'Kath' on NBC fast track

Six episodes and no pilot ordered

NBC is delivering on its promise to do more straight-to-series orders with a six-episode pickup for the comedy "Kath & Kim."

The project, based on the hit Australian series of the same name, focuses on the dysfunctional relationship between Kath (Molly Shannon), a cheerful, fortysomething divorcee, and her self-absorbed daughter, Kim (Selma Blair).

The Reveille/Universal Media Studios-produced "Kath" originally was picked up as a pilot last year but didn't get made because of difficulties casting the leads.

It was put on the fast track in June, when Reveille's Ben Silverman and Teri Weinberg joined NBC as co-chairman and executive vp, respectively, and commissioned a new script by Michelle Nader.

The script was greenlighted to pilot, with Shannon tapped to star and Paul Feig to direct.

But after securing Blair as the second lead two weeks ago, and with supporting roles still being cast, NBC opted to forgo the pilot stage and go straight to series.

The network's decision stems from the fact that "Kath" "is based on a great series we'd been looking to adapt for five to six years, (and) it has proven auspices and fantastic leads," Weinberg said. "It's also falling in line with our new strategy."

The move follows recent comments by NBC Universal president and CEO Jeff Zucker that NBC will shake up its development model, producing fewer pilots — five to six a year — and going straight to series whenever possible (HR 1/30).

The six-episode pickup of "Kath" "exemplifies how we are changing the pilot process by ordering shows that we believe in and greenlighting them straight to series," Silverman said.

NBC already picked up three drama projects straight to series before the strike: Tom Fontana's "The Philanthropist," the internationally produced anthology series "Fear Itself" and the action-adventure "Robinson Crusoe."

Weinberg said the list will grow. "We'll continue to evaluate (projects) on a case-by-case basis, but we are excited and committed to shifting from pilot-based development to a series model," she said.

Nader is executive producing "Kath" with original series creators and stars Gina Riley and Jane Turner as well as Rick McKenna. Feig also is executive producing.