PT by Lesley Goldberg
So How Does 'Rush Hour' Become a TV Show? Plus 4 Other Takeaways From Development Season
This story first appeared in the Nov. 28 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
After getting off to a late start, which TV industry insiders attribute to a growing crush of competition for original series and, to a lesser extent, a changing of the guard at Fox, the broadcast networks' traditional buying season has stretched well into November. But what are the five networks buying? And why does so much of it look familiar? Here are five key takeaways from the 2014 development season thus far.
1. It's all about the IP
After last year's onslaught of comic book adaptations, the broadcast nets are betting big on recognizable film and TV titles. Big and Hitch at Fox, Uncle Buck at ABC, Marley & Me at NBC, Rush Hour at CBS and The Illusionist at The CW are just a few reboots the networks hope will cut through the clutter. "In a risk-averse environment, for any of these networks, it's a proven commodity," says Amblin co-president Justin Falvey, who's behind Fox's Minority Report. Other execs see the recent remake wave as an alternative to packaging projects with talent attached, hoping the presold concept can be enough of a hook. Warns 20th Century Fox TV's president of creative affairs Jonathan Davis, "It's exciting to have a name, but you have to make sure there's a series in there."
2. A big multicam push
Multicamera shows are making their annual appearance, only this time insiders think the trend will carry through to series orders, particularly with so many pricey single-camera entries like Fox's The Mindy Project struggling in the ratings. "There are new writers interested in playing in that form — and they can be successful," says Universal TV executive vp Bela Bajaria. The trend has studios optimistic because multicam sitcoms can cost up to $1 million less per episode and have a history of generating big syndication money in a way that single-cam entries do not. Also hot on the half-hour front are family comedies and diverse families (thank you, ABC's Black-ish), more semi-autobiographical fare a la ABC's The Goldbergs and anything with a female point of view. Not on that list: romantic comedies, a genre that came and (quickly) went with the canceled Manhattan Love Story (ABC), Selfie (ABC) and A to Z (NBC).
See more Faces of Fall 2014
3. Drama writers go MIA
"This is the first time we've seen comedy wrap before drama, and that's largely a symptom of the lack of available writers," says ABC Studios executive vp Patrick Moran of his buying season. Indeed, with myriad hourlong entries across cable and streaming outlets, fewer proven writers are free to pitch. And given network TV's creative confines and lengthier seasons, fewer top talents want to develop for broadcast. Add to that the slim chance of scoring a second season, smaller back-ends and what can be low-level script fees. "[Broadcast has] far bigger budgets than cable, but they are constantly buying $150,000 scripts," bemoans a top agent, noting that those deals are similar to those of cable nets. "For the first time this year, we saw clients pitching at Amazon, FX, NBC and Fox simultaneously and going to cable or digital if the money was the same."
4. More doctors in the house
Insiders say there's a real appetite for fresh takes on the doctor genre (evidence: Jason Katims' Silicon Valley medical drama for CBS) as nets want to replicate how ABC's How to Get Away With Murder has provided a new twist on the legal hour. "People see Grey's Anatomy doing well but also see that it's long in the tooth — and they all see a potential space there," says Sony Pictures Television drama head Suzanne Patmore Gibbs. The steady success of Dick Wolf's Chicago Fire franchise has helped the procedural make a comeback, too. Also hot: the usual crop of cop and FBI shows, and a dependence on tried-and-true procedurals over heavily serialized soaps. "I don't see a lot of genre buys," adds Paradigm's literary co-head Debbee Klein, "Even The CW has a mandate to buy more grounded shows."
5. Big names, big demand
With top TV writers in short supply, proven multitaskers — and marketable names — like Howard Gordon (Homeland), Greg Berlanti (Arrow) and Bill Lawrence (Undateable) are in even higher demand. Gordon and Berlanti have set up four projects each (including a POTUS drama at Fox and a Supergirl entry at CBS, respectively), while Lawrence has five (including Rush Hour). Joining them on the network lists are a host of midrange feature writers eager to make a shift to TV as opportunities dwindle in today's tentpole-heavy film business. "There's comfort in original storytelling that doesn't exist in film," notes another agent, "and there's a creative paradigm shift where people are excited for TV."
Development Season's Overachievers
Aaron Kaplan (15 plus)
Peter Chernin & Katherine Pope's Chernin Television (10)
Will Gluck & Richie Schwartz's Olive Bridge Productions (9)
Eva Longoria's Unbelievable Entertainment (8)
Peter Traugott & Rachel Kaplan's TBD Productions (8)
Mark Gordon Co. (8)
Greg Garcia's Amigos de Garcia (7)
Jamie Tarses (7)
Amblin Television (6)
Max Winkler & Jake Johnson's Walcott (6)
Mandeville's David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman, Laurie Zaks (6)
Jerry Bruckheimer Television (6)
Bill Lawrence & Jeff Ingold's Doozer Productions (5)
Will Packer Productions (5)
Howard Gordon's Teakwood Lane (4)
Greg Berlanti* (4)
John Glenn (4)
Jason Winer's Small Dog Picture Co. (4)
John Wells Productions (4)
Intrigue's Tariq Jalil (4)
Shonda Rhimes & Betsy Beers' Shondaland (3)
Carol Mendelsohn (3)
Dan Fogelman (3)
Chris Morgan Productions (3)
Chris Miller and Phil Lord's Lord Miller (3)
Ruben Fleischer Productions (3)
Neal Moritz and Vivian Cannon's Original Film (3)
Julie Anne Robinson's Canny Lads Productions (3)
Neal Baer (3)
Pete Huyck and Alex Gregory (3)
Fake Empire (3)
Scott Silveri (3)
Working Title Television (3)
Justin Halpern & Patrick Schumacker (2)
Sources: THR and agency research
* Behind CBS' Supergirl, which with its series commitment, ranks as the season's biggest bet