Alphabet greenlights 'Eli Stone,' new primetime sudser
Setting up a pair of series at ABC — including a pilot co-written by Marc Guggenheim — “Everwood” creator Greg Berlanti has unveiled his first wave of development from new home base Touchstone TV.
Berlanti also has recruited Sony exec Melissa Berman to run production for his newly christened Berlanti Television production banner.
Alphabet has greenlit production on a pilot from Berlanti and Guggenheim’s spec script “Eli Stone,” a spiritual one-hour revolving around a lawyer who finds out he might be a prophet, and bought an untitled pitch for a primetime sudser from Craig Wright (“Brothers & Sisters”).
Berman, a former development VP for Sony, steps in for Berlanti’s former producing partner Mickey Liddell, who has ankled the company to pursue the feature biz full-time.
Berlanti said the split is amicable, and Liddell remains attached to exec produce Berlanti’s New Line feature “Bridge and Tunnel.” Earlier this year, pair jumped to Touchstone from Warner Bros. TV, where they last produced the critically acclaimed but short-lived “Jack & Bobby” (Daily Variety, March 1).
Berlanti and Berman became fast friends after working together on “Dawson’s Creek,” which Berlanti exec produced and Berman oversaw for Sony.
“Melissa was there for me when I first learned how to run a show and has been an unpaid partner ever since,” Berlanti said. As president of production, she’ll be scouting creator-driven one-hour and half-hour projects.
Berman said she made the jump to Berlanti’s shingle to become more involved in the creative process.
“I’m looking forward to working with writers one-on-one. We had a lot more volume at Sony, and here I can be much more intimate with all of the more creative aspects of the job,” Berman said.
As for “Eli Stone,” Berlanti reteamed with “Jack & Bobby” scribe Guggenheim to write the pilot, his first since “Jack & Bobby.” Both will exec produce.
Berlanti described the show as a “Field of Dreams”-type drama set in a law firm where a thirty-something attorney begins having larger-than-life visions that compel him to do out-of-the-ordinary things.
“There’s a real opportunity to talk about spirituality on TV in a way that’s both funny and heartfelt,” Berlanti said, comparing the tone of “Eli” to the mix of humor and pathos in “Everwood.” ABC has also made a script commitment to Berlanti TV’s pitch about a wealthy New York family and their embattled and overwhelmed attorney from Touchstone-based exec producer Wright.
Idea is a combo “Dynasty”-meets-“Six Feet Under,” according to Berlanti.
“Certainly in the 1980s, people loved to watch the opulence of wealthy families. Now we’re sort of more obsessed with the underbelly of it all, the cracks and facade,” Berlanti said.
Wright has written episodes of “Six Feet Under” and “Lost.”