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James Hibberd



Inside Reilly’s Bidding War

August 5, 2007 9:00 PM

The news breaking right now that Kevin Reilly has made his first Fox deal for a new project with “The Shield” showrunner Shawn Ryan caps a frantic bidding war between a trio of networks.

The narrative plays out like the Hollywood fantasy of every television writer. Playwright David Schulner’s television experience includes a modest number of producer and writer credits for episodes of “Miss Match,” “Tell Me You Love Me” and “Desperate Housewives.” His darkly comic spec script titled “The Oaks” had a tricky-to-execute premise about three generations of people living in the same haunted house. The script, all agree, is “beautifully written.”

Schulner’s agents at UTA sent the script last Wednesday to key producers. By Monday, three networks wanted it.

ABC teamed with Chris Brancato and Bert Salke (“Boomtown”). CBS partnered with Curtis Hanson (“LA Confidential”). In the Fox camp, 20th Century Fox’s executive VP of drama Jennifer Nicholson-Salke championed the script to Ryan and director Michael Cuesta ("Six Feet Under”).

A bidding war ensued.

(Interesting point of order: Jennifer Nicholson-Salke and Bert Salke are married. The bidding war, sources say, “made things very awkward around the house last weekend.”)

ABC dropped out first, leaving the CBS and Fox teams to really get serious.

Kevin Reilly met with Schulner and explained he wanted to make “The Oaks” a keystone project at Fox. To prove it, he offered a series commitment based on the script alone—a highly unusual move, especially without a star attached.

Schulner was “astonished and humbled” by the attention from all parties. Though CBS offered to match Reilly’s offer, Schulner went with Fox. The network plans to shoot a pilot by Thanksgiving and start production in January for a midseason debut.

A perfectly happy ending … except for just one catch. Fox isn’t thrilled with the show’s title and are trying to come up with something better (Can see it now: “So You Think You Have a Ghost In Your House?”).

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Comments (2)

Daniel:

Three major networks all wanting this one show. Wonder why NBC didn't want in on this dark comedic series about a haunted house? Hopefully Reilly will be on a better foot at FOX. We all know how his programming was at NBC.

Dave L:

Good for ABC for knowing when to fold them good thing come to those who wait!!

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