Warner Bros. TV is pulling out its big guns, lining up network offers for new projects from “Friends” co-creator David Crane and “The West Wing” team of Aaron Sorkin and Thomas Schlamme.
Upping the stakes: Both projects were written on spec, allowing webs to read the pilot scripts before buying. As a result, it’s expected WBTV will get significant upfront commitments for both projects.
A bidding situation already exists for the Crane project, a half-hour comedic sudser dubbed “Class.” Crane wrote with Jeffrey Klarik (“Mad About You”). Ensembler is dense with dialogue and opens with a group of former third-grade classmates who suddenly find themselves reunited as adults.
Nets were pitched on the project just a few days ago, and it’s believed at least two webs have made series commitments to WBTV. Studio accepted blind bids from nets, and it’s expected one net will begin an exclusive period of negotiation with WBTV today.
Industry insiders figure CBS and NBC may be the most likely homes for “Class.” NBC was home to “Friends” for a decade, while CBS’ Leslie Moonves and Nina Tassler developed “Friends” when they were at WBTV in the 1990s.
In addition to being part of the team that exec produced “Friends,” ICM-repped Crane’s credits include “Dream On” and “Sunday Dinner.”
Sorkin is expected to personally deliver the script for his project to networks as early as Friday. A WBTV rep wouldn’t comment, but two industry insiders said it’s believed Sorkin is focusing his firepower on showbiz, with a behind-the-scenes show set at a “Saturday Night Live”-style skein.
Indeed, two years ago, Sorkin told Charlie Rose that was his plan.
“I hope it’s going to be what ‘Larry Sanders’ did with … talkshows. I would like to do that with latenight sketch comedy — with ‘Saturday Night Live’: in other words, behind the scenes at a network latenight sketch-comedy, edgy show.”
It’s too soon to say what will happen with Sorkin’s project, though given the scribe’s pedigree, it seems likely WBTV will be able to extract some serious coin for the rights, most likely a series penalty.
Sorkin hasn’t created a TV series since “The West Wing,” which he left after the show’s fourth season. It’s unclear how active Sorkin will remain with the new show beyond the pilot stage.
Both “The West Wing” and Sorkin’s previous skein, “Sports Night,” were critical smashes. Latter skein wasn’t a ratings monster, but “West Wing” has made millions for WBTV in syndication and DVD sales.
On the film front, Sorkin has several projects in the works and last month mounted a revival of his play “A Few Good Men” in London.
Sorkin’s new play, “The Farnsworth Invention,” will debut this winter at the Abbey Theater in Dublin. Endeavor-repped scribe’s currently adapting “Charlie Wilson’s War” for Playtone and Universal.