UPN pilots Levinson solo

Rysher drops shows as it's shopped by Cox

UPN is moving forward with development of its new drama from Tom Fontana and Barry Levinson (“Homicide”), but it’s unlikely that Rysher Entertainment will still be involved.

Fontana and Levinson have an exclusive deal with Rysher, but the company has been on the block for more than a year and isn’t expected to take on any new projects for the time being.

In addition to the UPN Fontana-Levinson drama, Rysher has already passed off a 22-episode Showtime order for a show called “Hardwood.”

Sony, Paramount, Canada’s CanWest and David Salzman have all taken a look at Rysher, but parent company Cox Enterprises’ asking price of $400 million is considered steep. An announcement on Rysher’s future is expected by next month. Even if Cox decides to hang onto the company, Rysher won’t likely develop many expensive new projects, insiders say.

Rysher is plugging away on the syndie side with a weekly actioner in the works starring Tia Carrere for next fall. And Rysher’s rookie “Judge Mills Lane” courtshow strip already has been renewed for a second year.

As far as the UPN drama is concerned, the netlet couldn’t find a new studio to produce the initial high-budget six-episode order of Fontana-Levinson’s ensemble drama, whose pilot was entitled “The True Story.”

So UPN has agreed to fund the first six scripts and a pilot presentation. After seeing the pilot in mid-February, the netlet will either order a full 13 episodes for fall or pull the plug, and several studios have expressed interest in producing the show if 13 episodes are greenlit. The drama is about a cop and his sister, a surgical intern, whose father is in prison for killing their mother.

(Cynthia Littleton contributed to this report.)

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