Bruckheimer nets 4 pickups
It’s official: Jerry Bruckheimer is now the king of television.
By week’s end, the prolific producer — whose tube arm is headed by prexy Jonathan Littman — will have greenlights for three fall dramas and a midseason comedy, bringing the Warner Bros. TV-based company’s total tally to a whopping 10 series.
What’s more, the seven series the company will produce for CBS next season ties the record seven shows Aaron Spelling produced for ABC back in 1984, when the net was known as Aaron’s Broadcasting Co. As for overall output, no producer in recent TV memory has had as many shows on the broadcast nets as Bruckheimer.
“He deserves to have the record because he has done it with quality and by being a collaborator,” Viacom co-prexy and CBS supremo Leslie Moonves told Daily Variety via email late Tuesday, just hours before he introduced the producer’s latest effort for the Eye, the tentatively titled “American Crime.”
“He takes over the mantle of another great producer in Aaron. I don’t think anyone will ever equal this record.”
Bruckheimer, long a force in features, isn’t the type to get overly excited about the success he and Littman are having on the small screen.
“It’s hard getting a pilot made and then picked up,” Bruckheimer said. “Now we have to figure out how to turn them into big successes.”
Bruckheimer’s company is actually more diversified than Spelling’s, which spent 18 years during the 1970s and ’80s under an exclusive pact with ABC.
In addition to its lucky seven CBS skeins, Bruckheimer TV is producing NBC’s big drama gun of the fall (“E-Ring”) and one of the WB’s most buzzworthy dramas (“Just Legal”). Frog also has ordered Bruckheimer’s first network comedy series (“Modern Men”) for midseason.
All of the company’s other scripted shows are headed for syndication: the three editions of “CSI” as well as “Without a Trace” and “Cold Case.” Emmy-winning reality skein “The Amazing Race,” from Bert van Munster (along with CBS Prods. and Touchstone), is coming off its highest-rated season yet and is now an unqualified hit.
Littman has been quietly working to focus his development to ensure the maximum pilot-to-series ratio for the company. And he succeeded: An almost unheard-of four out of five Bruckheimer pilots got greenlights this week.
“I’m always surprised,” Littman said. “It’s an extremely competitive environment, so we’re incredibly fortunate.”
Littman and Bruckheimer said the company will add one or two more production execs to handle the workload. Both men also cited the work of the company’s showrunners as key to their success.
“They’re passionate beyond belief about their shows,” Littman said. “It’s more work and a lot less sleep, but it’s doable (because) we have amazing showrunners.”
Breaking into comedy was a big priority for Bruckheimer and Littman, and the midseason order for “Men” means the company is finally on the map in a format that’s extremely lucrative (in success).
Littman said the formula for a hit crime drama and a successful sitcom isn’t that different.
“The thing we value most is great characters and great stories. That goes for comedy as well,” he said. “We always focus first on the world and the characters populating that world. We don’t see a big split (between genres).”
As successful as Bruckheimer has been, he has a long way to go before he matches the nearly 200 TV production credits to Spelling’s name.
Meanwhile, other feature producers — as well as some TV vets — are having good years as well.
Barry Josephson (“Hide and Seek”) is an exec producer on two new Fox series: “Bones” and “Head Cases,” both of which come from 20th Century Fox.
“Will & Grace” creators David Kohan and Max Mutchnick are also back big-time: They landed the buzzworthy laffer “Twins” on the WB’s Friday laffer lineup and scored a midseason pickup from NBC for the sitcom “Four Kings.”
Also, scribe Marco Pennette is celebrating this week: His ABC comedy “Crumbs” and NBC drama “Inconceivable,” both produced with Touchstone and feature force Tollin-Robbins, landed series orders.
Two upstarts having good years are Lorne Michaels’ Broadway Video, which seriously got into the pilot business this year, and former Warner Bros. TV exec Steve Pearlman’s Class IV Prods.
Broadway Video, set up at NBC Universal TV Studios, landed midseason pickups for the laffers “Sons & Daughters” (ABC) and “Thick and Thin” (NBC). Class IV has the dramas “Related” at the WB and “Reunion” at Fox.
(Michael Schneider contributed to this report).