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The CW entered the pilot season fray late Wednesday, handing out pickups for four dramas — each based on intellectual property — that hope to earn a spot on the network’s 2019-2020 schedule.
Ordered to pilot are the Jane the Virgin spinoff (now called Jane the Novela); Riverdale spinoff Katy Keene; a reboot of Nancy Drew from the creators of The O.C.; and the long-gestating Lost Boys drama.
Those join Batwoman, the Greg Berlanti-produced Ruby Rose DC Comics drama that launched in December as part of the network’s annual Arrow-verse crossover. They bring The CW’s pilot orders for the 2019-2020 broadcast season to five, down sharply from last year’s high of nine. Additional pilot orders are expected to come for the network this season.
The Jane spinoff is described as a telenovela anthology in the tradition of the flagship series where each season is based on a different fictional novel “written by” Jane Villanueva (series star Gina Rodriguez, who tweeted her excitement about the pickup) and narrated by the author herself. The first installment will take place at a Napa Valley vineyard, where family secrets (and family members) don’t stay buried for long. The spinoff will be written by Jane scribe Valentina Garza, who will executive produce alongside Rodriguez and her I Can & I Will Productions’ vp development Emily Gipson, showrunner Jennie Snyder Urman, producer Propagate’s Ben Silverman and former CW exec Joanna Klein, Jorge Granier and Gary Pearl. The project hails from Jane producers CBS TV Studios and arrives as the critical-darling flagship will end its run this season. Brad Silberling, who directed multiple episodes of the flagship — including the pilot — is attached to exec produce and helm a pilot. Should The CW renew rookie Charmed, Urman would again have two series on the network.
Riverdale spinoff Katy Keene — Berlanti’s second pilot order of the season — hails from showrunner and Archie Comics chief creative officer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who will pen the script alongside Michael Grassi. The spinoff follows the lives and loves of four iconic Archie Comics characters — including titular fashion-legend-to-be Katy Keene — as they chase their twenty-something dreams in New York City. The musical dramedy chronicles the origins and struggles of four aspiring artists trying to make it on Broadway, on the runway and in the recording studio. Archie Comics character Katy Keene was a model, actress and singer first introduced in 1945 and created by Bill Woggon. The character was dubbed America’s Queen of Pin-Ups and Fashions. The project hails from Warner Bros. TV, where Berlanti is under a rich overall deal. He will exec produce alongside Berlanti Productions topper Sarah Schechter and Archie CEO Jon Goldwater. The drama will not be a planted episode of Riverdale.
All told, this could be the third series in the Riverdale franchise after Chilling Adventures of Sabrina became a breakout hit for Netflix after it was originally developed for The CW. Aguirre-Sacasa has long talked about bringing multiple series from the Archie world to television, with early buzz this season focused on a potential Josie and the Pussycats entry. “One of the nice things about me being a part of Archie Comics is having access to a library of 4,000-5,000 characters. Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Josie and the Pussycats … those are characters who can very easily support their own show,” he told The Hollywood Reporter ahead of Riverdale‘s 2017 debut.
The untitled Nancy Drew drama, meanwhile, is the latest take on the teenage detective. Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage will write and exec produce via their Fake Empire banner. Noga Landau (The Magicians) will pen the script alongside the O.C. duo. Lis Rowinski will co-exec produce. The project revolves around an 18-year-old Drew in the summer after her high school graduation. Rather than leaving her hometown for college, a family tragedy holds her back another year as she finds herself embroiled in a murder investigation while uncovering secrets that run deeper than she ever imagined. This is the latest take on the beloved Nancy Drew for producers CBS TV Studios, which has the rights to the original mystery books. It is the third Nancy Drew effort for the studio, which previously had Sarah Shahi-led Drew as a pilot a few years ago and a new script from those same writers — Tony Phelan and Joan Rater — set up at NBC last season. It expands Schwartz and Savage’s relationship with The CW, where they had the breakout hit Gossip Girl and currently have the sophomore reboot Dynasty. Should the Nancy Drew project move to series, it would be Schwartz and Savage’s third show on the air, joining Hulu’s take on Marvel’s Runaways.
Lost Boys, meanwhile, was previously developed as an anthology for the 2017-2018 broadcast season. Rather than picking it up to pilot, The CW opted to redevelop that project — as well as its Charmed take from Urman. Charmed went to series last season and now Lost Boys — from iZombie showrunner Rob Thomas — has a shot at becoming the latest reboot for the network. The new take, from Warner Bros. TV — who produced the original feature and where Thomas is under an overall deal — is no longer an anthology but instead closer to the original 1987 vampire movie that starred Kiefer Sutherland, Jason Patric, Jami Gertz, Corey Haim and Corey Feldman. The new take is set in Santa Carla and explores the secret underworld of vampires. After the sudden death of their father, two brothers move to Santa Carla with their mother, who hopes to start anew in the town where she grew up. But the brothers find themselves drawn deeper and deeper into the seductive world of Santa Carla’s eternally beautiful and youthful undead. Heather Mitchell (Still Star-Crossed, Scandal) will pen the script and exec produce alongside Thomas, his Spondoolie topper Dan Etheridge and Gulfstream’s Mike Karz and Bill Bindley. The pickup comes as Thomas’ CW favorite iZombie is set to end its run this season.
The decision to double down on IP arrives as networks and streamers alike are looking for proven hits with instant name recognition in a bid to appeal to diehard fans and reduce marketing costs while cutting through a cluttered landscape of nearly 500 scripted originals. In this case, all four pilots — five including Batwoman — are based on IP and hail from producers who are deeply valued by the network. As is customary, Wednesday’s orders are split evenly between CW parent companies Warner Bros. TV (Lost Boys, the Riverdale spinoff) and CBS TV Studios (Jane and the Nancy Drew effort).
The orders come as The CW will be parting ways with three of its long-running dramas — Jane, iZombie and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. The network has yet to renew any of its current scripted slate.
Keep up with the latest broadcast pilot season pickups, castings and series orders with The Hollywood Reporter‘s annual guide.
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William Jackson Harper
Friends: The Reunion