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Rocketman, prepare to meet “Piano Man.”
Following the success of artist-driven films about Elton John and Queen, MGM Television is turning to Billy Joel.
The studio is teaming with Universal Music Publishing Group to bring the New York singer-songwriter’s music to life as a scripted “arc-thology” called Scenes From an Italian Restaurant.
The show, which takes its title from Joel’s favorite song from his sizable catalog, will see each episode based on lyrics of his hits and populated by characters from his songs, including the Stranger, the Piano Man, Mamma Leone and Sgt. O’Leary. The tracks will be reimagined and rearranged by Joel’s music team — with his input — and take his tunes in new directions.
Kevin Fox (Law & Order: SVU) is creating the series, which will be shopped to networks, and will exec produce alongside Joel and his longtime producing partner, Steve Cohen (with whom he collaborated on Billy Joel: New York State of Mind). Universal Music Publishing Group’s Jody Gerson and Marc Cimino will associate produce the show, which represents the first time Joel’s entire body of work will be licensed for a series.
“Billy Joel is a beautiful storyteller, and it just so happens that his stories are accompanied alongside remarkable songs,” MGM TV president of development and production Steve Stark tells THR. “This series is going to focus less on Billy’s life and more on the stories inside his catalog of classic songs.”
While other songs have been the basis for TV series — see ABC’s failed pilot based on John Mayer’s “Heart of Life” — this is the first time that an artist’s entire catalog is the basis for one. Joel, 70, is the sixth best-selling artist in the world, with more than 84.5 million units sold.
This story first appeared in the Sept. 25 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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