Fox revs up diverse slate of minis, telepix

A romantic comedy starring Tea Leoni, a sci-fi thriller co-exec produced by Kiefer Sutherland and a film about runaway parents highlight Fox West Pictures’ movie and miniseries slate next season on Fox Broadcasting Co.

Fox West president Rick Bieber announced the lineup of four original TV movies and three miniseries at Tuesday’s afternoon session of the Television Critics Assn. Tour.

Aside from the longform projects earmarked for next season on the Clearasil web’s Monday night movie franchise, Bieber also confirmed that director John Landis (“Trading Places,””An American Werewolf in London”) and partners Robert K. Weiss and Leslie Belzberg had signed an agreement to executive produce three made-for-TV movies with Fox West Pictures.

The four telefilms for next season include “Natural Selection,””August Fires, “”Missing Parents” and “The Contessa.” The latter stars Leoni, who turned heads on the ill-fated Fox series “Flying Blind” this past season. “Natural Selection” is a “Dead Ringers”-type sci-fi story about cloning. Sutherland and Chuck Weinstock are the executive producers, with production to begin in August.

“Missing Parents,” which also starts shooting in August, is a Christmas holiday-themed pic about two parents who run away from home. “Parents” is based on the Discovery Program’s short film of the same name by Marty Nicholson. “August Fires” is a suspense thriller about a young cop who teams with a hooker to find the men who killed his partner.

On the miniseries front, Bieber reiterated Fox’s commitment to two previously announced projects: the Francis Ford Coppola/Bruce Wagner sci-fi miniseries “White Dwarf” and “The Richard Pryor Story.”.

CBS announced with some fanfare last year that Coppola would be helming a “Playhouse 90”-type series for the Eye web, though that project has yet to materialize.

Bieber also further outlined Fox’s additional minis, “The Sonny & Cher Story, “”The Bonanno Family Saga” and “The Black Whip.”

Bieber stressed that in choosing material for “Fox Night at the Movies,” he didn’t want to follow the networks down the tired path of murder and disease-of-the-week films. In addition, Bieber said he hopes that unique product would help promote an identity for the Monday Night movie and solidify the night for Fox.

Fox West Pictures is the entity charged with producing original television movies for the Fox Broadcasting Co.

“The Sonny & Cher Story” is based on Sonny Bono’s autobiography “And the Beat Goes On.” Bono and Boris Malden will serve as executive producers for the MCA Television Entertainment project in association with Fox West Pictures Inc. For now, Cher will not be involved in the project that will surely invite comparison with the Tina Turner biopic “What’s Love Got to Do With It.”

“The Black Whip” is a sci-fier about teens who discover aliens in their town using a local amusement park as their conduit to the community. Frank Konigsberg and Larry Sanitsky are the exec producers in association with Gale Anne Hurd and Pacific Western Prods.

“The Bonanno Family Saga” tells the story of the rise of La Cosa Nostra from the perspective of the retired don of New York’s fifth-largest crime family. Bob Rehme, Mace Neufeld and Bill Bonanno — the son of former don Joe (Joey Bananas) Bonanno — will executive produce.

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