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CBS is adding two famed attorneys to its roster.
Matlock, one of television’s most iconic crime dramas, is getting a new life at CBS. The Paramount Global-backed broadcast network has handed out a pilot order for a new take on the former defense attorney formerly played by Andy Griffith. Kathy Bates will take on the role of Madeline Matlock.
Additionally, The Good Wife/The Good Fight creators Robert and Michelle King are returning to CBS with the third series in the franchise, Elsbeth, with star Carrie Preston set to reprise her role in the drama that has also received a pilot order at the broadcast network. These are the first two drama pilot orders for CBS and are being eyed for the 2023-24 broadcast season.
Additionally, CBS is looking toward the 2024-25 broadcast season with dramas The Pact (which stems from its overall deal with the NAACP) and Sherlock Holmes entry Watson. Writers rooms for the pair are being opened as CBS eyes a potential script-to-series order for both as part of its increased focus on year-round development.
Matlock, a reboot of the former NBC and ABC procedural, hails from Jane the Virgin creator Jennie Snyder Urman via her overall deal with CBS Studios. Here’s the formal logline: “After achieving success in her younger years, the brilliant septuagenarian Madeline Matlock (Bates) rejoins the work force at a prestigious law firm where she uses her unassuming demeanor and wily tactics to win cases and expose corruption from within.” It’s inspired by classic television series of the same name. Urman, Joanna Klein and Eric Christian Olsen (NCIS: Los Angeles) exec produce alongside Bates.
The original Matlock, created by Dean Hargrove and starring Griffith, aired for nine seasons from 1986-95, first on NBC before moving to ABC for its final three. The drama, which remains popular in syndication, is owned by Viacom Productions. Rights to the series recently reverted to Paramount Global following the re-merger of CBS and Viacom. CBS, it’s worth noting, aired spinoff Jake and the Fatman for eight seasons from 1987-92. Diagnosis: Murder was also a spinoff of Jake and the Fatman that aired for eight seasons on CBS from 1991-2002 (including five made-for-TV movies).
Elsbeth, meanwhile, revolves around astute but unconventional attorney Elsbeth Tascioni (Preston) who, after her successful career in Chicago, utilizes her singular point of view to make unique observations and corner brilliant criminals alongside the NYPD. Robert and Michelle King are writing the script. Robert King will direct the pilot, with Liz Glotzer also set to exec produce. The drama hails from CBS Studios, where the Kings have been based for years with an overall deal.
Matlock and Elsbeth are the first pilot orders at CBS for new entertainment president Amy Reisenbach. The former head of current programming replaced Kelly Kahl atop the network last year. Her tenure at the network goes back to 2005, when she was a manager in the current programming department.
CBS is expected to order comedy pilots at a later date as the network looks to expand beyond its current slate of the previously renewed Young Sheldon, Ghosts, The Neighborhood and Bob Hearts Abishola. Sources say the network is taking a more cost-effective approach toward pilot season after picking up 10 comedies and dramas last year. In terms of the script-to-series approach, sources say Reisenbach is increasingly committed to year-round programming. CBS last season ordered Justin Hartley drama The Never Game and took its time to get the creative right before ultimately pushing the series to fall 2023. That process, paired with a potential writers strike, made opening writers rooms for The Pact and Watson more appealing, sources say.
The Pact is based on the book The Pact: Three Young Men Make a Promise and Fulfill a Dream by Dr. Sampson Davis, Dr. George Jenkins and Dr. Rameck Hunt, with Lisa Frazier Page. After a childhood pact leads three friends from inner-city Newark to become doctors, they reunite in their hometown to open a medical center to serve their community. Marcus Dalzine (How to Get Away With Murder) will write the script and exec produce alongside Sheila Ducksworth (With This Ring), Leon Russell and Derrick Johnson. The three doctors will also exec produce the CBS Studios drama. Ducksworth, the former Will Packer exec, was hired in October 2020 to oversee CBS’ overall deal with the NAACP.
Watson, meanwhile, is from Elementary showrunner Craig Sweeny and revolves around Dr. John Watson, who shortly after the death of his friend and partner Sherlock Holmes at the hands of Moriarty, resumes his medical career as the head of a clinic dedicated to treating rare genetic disorders, only to uncover a startling secret that puts him in the crosshairs of Moriarty once again. It’s inspired by the characters from Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes mysteries. Sweeny will pen the script and exec produce alongside Kapital Entertainment’s Aaron Kaplan and Dr. Sharon Moalem. The project hails from CBS Studios, where Kapital is based with a mini-studio.
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