Striking out on his own after 16 years inside the “Law & Order” camp, scribe Rene Balcer has lined up two drama projects in development for fall 2007.
At NBC, Balcer has secured a put pilot commitment for a drama about a bipolar forensics psychiatrist, and over at Fox, he’s developing a pilot script with Cyrus Nowrasteh about New York police detectives stationed abroad.
Both projects are from NBC Universal TV Studio and Balcer’s the Mattawin Co. shingle.
Balcer helped create “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” where he served as exec producer-showrunner until departing at the end of last season (Daily Variety, June 2).
“It’s my first time developing unfettered by having to run a show at the same time,” Balcer said. “It’s a nice change.”
Balcer said he was looking to take advantage of his reputation as an expert in the world of procedurals and “move beyond that.”
“I’ve been tagged as one of the many ‘masters of procedurals,’ so that would be a jumping-off point for me,” he said.
The NBC drama is inspired by Dr. Park Dietz, a high-profile forensic psychiatrist known for his work in notorious cases such as the Jeffrey Dahmer investigation.
Balcer said the idea of turning Dietz’s work into a TV series idea has stuck with him ever since meeting the forensic psychiatrist, who has served as a consultant on both “Law & Order” and “Law & Order: Criminal Intent.” (Balcer notes the “Criminal Intent” character Detective Goren, played by Vincent D’Onofrio, is loosely based on Dietz).
“Forensic psychiatrists operate where mental health and the law intersect,” Balcer said. “This is a character-driven procedural — the fact that our hero is himself struggling with mental illness gives us an opportunity to confront one of society’s last taboos.”
As for the Fox project (which has a penalty attached), Balcer said the idea came from working with the NYPD and learning of a program developed by the force after 9/11, in which more than 70 detectives are sent to different cities around the globe.
Nowrasteh will write and exec produce with Balcer, while Jonathan Mostow will direct and also exec produce.
“Their initial purpose was to act as an early warning system against any kind of threats directed at New York City,” he said. “But the mandate has become to investigate many different kinds of crimes that have a New York connection.”
Balcer calls the project the “anti-’24.’ ”
“What’s interesting about these detectives is they don’t have the resources of the federal government — they’re not allowed to carry weapons, don’t have the power to execute search warrants or arrest people. It’s more like ‘The Amazing Race’ — you’re dumped in a foreign city to investigate crimes.”
Balcer, Nowrasteh and Mostow are repped by CAA.