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Jan 15, 2004  •  Post A Comment

ABC Picks Up David E. Kelley Pilot

ABC has picked up a pilot from David E. Kelley and Jason Katims for next season. The show, produced by 20th Century Fox Television, is a family drama about three 20-something sisters who work for their family-owned wedding-planning business and have to deal with their bitterly divorced parents. ABC bought the pilot based on the pitch alone. The show is still untitled.

ABC Examining New Approaches to Drama: While ABC has had success launching comedies in recent years, the network continues to struggle in launching dramas, with “Alias” being the only success in the past three years. ABC Entertainment President Susan Lyne and ABC Entertainment Television Group Chairman Lloyd Braun said at ABC’s portion of the Television Critics Association press tour in Los Angeles that they are searching for new approaches to develop and launch dramas on the network.

One midseason plan is to promote new drama series launches as short-order events in hopes of grabbing the audience’s increasingly short attention span.

New midseason drama “The D.A.” will get a four-episode tryout and freshman drama “Karen Sisco” will return for four consecutive weeks in a new time slot. ABC executives have not yet finalized their premiere dates and time slots. Midseason drama “Stephen King’s Kingdom Hospital” will premiere Wednesday, Feb. 25, and run for 13 consecutive weeks.

Ms. Lyne compared “Hospital’s” launch to the HBO model of launching shorter-order shows that feel like events and reality shows. “[Reality shows] don’t demand that you commit the rest of your life to them,” she said.

Mr. Braun and Ms. Lyne said they are also re-evaluating the types of drama pilots the network picks up to see whether they can find some unique dramas that are more compatible with the audience that shows up to watch their sitcoms. Mr. Braun lamented that the lawyer, cop and doctor dramas have a been there, done that feel to them so ABC is looking for other options.

Other news from ABC:

— Midseason sitcom “The Big House” premieres Friday, April 2, from 8:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.

— “NYPD Blue” will return to the schedule on Tuesday, Feb. 10, from 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. The fate of “Line of Fire,” which will have aired nine episodes in that time slot, is still up in the air.

— ABC bought the game show “Deal or No Deal” from Endemol with a spring air date likely. The show is a hit in the Netherlands, Argentina and Australia.

— ABC is producing an adaptation of Mitch Albom’s book “The Five People You Meet in Heaven.”

— David Spade has joined the cast of “8 Simple Rules” permanently. He plays Cate’s (Katey Sagal) nephew C.J.

— ABC will air a Motown special during May sweeps, to be hosted by Justin Timberlake and Lionel Richie. Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey will also host a variety special for the network. Ms. Lyne described the couple as “the Sonny and Cher for now.”

— ABC is in talks with Steven Bochco and David E. Kelley about bringing back “NYPD Blue” and “The Practice,” respectively, for next season. Mr. Braun declared he is “hopeful” about the shows returning.

Shriver’s Status at NBC Under Discussion: NBC News President Neal Shapiro and correspondent and “Dateline NBC” anchor Maria Shriver will resume conversations next week about Ms. Shriver’s status with NBC’s news division while her husband, Arnold Schwarzenegger, is governor of California.

Ms. Shriver took an unpaid leave of absence from NBC News during the gubernatorial campaign late last year. But after her return to work on “Dateline,” questions were raised as to whether Ms. Shriver should avoid covering stories about California and politics to prevent conflicts of interest. Also of concern are the heavier-than-expected demands associated with Ms. Shriver’s role as California’s first lady. While he was on the West Coast for NBC’s sessions with the Television Critics Association Mr. Shapiro spoke with Ms. Shriver about the situation.

A spokeswoman for NBC News said Mr. Shapiro and Ms. Shriver had a few minutes of “good conversation” before Mr. Shapiro was called away. The spokeswoman said the two agreed to talk again next week at a time still to be determined.

ABC Announces Three Drama Pilot Pickups: ABC announced that it has picked up three dramas: “Eyes,” from John McNamara, about a high-security tech firm; “43 Minutes” from Graham Yost, which follows a SWAT team through the last 43 minutes of a crisis each week in real time; and “111 Gramercy Street,” which is being redeveloped from last season, about three nannies and the families they work for in a luxury high rise.

With the TV season becoming a 52-week-a-year business, ABC said it has unscripted series plans for summer and may launch a scripted series or two, while also heavily repeating its comedies-which was a successful strategy last year. Now they plan to launch the fall season during the traditional premiere week. In contrast, NBC announced yesterday that its schedule will role out two to three weeks early, right after the Olympics end in August.

ABC faces a big challenge later this month when Fox’s “American Idol” premieres in Tuesday and Wednesday time slots that ABC has been winning so far this season.

Adelphia Completes the Assembly of a New Board of Directors: Adelphia Communications, the cable operator working its way out of federal bankruptcy protection, said Thursday it had completed assembling an all-new board of directors.

Former SEC commissioner Philip Lochner has been appointed the head of the corporate governance committee, and Anthony Kronman was elected lead director to the Greenwood Village, Colo.-based cable operator’s board. Mr. Kronman is dean of Yale Law School; he joined the Adelphia board in 2002.

Meanwhile, board members Dennis Coyle and Erland Kailborne, both of whom served on the board before the company filed for bankruptcy protection, followed through on their promise to step down once a new board was assembled.

The board now comprises E. Thayer Bigelow, Rod Cornelius, Mr. Kronman, Mr. Lochner, Susan Ness, Kenneth Wolfe and company Chairman and CEO William Schleyer.

‘Danza Show’ Adds Stations: “The Tony Danza Show” has added stations to its core ABC O&O group for distributor Buena Vista and has now cleared 45 percent of the country. Debuting in the fall, the series has now inked clearances with stations representing the ABC Owned Station Group, Gannett Broadcasting, Belo Broadcast Group, Cox Station Group, McGraw-Hill Broadcasting Group, Journal Broadcasting, Sinclair Broadcasting, Media General Broadcast Group, Emmis Communications, Quincy Broadcasting Co. and Post-Newsweek Stations.

Key stations on board with “The Tony Danza Show” include WABC-TV (New York), WPVI-TV (Philadelphia), KGO (San Francisco), WDIV-TV (Detroit), WTSP-TV (Tampa, Fla.), WPLG-TV (Miami), WFTV-TV (Orlando, Fla.), KGTV-TV (San Diego), WCNC-TV (Charlotte, N.C.), WTMJ-TV (Milwaukee), WSYX-TV (Columbus, Ohio) and WLOS-TV (Greenville, N.C.).

Kirch Sues Liberty, Deutsche Bank: Former German media mogul Leo Kirch filed a lawsuit today against Liberty Media and German investment bank Deutsche Bank, charging that the two companies orchestrated the downfall of Mr. Kirch’s media empire, KirchGroup.

The suit, filed in New York State Supreme Court, charges that Liberty and its chairman, John Malone, teamed with Deutsche Bank to thwart debt-laden KirchGroup’s proposed recovery plan, thus facilitating KirchGroup’s dismantling and clearing the way for Mr. Malone to easily extend Liberty’s reach into the German television market.

Mr. Kirch’s lawsuit comes a month after a German appeals court confirmed a lower court’s ruling that former Deutsche Bank CEO Rolf Breuer, who is also named in Mr. Kirch’s lawsuit, violated client confidentiality rules when he questioned KirchGroup’s credit worthiness on Bloomberg TV in 2002.

That interview and charges that Liberty and Deutsche Bank officials held secret meetings to plan the dismantling of KirchGroup are key elements of Mr. Kirch’s theory that Liberty and Deutsche Bank conspired to bring down his company.

A Liberty spokesman did not respond to a request
for comment, and a Deutsche Bank spokesman could not be reached Thursday afternoon.

Exec Shuffle at Granada: Paul Jackson and Stephen Davis have been appointed to top management positions at the newly formed U.S.-based production outfit Granada America, the company announced today. Mr. Jackson, currently director of international production at Granada, is appointed CEO; Mr. Davis, president and CEO of Carlton America, has been appointed president, Granada America.

Granada America combines Granada Entertainment USA, Granada USA New York and Carlton America. The company produced ABC’s “I’m a Celebrity-Get Me Out of Here!” and has completed production on a six-part reality series, “American Princess,” for NBC.

Tribune Stations Pick Up ‘Home Delivery’: The Tribune station group has made its first key first-run purchase for the season, picking up “Home Delivery” for fall 2004. Tribune Entertainment will team with Universal Domestic Television to produce the strip, a one-hour series the producers say will deliver “compelling personal stories that culminate in dramatic physical and emotional transformations.” The selection of the program fulfills an agreement between Tribune and Universal announced last year.

“By marrying successful elements of daytime talk with the enormously popular lifestyle format, we believe we have created a concept that will break through with viewers and give a new look to the stories that have traditionally worked well in daytime,” said UDT President Steve Rosenberg.

Tribune’s station group will serve as the primary launch platform for the series, which has been cleared on Tribune’s 26 stations, reaching nearly 40 percent of the United States. The company’s station group includes WPIX-TV in New York, KTLA-TV in Los Angeles and WGN-TV in Chicago and includes eight of the top 10 and 13 of the top 20 markets. Universal will handle station sales and Tribune Entertainment will sell national advertising time in the program, which will be sold on a cash-plus-barter basis.