Fox fuels Rocket

Reality prod'n house on launch pad

Fox has applied some Rocket Science to fuel its reality fare.

The network just signed a rich seven-figure deal with Rocket Science Laboratories — the production company behind megahits “Joe Millionaire” and “Temptation Island” — to develop new formats for the web.

Multiyear pact, which keeps Rocket Science exclusive to Fox, includes an episodic series commitment for a new primetime series and also gives the company a chance to dabble in the scripted arena.

Rocket Science, led by partners Jean-Michel Michenaud and Chris Cowan, has a long history at Fox, where the company is producing reality sequels “Joe Millionaire 2” and “Temptation Island 3.”

“I honestly believe they are among the top three most talented people working in this business right now,” said Fox alternative topper Mike Darnell. “Their talent, combined with my relationship with them, makes for stellar TV.”

The move to lock up Rocket Science was an unusual step by Darnell and his team, who have made few pacts with outside producers through the years.

“This is certainly the biggest deal this division has done with anybody,” Darnell said. “The overall deal business is something we really haven’t been in, so this is our first truly big commitment. They’re enormously talented, and we didn’t want them going anywhere else.”

Michenaud and Cowan, who are repped by ICM, launched Rocket Science in 1998 after buying out the TV interests of ZMC Prods., where the duo previously produced programs. Rocket Science also recently produced the series “Married by America” and the “Married … With Children” reunion special for Fox.

“We feel most comfortable with Fox. We just like the family that has been developed over there,” Cowan said. “Mike Darnell is a stalwart and the smartest guy in the business. And (Fox entertainment prexy) Gail Berman has been so helpful to everything we’ve been developing.”

Rocket Science consists of a core unit of between 14 and 20 staff members but consistently employs between 75 and 200, depending on how many projects the company has under way. Michenaud and Cowan said the company could comfortably run between two and three productions at a time.

Homegrown tastes

The Rocket Science execs said they haven’t yet determined which project to bring to Fox first. Company has traditionally eschewed foreign formats for homegrown concepts like “Temptation Island.”

“It’s always been our philosophy never to license somebody else’s idea,” Cowan said. “We want to take our American formats to the rest of the world.”

The producers are also mum on how soon they’ll jump into the comedy and drama arena. Rocket Science has dabbled with scripted fare in the past, however, having produced one-hour “mini-movies” for Fox, including “Getting Away With Murder: The Jon-Benet Ramsey Story,” “After Diff’rent Strokes: When the Laughter Stopped” and “Unauthorized: Brady Bunch, the Final Days.”

Rocket Science has also produced a wide variety of documentaries, including the Emmy-winning “Images of Life: Photographs That Changed the World” and “Assassinated: The Final Days of King & Kennedy.”

In the feature realm, Rocket Science produced the doc “Frank Capra’s American Dream.”

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