Cochran to develop mini from Ambrose's 'World'

America Saga Prods., the privately funded production house set up to create patriotic projects, has made news on three fronts:

  • It has commissioned the pilot of “Station House,” an hourlong reality series dealing with the day-to-day lives of firefighters.

  • It has hired Robert Cochran, co-creator of the Fox series “24,” to develop a four-hour scripted miniseries based on “Nothing Like It in the World,” the bestselling book by Stephen Ambrose covering the building of the transcontinental railroad.

  • And it has signed Garry Hart, former president of Paramount TV, as a consultant to the ambitious slate of TV series and miniseries the company has on the drawing boards, as many as five four-hour minis a year.

“As we aggressively move forward on multiple projects,” said Nick Grillo, executive in charge of production at America Saga, Hart’s “involvement will prove invaluable.” During his 11-year stint as president of Paramount TV, Hart rode herd on 65 series, including “Frasier,” “NCIS,” “JAG,” “Star Trek: Enterprise” and “Wings.”

When Grillo and his partners, Michael Leighton and Jerry Offsay, unveiled America Saga on July 7, they said their first four-hour movie would be “The Line,” a melodrama about violence along the U.S.-Mexican border, starring Robert Duvall, who will also direct.

The pilot of “Station House” has begun production in Peoria, Ill., and Grand Rapids, Mich., under Barry Hennessy, whose credits include “The Amazing Race,” and CK Pictures. It’ll be in the tradition of the tough-men-doing-dangerous-jobs format (“Ice Road Truckers,” “Deadliest Catch”). Michael Shane Leighton, founder and president of CK Pictures, is the son of Leighton, who’s chairman of Sentinel America, the investment-company parent of America Saga.

The fast-track development of “Nothing Like It in the World” is a tribute to the staying power of Grillo and Cochran, who had the project in development at TNT back in January 2000. Grillo and his partner at the time, Rob Rehme, were co-exec producers, with Cochran as the adapter of the Ambrose book, which was about to be published.

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