Evel Knievel will not ride with USA Network.
Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that the NBCUniversal-owned basic cable network has abandoned plans for its Evel limited series starring This Is Us favorite Milo Ventimiglia. Studio Universal Content Productions will shop the drama, based on the life of the late 1970s-era daredevil, to cable and streaming services.
Picked up to series in September, USA had wrapped casting in December and, on the last day of prep on location in New Mexico, was forced to stop production March 13. That’s the day the novel coronavirus pandemic brought the TV and film industry — and much of the world as we know it — to a halt.
Sources say the cast, including Sarah Gadon, David Krumholtz and Michael Chernus, was released after production shut down. Should Evel find a new home, the hope is to bring the cast back to the project pending availability.
Etan Frankel (Shameless, Sorry for Your Loss) will pen the script and also executive produce the series. McG, Mary Viola and Steven Bello of Wonderland Sound and Vision, Alex Gartner, Charles Roven and Topher Rhys-Lawrence of Atlas Entertainment will also exec produce, alongside Ventimiglia and his DiVide Pictures partner Russ Cundiff.
USA Network executives were high on Evel, and planned to use the series as a tentpole of its new scripted programming strategy. The decision to drop the show was based on scheduling as leading man Ventimiglia planned to film it during his hiatus from NBC’s This Is Us. Production on the time-twisting family drama was expected to begin in August, pending safety protocols and state guidelines. Additionally, Frankel is rumored to be writing the Joe Exotic drama series starring Kate McKinnon as the Tiger King subject. With Frankel and Ventimiglia’s availability windows closing, USA Network opted instead to move on from the series. The hope now, sources say, is to film Evel in summer 2021.
USA Network, for its part, has seen its roster of scripted originals dwindle as it becomes harder to cut through a landscape of more than 500 scripted originals. The cabler, overseen by Chris McCumber, has the fifth season of Queen of the South due when the series can resume production and recently renewed anthology The Sinner for a fourth season. Drama Briarpatch, from EP Sam Esmail, remains on the bubble and a decision on the future of Bravo-turned-USA anthology Dirty John has not been made.
“USA is incredibly disappointed to have had to make this decision, as we were so excited about this project and working with Milo, Etan, and everyone involved,” the network said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter.