Fox, Imagine on 'FBI' case


After exploring the world of the CIA with "24," Fox and Imagine Television have teamed for a new drama about the FBI, which has received a series commitment from the network.

Tentatively titled "The FBI," the series is a pet project of Imagine Entertainment principal Brian Grazer, who personally pitched it to Fox Entertainment president Kevin Reilly. It is being done with the cooperation of the FBI, including permission to use the agency's name in the title.

"FBI" is the second drama project to receive a series commitment from Fox in the past week, joining "The Oaks," as broadcast networks continue their midsummer buying frenzy in anticipation of a potential writers strike (HR 8/6).

Penned by feature writer Chap Taylor ("Changing Lanes"), "FBI" reflects the changing model of law enforcement post-Sept. 11 and centers on an Iraq War vet who is appointed as the new head of the FBI's Critical Incidents Response Group -- a division involved in a range of cases, including kidnappings, hostage negotiations, hostage rescue and evidence collection.

"The FBI is one of those arenas that has been developed many times, but it hasn't been cracked in decades," Reilly said. "The hallmark of Imagine's brand has been taking pretty populous arenas and bringing them to life in a unique way, and we believe they will find a way to do that with the FBI."

"FBI" is the first TV series done with the agency's cooperation since the Efrem Zimbalist Jr.-starring drama "The F.B.I.," which ran on ABC from 1965-74.

The FBI, which has dramatically evolved since then, expanding into new areas such as terrorism and cyber crime, began looking for a primetime vehicle to reflect its new realities two years ago.

"We were looking to find someone that would do an FBI show based on real events, cases and characters that looked a little bit more like the real FBI than the shows that are on now, because reality is a lot more interesting than fiction," said John Miller, assistant director public affairs at the FBI and former ABC newsman.

There are several FBI-themed series on the air now, including CBS pair "Criminal Minds" and "Without a Trace" and Fox's "Bones."

The agency had been approached to get involved in TV projects before but always late in the development process.

"We sought to reverse-engineer the process -- to start with what the FBI really does as opposed to people coming up with an interesting television show and hammering us into it," Miller said.

He met with a number of producers until hitting it off with Grazer, who had been thinking about doing a series about public servants who put their lives on the line since producing the 1991 firefighter feature "Backdraft."

Unlike "24," "FBI" will not be serialized, Grazer said. "It will be strongly character driven, and the procedural part of it will be secondary to the characters," he said. "While '24' is heightened reality, this would be realistic series that would have the intensity and realism of a Ridley Scott movie."

Taylor, who toured the FBI facilities and poured through cases, is executive producing with Grazer and David Nevins. 20th Century Fox TV is producing.

Taylor and the FBI are repped by WMA.

In addition to "24," Imagine TV also is producing CBS' "Shark" and NBC's "Friday Night Lights." On the feature side, Imagine's next release is the Scott-directed "American Gangster."