'Joni' to ride comedy pilot on HBO wheels


HBO is "Driving Around With Joni."

The pay cable network has greenlighted a comedy pilot from "Will & Grace" alumna Jhoni Marchinko about an eccentric, successful 40-year-old widow.

The project, which Marchinko wrote and is executive producing, chronicles the life of a woman who spends her days driving around Los Angeles with her French bulldog, looking for meaning in her life after the sudden death of her husband.

"Joni" was developed at Warner Bros. TV, where Marchinko was under an overall deal until January, when her pact was among the dozens terminated by the TV studios in a sweeping force majeure action two months into the writers strike (HR 1/16).

WBTV will retain a piece of the show but will not be creatively involved.

The pickup of "Joni" comes on the heels of HBO's pilot order for David Milch's gritty cop drama "Last of the Ninth." The network also is developing with Darren Star and Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas "Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl," a comedy series about relationships and sexuality based on Tracy Quan's book.

Marchinko, repped by UTA and attorney Ken Richman, spent six years on "Will & Grace," rising to executive producer/co-showrunner. She shared a best series Emmy with the rest of the comedy series' producing team in 2000.

Marchinko herself is the owner of a French bulldog named Amber-Louise. The two, along with "Sex and the City" alumna Cindy Chupack and her dog, organized the Bring Your Dog Day on the writers strike's picket lines Dec. 6.