'Cloak,' 'Ripple' in development

Things have gotten dramatic at Kelsey Grammer’s Grammnet production shingle.

The company, led by Grammer and president Steve Stark, has made a concerted effort this year to get into the hourlong drama business. Grammnet has already made waves in the comedy world, producing skeins such as UPN’s hit laffer “Girlfriends.”

“I want to have my fingers in as many pies as I can get,” Grammer told Daily Variety. “I’m very happy about the sales we’ve been able to get in drama. We’re just storytellers at the end of the day, anyway.”

The production company, which is set up at Paramount Network TV (where Grammer’s “Frasier” is in its 11th season), has landed four projects at three networks, including drama scripts at ABC, NBC and the Sci Fi Channel.

“Both Kelsey and I like a lot of drama programming, so we set out to make it our goal this year,” Stark said. “We’ve seen why dramas have worked so well recently, and I think we have some that will work as well.”

Stark said he and Grammer were looking especially at drama projects that served as strong character vehicles.

“Even though each project is unique, they have one similarity: They all center around one single lead,” he said. “That’s what I grew up watching as a kid, shows with these great characters. And clearly character-based procedurals are working well at the networks.”

Projects include:

  • “The Interrogator,” a procedural crime drama that focuses more on the testimonial evidence in cases than the forensics side. Mark Israel will write and exec produce, along with Artie Mandelberg, Grammer and Stark for ABC.

    “Interrogator” revolves around a gritty female forensic psychologist/detective based in Atlanta who uses her skills as a “human lie detector” to help solve crimes.

    “Mark and Artie have spent a good year researching this field and have come up with a character and storylines that give us fresh and dynamic ways of telling dramatic stories through this character,” Stark said.

  • “Cloak,” a spy drama based on the real-life experiences of co-creator and writer Jon Ward (also at ABC).

    Project follows the work of a physicist-turned-spy with Bureau of Diplomatic Security, who must face off with various cunning rivals. Ward was a security engineering officer for the real-life bureau’s security technology countermeasures division.

    Grammnet paired Ward with scribe Carlos Coto, who will also exec produce (with Grammer and Stark). Stark calls the project a mix of “Spy vs. Spy” and “Catch Me if You Can.”

    “We met Jon a year ago, and were so intrigued by his life, his backstory and thought there was something there,” Stark said.

  • “The Ripple Effect,” a two-hour script commitment for the Sci Fi Channel.

    High-concept project, from writer Ken Johnson (who’ll exec produce with Grammer and Stark), takes a “Groundhog’s Day”-like look at the same day and how small choices completely alter the way that day plays out.

    The ensemble project, set in a small courthouse square in Pine Bluff, Ore., takes place on the same day with the same people — but with varied results.

    “Ken and I have been kicking around that idea for a couple of years,” Stark said. “But the networks were all too scared of the idea. (Sci Fi’s) Mark Stern and Tony Opticon saw what we were trying to do. We’re dealing with peeling away these character levels; it’s very multifaceted.”

  • Then there’s NBC’s untitled drama from Glenn Gordon Caron, inspired by real-life psychic medium Allison DuBois (Daily Variety, Oct. 21). Skein explores how an ordinary woman comes to balance her “gift” with being a wife and mother.

    “Casting her will be interesting, considering she’s a real person,” said Grammer, who said the project was one of his favorites.

Meanwhile, Stark said Grammnet was almost finished with its comedy development this season. Shingle has already landed four projects at a variety of nets, and expects to sell one or two more before it’s done for the year.

Whereas most actor shingles are little more than vanity labels, Grammer said he had designs from the beginning to turn UTA-repped Grammnet into a real player.

“Part of me is a workaholic,” he said. “And it’s just that I’m not dead yet. I want to continue to make a difference in the world that I love and a profession that I love, and hopefully reach some people and make them cry and laugh.”

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