Howard plans Imagine TV project with Fox

Net pays six-figure fee if 'Development' is abandoned

Ron Howard has dipped his toe back in the television waters, helping Imagine TV and 20th Century Fox TV land a put pilot with significant penalties at Fox.

Tentatively titled “Arrested Development,” the project — to be penned by Mitch Hurwitz (“The Ellen Show”) — follows the exploits of a well-off Orange County family who lose their fortune in the wake of an accounting scandal. Script will revolve around four siblings and their mom as they are forced to reinvent their lives.

Howard will exec produce in addition to Imagine partner Brian Grazer, Imagine TV prexy David Nevins and Hurwitz. Fox has agreed pay a high six-figure penalty if “Arrested Development” isn’t picked up as a series.

“If we get it right this is a really original show,” Nevins said. “Our motto is, we’re doing a family comedy, but not doing anything gentle or warm.”

First TV work in decade

“Arrested Development” reps Howard’s first major involvement with a TV series in more than a decade. While Imagine has produced a wide and varied slate of skeins in recent years, such as Fox’s “24” and ABC’s “Sports Night,” Howard generally defers to Grazer and the Imagine TV chief (first Tony Krantz, now Nevins) on small-screen matters.

Not only was Howard at all of the pitch meetings, but he’s come up with an idea to shoot the show with film on location like a single-camera show but with multiple cameras like a reality series.

“The intent by Ron, who spent half his life in multiple-camera comedy and half his life as a single-camera director, was to marry the best of both worlds,” Nevins said.

It’s still unclear, however, whether the Oscar-winning helmer (“A Beautiful Mind”) will direct “Arrested Development.”

NBC was interested

Meanwhile, Fox landed “Arrested Development” despite strong interest in the project from NBC. Peacock execs believed they had an inside track on the show and are said to be furious that Imagine ultimately decided to sell the show to Fox.

Insiders compared it to the ABC- Fox scuffle last year over the 20th pilot “Time Tunnel,” which went to Fox but ultimately wasn’t picked up.

“There’s no reason to take Imagine pitches anymore,” said an irate NBC exec.

But other insiders pointed out that NBC and Imagine have other potential deals outstanding and that the brouhaha probably won’t linger. Given the length of time it took for Imagine to close the deal with Fox, sources also argue that the studio took NBC’s bid seriously.

Ultimately, Nevins said Fox Entertainment prexy Gail Berman was eager to pick up the project.

Berman’s ‘passion’

“She connected in the room with all the small details and quirks of the characters,” he said. “It’s very clear she got the particular comedy of this project. That passion, combined with a very aggressive deal offer, was what won the day.”

CAA-repped Hurwitz, who grew up in Orange County, said he came up with the idea for “Arrested Development” after seeing how the real estate business went bust there.

“It’s based on people I know who have reunited with their families later in life,” Hurwitz said. “One of the central premises of this is a group of siblings who haven’t bonded until this loss in financial status.”

(Josef Adalian contributed to this report.)

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