Brooks, cabler plot true-crime wave

Producer Stan Brooks and USA are going on a crime spree.

On the heels of big ratings for original movies about Laci Peterson and Heidi Fleiss, cabler has recommitted to crime-centered projects, enlisting Brooks (“Call Me: The Rise and Fall of Heidi Fleiss”) to exec produce four telepics in the genre.

USA has greenlit production on all four pics, which will begin shooting back-to-back in British Columbia at the end of May. Projects will be exec produced by Brooks and feature producer-scribe John Fasano (“Darkness Falls”). Pair last exec produced “The Legend of Butch and Sundance” for NBC.

First pic will bow in fourth quarter this year, with the rest to follow in 2005.

Long a prolific source of true-crime genre originals — all previously housed on “Crime Fridays” — USA scored with such recent ripped-from-the-headlines pics as “The Perfect Husband: The Laci Peterson Story,” which averaged 5.1 million viewers in February, and the Jamie-Lynn DiScala starrer “Call Me,” which premiered to 3.6 million last month.

Pics helped USA ascend to the top spot in total viewers for first quarter in basic cable.

“It’s a groove we feel comfortable with in our original programming,” said USA programming exec veep Jeff Wachtel. “People enjoy that dangerous journey where bad things happen to good people tied to the comfort of knowing that there are white knights out there to keep us safe.”

Exec said shooting the pics together will also keep budgets low, enabling the cabler to put even more originals on the air. “We need to be inventive and flexible in finding ways to put the most money on the screen. With this stepped-up commitment, we can get a little more volume as well,” he said.

Brooks has had some experience filming projects back-to-back, having done so with TNT’s “Dollar for the Dead” and CBS’ “Outlaw Justice” in 1998.

“It’s wildly ambitious, but in the new economics of the TV movie business, you gotta create new ways to do things,” he said.

Stories will be told from the perspective of officials but won’t always be traditional good vs. bad tales.

“We’re looking at kind of flawed law enforcement competing against three-dimensional villains,” Brooks said. “We’re also going after directors with strong character work rather than action credentials. We hope to create a new true crime genre in the way we did the behind-the-scenes TV movies that include ‘Three’s Company,’ ‘Charlie’s Angels’ and now ‘Dynasty.’ “

Projects include the following:

  • “Ladies Night” (working title) is the story of a father and two sons who went on a serial killing spree in the 1990s. Trio murdered lonely single women, most of whom worked in banks, after having convinced them to steal on their behalf. Marvin J. Wolf and Larry Mintz penned the project. Bonnie Raskin is also attached.

  • An untitled heist pic about the robbing of the New York’s Pierre Hotel, described as lighter in tone a la “Ocean’s Eleven,” will be written by Shelley Evans with Joel Rice also attached.

  • Another untitled project, set in Norco, Calif., in the 90s, revolves around a bank robbery that ignited one of the longest and most deadly car chases in American history. Robert B. Carney will pen the script.

  • “Murder at the Presidio” (working title) focuses on a Marine conspiring with his mother to kill his wife on a San Francisco military base. Fasano will helm the project, to be penned by Alison Graham, with Yvonne Chotzen and William Jenner attached.

ICM-repped Brooks is currently shooting “Dynasty,” a behind-the-scenes look at the popular ’80s sudser, for ABC. His credits include “On This Ice” for Lifetime and “Season on the Brink” ESPN.

Fasano most recently penned the NBC made-for “Saving Jessica Lynch.”

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