This article was corrected on Jan. 9, 2002.
Just in time for its 75th anniversary, NBC is readying a slew of nostalgia-laden movies and specs for this season and next.
Among the projects in the works under reality/telepic topper Jeff Gaspin are a remake of the Stephen King horror classic “Carrie” from MGM Television and a new two-hour movie update of sci-fi skein “Lost in Space” from Fox TV Pictures. Both will serve as backdoor pilots for potential new weekly series or pic franchises.
In addition, NBC is talking with Carsey-Werner-Mandabach about a primetime reunion spec for “The Cosby Show.” Clip-based spec would likely air in May, 10 years after the series left the air.
NBC previously announced plans for a scripted “L.A. Law” reunion pic to air in May.
Peacock programmers have also pacted with IMG Entertainment for the rights to “Battle of the Network Stars,” a 1970s format that pitted various small-screen celebs against one another in a series of wacky challenges. NBC has committed to several hourlong “Battle” specials, which will most likely feature mainly NBC stars.
While the recent success of retro-specs featuring Carol Burnett and Lucille Ball certainly indicate there’s a market for flashback and feel-good programming, Gaspin said NBC had already been moving toward instantly recognizable franchises as a means of getting back into the telepic biz.
Early last year, Peacock programmers said the net was getting out of the movie-of-the-week business due to low ratings and high costs. Now, Gaspin said, “we want to be in the movie-of-the-sweep business.
“We’re not going to do 30 movies a week,” he said. “You don’t have the advertising platforms or budgets to do that anymore. We want to come up with projects that are very easy to get the message out on, stuff that could sell fairly easily and quickly.”
While NBC has so far ordered only scripts on the “Carrie” and “Lost in Space” projects, Gaspin said both projects are likely to end up on the air.
“We’re developing projects with the expectation that we’ll produce them,” he said. “It’s up to the projects to fail.”
F/x pumped up
Scribe Bryan Fuller is attached to write the new “Carrie,” which will follow closely the plot of the original 1976 feature about a teenage girl with special powers. New pic, supervised by MGM TV topper Hank Cohen, will be set in the present and feature greatly enhanced special effects.
The story will also be tweaked to allow for either a weekly skein or a series of movies. “Not only do we get a good pop-culture movie that fits into our strategy, we also have the ability to take it further,” Gaspin said.
As for “Lost in Space,” NBC and producer Fox TV Pictures are planning to completely update the classic 1960s skein by stranding a new family in space. “We’re looking at some very clever ways to incorporate references to the original series to satisfy fans of that show,” Gaspin said.
As with “Carrie,” the new “Space” could end up as a weekly series if ratings warrant. Kevin Burns and John Jashni are exec producers of the pic; Shelia Mathews-Allen is a producer.
Gaspin said he and NBC Entertainment prexy Jeff Zucker are fans of resurrecting pop culture faves because they offer a chance to capture two different auds: viewers who enjoyed the original and a new generation to whom the concepts are fresher.
Applying VH1 strategy
It’s the same sort of strategy Gaspin used while at VH1 for the successful “Behind the Music” series: familiar yet new. NBC’s ultimate goal is to produce a handful of original movies each year, all of them easy to sell to a media-saturated audience.
“Just picking a story because it’s a good story doesn’t work if it takes a long time to explain (to viewers),” Gaspin said. “When you’re not on every week, you can’t do that.”
Gaspin said NBC will also still produce the occasional “event” movie — but only if it features a highly promotable concept. Net has expressed interest in a new take on the classic tuner “Hello Dolly,” though no deals are yet in place.