NBCUniversal is going to make the most of the interest in Tiger King.
The company on Tuesday announced that its Joe Exotic drama starring Saturday Night Live‘s Kate McKinnon has been formally ordered to series and will air as a cross-platform venture on NBC, USA Network and streamer Peacock.
The limited series, which has been without a network since it was put in development at studio UCP in November, is the first taste of a strategy to come from Frances Berwick in her new role overseeing entertainment business and strategy for NBCUniversal following her Aug. 6 promotion. (Sources note the rollout plan was in the works under Mark Lazarus, TV and streaming chairman, before the restructuring.)
While a search is underway for an entertainment programmer to oversee scripted, alternative and other creative areas, Berwick’s new role sees her decide which content is picked up to series and for which platform. NBCUniversal has been experimenting with a multiple-network rollout for content with such shows as Cannonball (picked up for USA and also airing on NBC) and, before that, The Purge (airing on both USA and Syfy).
The Joe Exotic rollout is the first example of Berwick’s job to best optimize NBCUniversal’s portfolio and get the most eyeballs on programming in an increasingly cluttered landscape. A premiere date for the eight-episode drama has not yet been determined. Also unclear is just how the cross-platform rollout will work.
As for the limited series, Joe Exotic is based on the Wondery podcast of the same name. It is based on true events following Carole Baskin (McKinnon), a big-cat enthusiast, who learns that fellow exotic animal lover Joe “Exotic” Schreibvogel is breeding and using his big cats for profit, so she sets out to shut down his venture. But Carole has a checkered past of her own, and when the claws come out, Joe will stop at nothing to expose what he sees as her hypocrisy. The results prove dangerous. The role of Joe Exotic has not yet been cast. (Nicolas Cage will play the part in a different scripted series.)
Etan Frankel (Sorry for Your Loss, Shameless) will write the limited series via his overall deal with UCP, a division of Universal Studio Group. McKinnon will exec produce alongside Frankel, Wondery’s Hernan Lopez, Marshall Lewy and Aaron Hart.
For his part, Frankel most recently was attached to USA Network limited series Evel, starring Milo Ventimiglia. The series, which was poised to begin filming when the pandemic shut production down, was dropped after Ventimiglia’s commitment to NBC’s This Is Us and Frankel’s commitment to Joe Exotic made scheduling a problem.