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May 10, 2002  •  Post A Comment

ABC orders drama from Wolf, Universal for fall

In a major coup for recently installed ABC Entertainment President Susan Lyne, Dick Wolf, the acclaimed creator of NBC’s three “Law & Order” series, has joined series producer Universal Television in sealing a 13-episode order for a new version of the classic show “Dragnet.” Mr. Wolf is currently writing the pilot, to be filmed in Los Angeles, with ABC expected to premiere the “just-the-facts, ma’am” cop drama in the first quarter of 2003.

While not too far afield from Mr. Wolf’s past experience in producing linear law enforcement dramas in recent years, the noted producer sees his production of “Dragnet” as being “both a contemporary re-conceptualization and homage” to the classic Jack Webb-led radio and TV series (NBC, 1952-70).

“If you loved ‘Dragnet,’ you will love this show,” pledged Mr. Wolf, adding, “If you never saw ‘Dragnet,’ as is the case with most of the adults 18 to 34 demos, it will be our mandate to give you a great cop show. The essence of ‘Dragnet’ is what got me and a whole generation of [TV] writers to do hour-long police dramas, and it’s a franchise that I have the utmost respect for.”

Mr. Wolf envisions the new “Dragnet” continuing to be a “story-driven, workplace show,” but said it will not be “going home” with the lead characters Joe Friday and Frank Gannon, as once was the case with Mr. Webb’s and Harry Morgan’s characters in the show.

“In some ways, the DNA of ‘Dragnet’ is inextricably woven into ‘Law & Order,'” he said, referring to the linear- and narrative-driven storytelling common to both TV shows.

Mr. Wolf said he was of the mind that “Dragnet” would be a 10 p.m.-to-11 p.m. show on ABC’s schedules. Talent agency sources were also speculating that it could be inserted in the 10 p.m. Monday hour once “Monday Night Football” ends its run in December 2002. Universal Television and ABC officials declined to speculate on its scheduling.

Agency sources said they believe Universal and Wolf Films carry enough leverage to place “Dragnet” in a delayed, repurposed window on USA Network-despite ABC’s typical desire to negotiate multiplays on ABC Family Channel.

“It goes without saying that Dick Wolf is one of the most talented and successful writer/producers in television today,” Ms. Lyne said in a statement. “Dick’s ideas for a new ‘Dragnet’ excited us from the moment we heard them, and the opportunity to work with him has made this a very happy day at ABC.” Ms. Lyne said earlier that she first discussed with Mr. Wolf the idea of bringing “Dragnet” to ABC within days of being promoted to ABC’s top programming slot last February.

NBC light on pickups: With very few holes in its top-rated schedule, NBC is said by talent agency sources to be ordering as few as a half-dozen shows for its fall 2002 prime-time lineup. Among the comedies getting pickups are “Hidden Hills,” “In-Laws” and “Good Morning, Miami.” Dramas said to be ordered for fall are “American Dreams” and “Boomtown.” For midseason, NBC is said to have 13-episode commitments to “Mister Sterling” and “Kingpin.” Also said to be in contention for backup orders are the “Arthur” period drama and sitcoms “It’s Not About Me” and “Romeo Fire.”

ABC goes for 15 shows: ABC is said to be extending pickup orders to just over 15 shows for fall. According to talent sources, ABC is making comedy orders on “A Few Simples Rules,” the untitled Bonnie Hunt project, “Less Than Perfect,” the untitled Michael Jacobs project, “Regular Joe,” “The Johnny Chronicles” and “I Got You.” Dramas said to get fall orders are “That Was Then,” “Push, Nevada,” “Miracles,” “The Oath,” “Capitol City,” “Veritas” and “Astronauts.”

Koppel puts down FCC: “Nightline” host Ted Koppel took a swipe at the Federal Communications Commission on Friday, saying it has become “little more than an industry organization now. It hardly impresses its dictates on the industry very much these days.” The agency had far more sway over television network executives 20 or 30 years ago, he said during an appearance at George Washington University. Meanwhile, Koppel is bitter that an anonymous ABC executive said “Nightline” had lost its relevance and that Koppel no longer works hard enough. “What I didn’t like was the trashing of the broadcast,” Mr. Koppel said. “I just didn’t think that was right.”

E! out of ‘Soup’: Say goodbye to “Talk Soup,” the E! Entertainment series that summarized and satirized talk show tidbits for more than a decade.

With the talk show genre itself waning in daytime, the network is canceling the series that began in 1991 and has been a show-business launchpad for its hosts, from Greg Kinnear, who went on to an Oscar nomination for his acting in “As Good as It Gets,” to current host Aisha Tyler, who will appear in “The Santa Clause 2.” The show’s final episode will be taped May 10 and will run the following night.

Rodriguez will host L.A. Emmy Awards: Comedian Paul Rodriguez will return as host of the 54th annual Los Angeles Emmy Awards June 29. A one-hour highlight version of the show will air on KCBS-TV on a later date. The Los Angeles Emmy Awards recognize excellence in locally produced programming such as news, public affairs and children’s shows. Nominations will be announced May 30. The Governor’s Award will be presented to Los Angles Lakers broadcasting veteran Chick Hearn and news veteran Pete Noyes.

Bleidt takes financial expert post at WBZ-TV: Bonnie Bleidt will be the financial expert for CBS-owned WBZ-TV, Boston. She will report three times each morning from the Boston Stock Exchange on the morning newscast.

AMC beefing up its brand: American Movie Classics, which has been referring to itself as AMC for some months now, says it is “refreshing” its brand, adding more contemporary movie titles and creating and acquiring more original product.

AMC also is moving away from its “intermission” concept for ads to a straight eight-minutes-per-hour commercial load, which is what it has been selling to advertisers in pre-upfront presentations over the last few weeks. The channel also intends to launch a digital, commercial-free network, AMC Hollywood Classics, that will feature films from the 1930s through the 1950s. The new network should be for fourth quarter, according to a spokeswoman.

(c) Copyright 2002 by Crain Communications