WB greenlights 'Sweet Potato Queens'
Former NBC movies and minis chief Lindy DeKoven is moving into series production, setting up a trio of projects — including a half-hour laffer at CBS based on the writings of Washington Post scribe Tony Kornheiser.In addition, the WB Network has just greenlit “Sweet Potato Queens,” a half-hour laffer from scribe/exec producer Pamela Eells (“Mad About You”) on which DeKoven serves as a producer. She’s also reuniting with Robert Halmi and Hallmark Entertainment for “Juggernaut,” a sweeping sci-fi skein in development at UPN. During her seven-year tenure at the Peacock, DeKoven helped develop some of the highest-rated longform productions of the 1990s, including “Merlin,” “Gulliver’s Travels,” “The ’60s” and a slew of teen-oriented Monday night telepics featuring sudsers stars such as Tori Spelling. After taking some time off following her January 2000 departure from the Peacock, “I was looking for a new challenge,” DeKoven told Daily Variety. “I saw and read a ton of pilots when I was at NBC, and I decided to see if I can try and do that,” she said. “I’ve had some beginner’s luck.” Under her newly formed DeKoven Entertainment banner, the former telepic titan plans to produce scripted comedies and dramas, telepics, minis and feature films. “Sweet Potato Queens” is DeKoven’s first greenlit pilot and originated with DeKoven stumbling upon a Web site with info about Jill Connor Browne, the Southern belle scribe and self-proclaimed “Sweet Potato Queen.” Newsweek described Browne as “equal parts Erin Brockovich, Erma Bombeck and Dr. Ruth.” “It’s basically a multigenerational family sitcom based on the story of Jill,” DeKoven said. Femme-centric half-hour seems a natural fit with the Frog’s Friday laffer “Reba.” Browne and Kyle Jennings are also attached as producers on the pilot, which is being produced by Michigan J. Prods. in association with Eell’s Bon Mot, Inc. As for the Kornheiser project, Regency Television is producing the half-hour, which will be based on Kornheiser’s life as a sports columnist and father of teenagers. Jeff Martin (“The Simpsons,” “Maybe It’s Me”) is writing and will exec produce with DeKoven. “Tony’s been a dear friend of mine for a long time, and I had always wanted to do something with him,” DeKoven said. “Juggernaut” is based on an idea Halmi and DeKoven had when DeKoven was still at NBC. Skein will revolve around a group of warriors assembled by the United Nations to fight alien creatures invading Earth. Scott Nimerfro (“Tales From the Crypt,” “Special Unit 2″) is writing the pilot script, with Nick Willing (“Alice in Wonderland”) attached to direct and exec produce if the weblet picks up the project to series. DeKoven, who’s repped by Endeavor, said she hoped to work in a number of different formats via her new shingle. “It’s always been about the idea for me, not the genre,” she said.