FX getting a dramatic kick

Net picks up Bochco, Braugher skeins

FX has picked up the Steven Bochco war drama “Over There” and Andre Braugher starrer “Thief” to series.

Orders give FX five original dramas — more than any other ad-supported cable network. With a pair of adult-oriented laffers and doc-style skein from Morgan Spurlock on tap, FX is rapidly morphing into the HBO of basic cable.

“Over There,” created by Bochco and scribe Chris Gerolmo (“Citizen X”), revolves around a group of American soldiers stationed in Iraq (Daily Variety, Nov. 2). Gerolmo wrote and directed the pilot episode of the project produced by Steven Bochco Productions in association with Twentieth Century Fox Television.

Long-gestating project “Thief” stars Braugher as the head of a high-end robbery crew about to embark on a landmark heist. All the while, the Chinese mafia and a relentless cop look to take down the band of thieves, whose leader is going through his personal problems with his teenage stepdaughter. Pilot was ordered before Landgraf joined FX (Daily Variety, Oct. 29, 2003), but only moved forward after Braugher came onboard.

“The Shield,” “Nip/Tuck,” and “Rescue Me” are already challenging HBO offerings in terms of critical acclaim and boundary-pushing content. Just last year, cabler scored a series Golden Globe for “Nip/Tuck” as well as lead actor nods for Michael Chiklis, Denis Leary and Julian McMahon.

Comedy bows

But this summer will be the cabler’s real test: In addition to the July premiere of “Over There,” FX in June is launching its first comedy block with “Starved,” from Eric Schaeffer, and “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” from tyro scribe Rob McElhenney (Daily Variety, Feb. 18). Also slated for the summer months are Spurlock’s “30 Days,” a reality series that spins off on his Sundance doc “Super Size Me,” as well as new seasons of “Nip/Tuck” and “Rescue Me.”

“Thief” will debut early next year.

“We’ve certainly gotten some amazing support” from Fox Cable Networks Group chief Tony Vinciquerra and News Corp. prexy Peter Chernin, said FX entertainment topper John Landgraf. “We knew we had two really strong shows on our hands, but for us to get the go-ahead to pick up both dramas after we just ordered two comedies was both surprising and encouraging.”

Landgraf said to get the network in comedy and unscripted businesses, while continuing to advance drama, he knew he would have to be “financially disciplined.” Thus, “Over There” has received a 13-episode order, while “Thief” has a commitment for six. FX’s upcoming comedies will be produced inhouse with low budgets, and “30 Days” got a greenlight for just six episodes to start.

But Landgraf insisted that projects with smaller orders, including “Thief,” will not be treated as a limited or miniseries.

“We hope this will be the first season of many,” Landgraf said. “Subsequent seasons of ‘Thief’ will undoubtedly be 13-episode seasons.”

Production on “Over There” is slated to begin April in Southern California. Ensemble cast includes Josh Henderson, Luke MacFarlane, Erik Palladino, Keith Robinson, Sticky Fingaz, Lizette Carrion, Nicki Aycox and Sprague Grayden.

Paul McGuigan (“Gangsta No.1”) directed the pilot for “Thief,” penned by exec producer Norman Morrill and produced by Fox TV Studios, Regency TV and Gavin Polone’s Pariah Pictures. Polone also exec produces. Series will be shot in New Orleans beginning this fall.

Linda Hamilton, Yancy Arias, Malik Yoba, Mae Whitman, Will Yun Lee, Michael Rooker, Clifton Collins and Dina Meyer also star.

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