WB wins ‘Space’ race

Net beats out 3 others for right to redo series

The WB has won the rights to the new “Lost in Space,” shelling out more than $2 million for the red-hot family drama.

At least three other webs made serious bids for the 20th Century Fox TV/Fox TV Studios project, which is being put together by scribe Doug Petrie (“Buffy the Vampire Slayer”), helmer John Woo and the Kevin Burns/Jon Jashni shingle Synthesis (Daily Variety, Sept. 24). Terence Chang and Suzanne Zizzi of Woo’s Lion Rock Prods. are also on board as exec producers.

In the end, however, the WB’s track record with both fantasy skeins and family-based hours — along with a healthy pilot production commitment — convinced the studios involved to set up “Lost” at the Frog.

“We think the WB is the perfect network to support a show like this,” said 20th Century Fox TV prexy Gary Newman.

Along with its $2 million-plus pilot commitment, weblet had to rework its business template with 20th in order to make the deal, agreeing to both a premium license fee of roughly $1.2 million per episode and a provision that ensures the studio will, in success, eventually snag a full-cost license fee for the series. Frog plans to offer the arrangement to other studios, though only for top-tier projects with extraordinary auspices.

“We needed to create a deal that was advantageous to both ourselves and 20th Century Fox TV,” said WB co-CEO Jordan Levin, who confirmed the new agreement but declined to discuss specifics.

Frog and 20th clashed three years ago over a renewal deal for “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” That history no doubt was one reason both sides wanted to make sure a solid financial framework was in place before they embarked on a costly new hourlong project.

‘Rewarding’ relationship

“With the exception of (the final season of) ‘Buffy,’ we’ve had a good and rewarding business relationship with 20th,” Levin said. ” ‘Reba’ has been the most recent example of shows that have been win-win for both sides.”

Indeed, Levin confirmed the WB is going forward with a full season of 20th’s “Angel,” which has done well in its new timeslot this season. Net had an option to cut back to 13 episodes if it wanted to do so.

As for “Lost,” Levin said the WB was the most logical home for the Endeavor-packaged project, which, like “Buffy,” will explore a larger theme (the modern family) against a fantastic backdrop (outer space). Petrie will write and exec produce, with Woo attached to direct via his Lion Rock Prods.

Lead-in opportunities

What’s more, “We had a relationship with Doug. He speaks our language as a writer,” Levin said. “There are also compelling lead-ins we have available with ‘Charmed’ and ‘Smallville.’ And we’ve been a network that’s proven the ability to program with both the family and fantasy genres and keep those shows on the air.”

Petrie confirmed his vision for “Lost in Space” is for a show that’s “not about hardware.”

“It’s not about laser blasters and starships and funky aliens, though there will be bags of all of those,” Petrie said. “That stuff is just the best window dressing, the way monsters provided a way for ‘Buffy’ to say high school is hell. The show is going to be more based on what’s going on with the typical American family rather than a sweeping space opera.”

Newman said Petrie, Woo, Burns and Jashni have “come up with a great contemporary take on this property that makes it accessible and a great coming-of-age story.”

Won’t play doctor

New “Lost” won’t feature a Dr. Smith character, though there will be a robot. Skein will be set in 2097.

Concurring with Newman, Burns said the WB “made a strong and convincing case that they knew best how to position and promote this property.”

“Doug’s vision for this show is so perfectly detailed and realized, it was important that we went to a network that really understood it,” he added.

Synthesis, formed by Burns and Jashni to bring new life to the creations of Irwin Allen, last revived “Lost” at NBC as a telepic; that project went away following the death of original “Space”-man Jonathan Harris.

Pod squad

Fox TV Studios topper David Grant said the “Lost” deal is an example of how FTVS’ pod strategy can work successfully.

“It’s important to pay attention to these hallmark Irwin Allen properties,” he said. Burns and Jashni are “experts on anything Irwin Allen. And the goal of Fox TV Studios is to provide a home for really talented people.”

In addition to running Synthesis, Burns heads nonfiction production shingle Prometheus Entertainment, while Jashni is prexy of Ashok Amritraj’s Hyde Park Entertainment.

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