July is pilot season for SPT
EmptyFor Sony Pictures TV, July feels like January this year.
The studio has landed four pilot orders: one — which is still being negotiated — at Lifetime for a drama from "Lost" co-creator Jeffrey Lieber; one at CBS for a comedy from writer Mike Sikowitz; one at Spike TV for a two-hour backdoor pilot from producer Neal Moritz and writer John Herzfeld; and one at A&E for a drama from "Cane" creator Cynthia Cidre and producers Sarah Timberman and Carl Beverly.
This comes on the heels of SPT's rich put pilot deal with CBS last week for the Barry Sonnenfeld-directed medieval drama "The Kingdom" (HR 7/18).
"It's pilot season in July," said SPT co-president programming and production Zack Van Amburg, who runs the division with co-president Jamie Erlicht.
Sikowitz's "My Best Friend's Girl," which received a cast-contingent order, is a multicamera comedy about two best guy friends owning a bike shop together whose relationship becomes complicated when one starts dating the other's ex-wife.
The project took a long road to a pilot order.
"This is a story about a brilliant writer and a head of comedy who really believed in this project," Van Amburg said.
Sikowitz originally wrote the script a couple of years ago. It didn't go at the time, but SPT's head of comedy Glenn Adilman never gave up on it.
When another relationship-based multicamera comedy, the SPT-produced "Rules of Engagement," became an out-of-the-gate hit for CBS last midseason, Adilman sent the script to CBS, but with very few open half-hour slots on the schedule, the network took a pass.
Adilman tried again this summer, and this time, CBS picked it up.
"Now it was the right time and the right place," Van Amburg said. "It's a huge victory, and it's just validating."
In addition to "Girl," SPT is shopping another comedy project from Sikowitz, which is garnering interest from multiple networks. That project will be in second position to "Girl."
Sikowitz, who has a premium blind script deal with SPT, serves as executive producer/showrunner on the 13-episode order for the Fox/20th Century Fox TV midseason comedy "The Rules for Starting Over." When that wraps in the fall, he will focus on his projects at SPT.
Sikowitz is repped by ICM and attorney Michael Geldler.
Lifetime's "Practice," created and exec produced by Lieber, centers on a South Philly girl who becomes enmeshed, personally and professionally, with the affluent, Kennedyesque family members of one of the city's most prestigious law firms.
Lieber is repped by CAA, Mad House Entertainment and attorneys Peter Nelson and Bruce Gellman.
Spike TV's cast-contingent "SIS," which SPT is co-producing with Moritz's Original Films, centers on an elite, secretive police squad — SIS, or Special Investigation Squad — which stalks the worst of the worst on the gritty streets of Los Angeles, waiting to catch criminals in the act.
CAA-repped Herzfeld ("15 Minutes") is writing and directing the pilot and will executive produce. Moritz and Vivian Cannon will exec produce.
Spike TV vp development Bill McGoldrick said the project will appeal to the male-targeted network's audience.
"It's got a real action component to it and a real sort of guy appeal," he said. "The tone and attitude is perfect for us."
The details about when and where "SIS" would shoot are being worked out, McGoldrick said, adding that the backdoor pilot would likely air sometime next year.
The news follows the recent promising debut of Spike TV's eight-hour drama "The Kill Point." McGoldrick said execs are pleased with the premiere numbers and mulling a second-season pickup for the show.
"It might come back; we'll see how it goes," he said.
Spike TV last year launched its first original drama series, "Blade." McGoldrick said the network's goal is to continue developing scripted projects.
"A lot of people are asking if we are in the scripted business for the long run," McGoldrick said. "We really are serious about this. 'SIS' is (further) proof of that. We're in the game now."
For A&E, the cast-contingent order for "Fricke" marks the network's first pilot pickup since it re-entered the scripted drama business. Senior vp drama programming Tana Nugent Jamieson said she expects a "couple more" pilots to be greenlighted in the next week or so, with an eye toward launching the network's first original drama since 2002 in June.
"We've been developing for a year," she said. "Everything we're doing now, we're not rushing into it."
"Fricke" centers on a tough female detective who is sleeping with her boss, gets a big promotion and on her first case investigates a high-profile murder while trying to deal with the sexist and jealous team of old-school detectives who work for her.
While the project has a female lead, Nugent Jamieson believes it would appeal to males and females.
"She's a female in a man's world — she's walking both sides," Nugent Jamieson said. "We're looking for strong central characters that are likable and that the viewers are going to feel compelled to tune in to week in and week out."
The one-hour drama is being written by WMA-repped Cidre, who will executive produce alongside 25C Prods.' Timberman and Beverly.
In addition to the aforementioned projects, Sony is producing four more pilots: NBC's "The Watch," Fox's "Hackett," Comedy Central's "Held Up" and the Jenna Elfman starrer "Literary Superstars" for ABC.