Development underway for take on British show
Avalon TV is developing a U.S. take on the hit Britcom “Shane,” about a wisecracking cab driver, for CBS.Project is one of six set up by Avalon at the cable and broadcast nets this development season as the U.S. outpost of Avalon Management group looks to duplicate the success of its U.K. parent. Avalon TV opened up its U.S. office, under the direction of David Martin, a little over a year ago, signing a two-year first-look deal with Regency TV soon thereafter. Since then, the company has been charged with several missions, such as developing U.K. formats, developing projects with Avalon clients and creating original projects for U.S. auds. Avalon’s slate hit all of those targets this year, Martin said. “Developmentwise, we hedged our bets a little bit,” he said. “We’ve got one British format, others created by clients of ours and some independent projects. We’re developing more with talent that we don’t necessarily represent at Avalon.” Martin said he’s bullish on comedy; all six projects are in the half-hour arena. “Avalon’s brand is a more alternative comedy brand,” he said. “We’ve been incredibly successful in the U.K. in bringing that to the mainstream. Alternative voices are becoming a lot more contemporary. I hope when Avalon pitches you a show you know it will be a little different.” Take “Blue,” a workplace laffer set in a New York suicide hotline center. Avalon is partnering with Regency TV to develop the comedy at Fox. Brian Finkelstein created the project, based on his one-man show (which he showcased at the Comedy Festival in Aspen). “While the networks are looking for things that are different, why not set a show at a suicide hotline office?” Martin said. “Regency really embraced it.” Then there’s “Shane,” created by British comedy star Frank Skinner, who came up with a quirky show about a stubborn cabbie who winds up in wild adventures with his passengers. Skinner starred in the U.K. show and will exec produce the U.S. version, which exec producers Michael Shipley and Jim Bernstein (“American Dad”) are adapting for Yankee auds. Regency TV is also aboard. Also at the Eye, Avalon is developing the laffer “Mad, Bad & Dangerous” (along with CBS Paramount Network TV). Henry Cropps — a scribe with whom Martin first worked in Australia — came up with the concept, about a newly single father who winds up dating women just like his ex-wife. Avalon and CBS Paramount Network TV are also teaming on the Fox project “Honeymooned,” about two pals who wind up on a prepaid honeymoon after one of them is jilted. Brian Keith Etheridge (“Joe Schmo Show”) and Michael Glouberman (“Malcolm in the Middle”) are exec producing. Meanwhile, standup comic Lynne Koplitz is set to star in an untitled project that follows her character as she’s suddenly forced to serve as the legal guardian of her 8-year-old nephew. Robert Peacock (“Love, Inc.”) is exec producer. And over on cable, Avalon is working with Comedy Central on “Evil Genius,” starring Paul F. Tompkins (“Best Week Ever”). Tompkins will exec produce the laffer, which revolves around a supervillain who takes over the world — and realizes that it’s not easy ruling his kingdom. Avalon TV is also behind the upcoming ABC reality skein “Wake Up Call,” hosted by Greg Behrendt. Martin said he has benefited from Avalon’s management operations; he works closely with Julie James, who heads Avalon’s U.S. rep offices (launched in 1999) and handles both U.S. and U.K. clients. Avalon is the only major management firm with business both in the U.S. and the U.K. Avalon clients include Behrendt, Etheridge, Tompkins, Skinner and Finkelstein, as well as new “Daily Show” correspondent John Oliver. The firm also reps “Jerry Springer — The Opera,” which will hop across the Pond to Chicago in May. Avalon Group joint chairman Jon Thoday, who founded the company (which includes promotions, PR and film arms) in 1988, said he believes the walls are falling between U.S. and U.K. comedy production (citing “Borat” and “The Office”). “The world is a much smaller place,” he said. “Who would have thought the No. 1 movie in America would be from a British comedian?” Thoday said Avalon’s first U.S. goal is simple: Develop a hit network comedy. “We set out when David joined us to, above all, focus on scripted comedy,” he said. “As a company we’ve in the U.K. stuck with comedy through the ‘reality years.’ In the last year or so, new reality shows haven’t succeeded, and I expect a resurgence in comedy in the near future. There’s a huge hunger from the public.” Avalon’s U.K. TV operation produced 22 series this year.
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