Bender moves to tube groove

Producers busy with TV biz

Producers Lawrence Bender (“Kill Bill”) and Kevin Brown (“Roswell”) are stepping up their small-screen activities, setting up more than a half-dozen projects at various broadcast and cable nets.

Output comes during Bender-Brown Prods.’ first outing in several years as a fully indie shingle. Duo previously had a first-look deal at Warner Bros. TV.

It also comes as Bender — known for his collaborations with Quentin Tarantino — prepares to hit Sundance with Al Gore to screen their global-warming documentary “An Inconvenient Truth.”

High-profile Bender-Brown TV projects include the HBO comedy “Addicks,” from feature scribe Jason Dean Hall (“Easy”), and a scripted drama about a celeb-filled gym that’s set up at VH1.

On the broadcast side, producers have set up a half-hour at Fox and a pair of projects at UPN.

“We ended up selling seven projects, which is twice as many as when we had a studio,” Brown said.

Duo had no complaints with the execs at WBTV — just the opposite –but said they felt too constricted working by the broadcast-centric business model of most major studios.

“It’s great having a deal there, but at the same time, the studios don’t do business at all the cable networks,” Brown said. “If we had a project that didn’t work for broadcast, we didn’t always have a way to take it to cable.”

Bender said this year’s slate is “a little like my movies. We have a lot of different interests … in all different kinds of genres. We just decided to see how many kinds of things we (could) get involved with.”

As for specific development, the HBO-based “Addicks” comes from creators Hall and Peter Morgan (“Poison Ivy”). Hall — who’s writing Warner Bros.’ upcoming Rodney Bingenheimer biopic — is penning the half-hour comedy, while both men will produce with Bender and Brown.

Skein’s focus is a pair of recovering addicts: one an ex-drug dealer/gigolo, the other an heir to a fortune he can’t collect until he’s sober.

“It’s sort of a day-by-day, hour-by-hour look at two addicts trying to get through the day. We call it ‘Life Between Meetings,’ ” Brown said.

Bender-Brown’s VH1 project, dubbed “Pumped,” is a sort of modern “Shampoo” set at a celeb-filled, Crunch-style gym. Producers are in talks with John Kim (“Velvet”) to write the pilot script.

Also on the drama front, Bender-Brown is teamed with CBS Paramount Network Television and Hazy Mills Prods. for “Normal State,” a medical drama at UPN from scribe Joseph Doherty (“thirtysomething”). Sean Hayes and Todd Milliner are producing with Bender and Brown.

UPN also has ordered a script for Bender-Brown’s “Flirt,” a half-hour battle-of-the-sexes laffer about the only guy at a women’s magazine. Touchstone Television is producing the project, being written by Barry Wernick (“Boston Common”).

“In one form or another, we’ve been in business with (UPN) since 2001,” Brown said, noting the net picked up the third season of his sci-fi drama “Roswell.”

Another laffer in the works at Bender-Brown is “Friendly Skies,” which follows the twentysomething cabin crew of a low-budget airline. Oliver Dennis, a writer on the BBC American drama “Mile High,” is writing, with Fox TV Studios producing for Fox Broadcasting.

Other projects on Bender-Brown’s 2006 slate:

  • Feature scribe Eric Guggenheim (“Miracle”) is writing an untitled hour about young athletes living together in a Florida sports academy. It’s set up at ABC Family.

  • TNT is developing two-hour pic “The Beatles in America,” which tells the story of Sid Bernstein, the agent who booked the Beatles at Carnegie Hall before they were a U.S. phenom. Latest draft of the pic, which is based on Bernstein’s book, was penned by Craig Sabin. Early drafts were written by Larry Block, who remains a co-producer.

  • The comedy-tinged drama “Heroes Anonymous” remains in the works at Sci Fi, with Karl Schaefer (“Dead Zone”) now aboard as showrunner (Daily Variety, April 14). It’s based on the Bongo Comics property; NBC U Television is producing.

  • Internally, Bender-Brown is working on a single-camera half-hour dubbed “Video Village” that’s a cross between “High Fidelity” and “Clerks.” Steve Polyi is writing.

  • Company has optioned the rights to comicstrip “Tank McNamara” and is trying to develop a half-hour animated skein with partner Amuse Entertainment.

Bender-Brown’s TV credits include the CBS Rob Lowe drama “Dr. Vegas”; several telepics; and the four-hour Sci Fi longform “Earthsea,” which was the cabler’s highest-rated pic in 2004.

Company is producing the second season of its Speed Channel skein “Build or Bust,” which began life as a spec pilot that originated from Bender’s separate commercial/musicvideo company, A Band Apart.

Bender recently inked a two-pic deal with Nickelodeon Films to adapt “The Five Ancestors” (Daily Variety, Jan. 10).

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