'Order' man goes for laughs
“Law & Order” master Dick Wolf is getting into the comedy business, while former Fox TV Entertainment Group chairman Sandy Grushow has scored his first pilot as a producer.
Also landing a pilot Tuesday was Lorne Michaels’ Broadway Video TV Prods., while Sony rounded out the cast of its pilot “Uncommon Sense,” and the WB has found its “Supernatural” stars.
Dave Flebotte (“Will & Grace”) will write and exec produce the Wolf laffer, which has been greenlit by NBC. Jimmy Burrows is on board to direct the half-hour, a sitcom about an Italian family and its diner in Boston’s North End. Focus is on the family members and their diverse mix of customers, as yuppies begin to encroach on the neighborhood’s longtime residents.
Wolf and Nena Rodrigue, who heads Wolf Films development, willexec produce; NBC Universal TV Studios is also onboard.
Wolf has made developing a comedy one of his priorities since hiring Rodrigue (Daily Variety, Oct. 7, 2003).
Sees breakout potential
“Dave’s script has the potential to break out at NBC, which is in a four-comedy situation right now,” Wolf said.
The producer is especially bullish on the presence of Burrows, who remains the director most comedy pilot producers hope to snag.
“I got the call (from Burrows’ agent) Bob Broder and did a happy dance on my desk,” Wolf said. “I’ve known Jimmy for 15 years and never thought I’d get to work with him … Anything I can say right now would be eclipsed by his presence.”
Flebotte’s other credits include “Bernie Mac,” “The Geena Davis Show” and “Ellen.”
Grushow is exec producing “Don’t Ask,” a half-hour, single-camera laffer about a married father of two teenage sons who announces he’s gay and in love with his wife’s shrink. Action is seen through the eyes of the man’s 13-year-old son.
Nicky Silver wrote the pilot and will exec produce with Grushow and Paul Shapiro, who heads up development for 20th Century Fox TV-based Phase Two.
Like “Desperate Housewives” a year ago, “Don’t Ask” was greenlit by Fox off a spec script written by Silver on the urging of Grushow.
Silver developed another project with Phase Two last year that didn’t garner interest from the major webs. Grushow remained interested in being in business with Silver, however, and finally decided to run the gay dad idea by the scribe.
Taking a chance
“As I was discussing this idea with Nicky, I thought to myself, ‘I have very little credibility as a producer, and (Silver is) a guy who never had a pilot shot and whose last idea was rejected by the four major networks before we even got into the parking lot. Now we’re going to go in and pitch the gay dad series?’ My skin is not that thick.”
Grushow said he suggested to Silver that the scribe pen the script on spec.
Finished project was then sent out to multiple nets, and Grushow was encouraged when he heard back from NBC Entertainment prexy Kevin Reilly.
“I have great respect for his instincts, so I knew we were going down the right path,” Grushow said.
Fox ultimately stepped up, however, and offered a pilot commitment to the project — giving Grushow his first greenlight since actively getting into the production business last year.
“This was a team effort that took place outside of the (usual development) system. That’s what makes it all the more special,” he said, pointing to the efforts of Silver, Shapiro and Phase Two manager of development Jono Golding. “I never realized how deeply personal these scripts become when you’re on the other side of the business.”
Then there’s the Broadway Video pilot, written and exec produced by “The Simpsons” alums Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein.
The comedy will take both a single- and multicam approach to the world of a police precinct set in Times Square.
NBC Universal TV Studios will produce with Broadway Video; Michaels and JoAnn Alfano also will exec produce the project (described as a cross between “Barney Miller” and “Newsradio”).
In casting, joining “Uncommon Sense” are Alanna Ubach (“Meet the Fokkers”) as Ilana, best friend of Peri Gilpin’s character; and Reg Rogers (“Analyze That”) as Michael, buddy of series star Larry Miller.
“Seinfeld” alum Andy Ackerman is on board to direct the project, which Miller and Eileen Conn are writing.
NBC is helping finance the production of the pilot — with Sony, which is picking up most of the tab, maintaining rights to shop it elsewhere if the Peacock passes.
Ubach’s other credits include “Legally Blonde” and the MTV Nick Cannon pilot “Wild ‘n’ Out.”
“Supernatural,” meanwhile, stars Jared Padalecki (“Gilmore Girls”) and Jensen Ackles (“Smallville”) as brothers who encounter ghosts and creatures while on a California road trip.
Eric Kripke is exec producing with McG, Stephanie Savage, Peter Johnson and David Nutter (who is also directing).
Padalecki’s other credits include “House of Wax” and “Cry Wolf,” while Ackles was also in “Dark Angel” and “Days of Our Lives.”