Trio forming production company at Sony
In what will likely end up as one of the biggest TV pairings of the year, “Arrested Development” creator Mitch Hurwitz is joining forces with “Two and a Half Men” exec producers Eric and Kim Tannenbaum to form a production company based at Sony Pictures Television.Pact, which runs for three years, is said to be worth more than $3 million per year, though none of the parties involved would comment on terms. Tannenbaums have been based at Warner Bros. TV for the past five years, but they’ll leave the company when their deal expires in June. Hurwitz is currently working with Sony and scribe Richard Day on comedy pilot “The Thick of It.” Combo of the Emmy-winning Hurwitz and the Tannenbaums brings together the writer of one of the most critically hailed laffers of the last decade (Hurwitz) with the nonwriting producers of TV’s No. 1 comedy (the Tannenbaums). Deal is a major coup for Sony and its programming and production co-prexies, Jamie Erlicht and Zack Van Amburg. Company now has a powerhouse production pod well suited to produce projects for both broadcast and cable. Studio has been a major cable player and, in the past year, returned with a vengeance to the network scene. Already this development season, Sony has landed a half-dozen pilots at the major nets. Deal also marks the second departure of tentpole talent from the Warners lot in as many weeks. “Without a Trace” scribe Hank Steinberg is ankling the studio for NBC Universal. It’s believed both departures have been driven by financial reasons rather than creative concerns, with WBTV keeping a close check on its wallet. Tannenbaums and Hurwitz have been friends since the days of Michael Ovitz’s Artists Television Group, which Eric Tannenbaum ran. Hurwitz, along with Carol Leifer, created ATG-produced Ellen DeGeneres laffer “The Ellen Show.” Ever since ATG folded, Hurwitz and the Tannenbaums have talked on and off about teaming. Idea was to create a company not unlike Hurwitz’s old home at Witt-Thomas-Harris, which also combined nonwriting exec producers with a writer. “The salient aspect of that company was that they really knew how to protect writers and get their best work out of them, and yet they were also very astute businessmen,” Hurwitz said, explaining that his goal is “to develop a lot of projects and to help guide and enhance other writers’ vision.” Eric Tannenbaum said the “dream scenario” has been to re-create the Witt-Thomas-Harris environment, which he thinks will be possible under the new deal at Sony. “They made the promise to us that they’ll help us build the company according to the vision we have,” he said. “They understand what we want to do.” Both men credited CAA’s Adam Berkowitz for bringing them together — first at ATG, and now with the deal at Sony. Hurwitz and the Tannenbaums talked to other studios but said they ultimately settled on Sony, in part because of the studio’s status as an indie. Eric Tannenbaum also has a long history with the studio, having run it during the 1990s, when it was Columbia TriStar TV. Kim Tannenbaum, his wife, worked in the studio’s comedy development division as senior VP. During that time, he worked particularly closely with Erlicht, who followed the Tannenbaums to ATG. “It took too long for us to work together again,” Erlicht said, adding that Sony “offers them the benefits of independence in that we can bring the right show to the right network.” Van Amburg added the deal will be “a cornerstone for our commitment to comedy. We were gonna stop at nothing to get them here.” New collaboration doesn’t yet have a name. “Unfortunately, every combination of our names — Hurnenwell, Tasswitz — they all sound like concentration camps,” Hurwitz said. “We feel that’s a bad vibe for comedy.” As for leaving Warner Bros., Tannenbaum said it was “hard to walk away” from the studio and topper Peter Roth. “There were just a lot of reasons it made sense at Sony,” he said. Deal was packaged by CAA. Hurwitz is also repped by Jim Jackoway, while the Tannenbaums are repped by Ernie Del.