Telefe shops series in U.S.

Barry Sonnenfeld to produce stateside 'Pretenders'

Riding the popularity wave of scripted foreign formats in the U.S., Argentine network Telefe is looking to make its foray into American television.

Telefe is shopping remake rights to several of its series to U.S. networks. One of them, "The Pretenders," has attracted the attention of Barry Sonnenfeld, who has come on board to shepherd the development of an American version.

"Pretenders," about a team of con artists solving ordinary people's problems, was one of Argentina's most popular weekly series during its two 13-episode seasons in 2002 and 2003. Telefe already has set up local versions of the drama in seven countries.

Unlike other Latin American markets that are dominated by telenovelas, Argentinean TV features a mix of the ubiquitous nightly soaps and more traditional weekly drama series, like "Pretenders."

"Telenovelas don't work anymore, and we're forced to produce new type of dramas," said Gonzalo Cilley, head of formats and international productions at Telefe.

He is in Los Angeles, meeting with network and studio executives. The portfolio of formats he is pitching doesn't include "Pretenders." It will be taken out after it is developed by Sonnenfeld, who came on board quickly after seeing tapes of the original series.

Telefe and Sonnenfeld are repped by WMA.