Levinson, Fontana exit drama series over tone

Tom Fontana and Barry Levinson are exiting NBC drama series “The Philanthropist,” which is being prepped for a winter premiere.

NBC brass informed the producers of the decision to make a change late Monday afternoon. Two people familiar with the situation cited creative differences as the reason for the exit.

Specifically, it became increasingly clear over the last few weeks that while scribe Fontana was looking to inject “Philanthropist” with a more authentic feel — creating a show that was comfortable exploring social issues, for example — Peacock execs kept pushing for more escapism and a feeling of wish fulfillment.

Skein, which has echoes of “The Equalizer,” revolves around a rebel billionaire who uses his money and connections to help people in need.

It’s understood that both parties were growing frustrated with the situation. NBC and producer Universal Media Studios ultimately decided to make a change, leading to a departure that was described as amicable.

Fontana — known for critically loved skeins such as “St. Elsewhere” and “Homicide: Life on the Street” — had completed around six scripts.

Original Media’s Charlie Corwin (“The Squid and the Whale”), who first pitched the idea for the show to Fontana and Levinson, will remain with the series and continue guiding its development.

While Fontana had already penned multiple scripts, the project hasn’t yet been cast — even though NBC greenlit the Universal Media Studios project to series last September. Lack of key casting had led to speculation that the project was undergoing some creative turmoil.

It was not immediately clear whether Fontana’s scripts will be used or if the project will start from scratch. The search is on for a new writer to head up production.

Peacock execs and reps for Fontana declined comment.

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