Fox ready to go ‘Mental’

Medical drama to air this summer

Fox has picked up U.S. broadcast rights to “Mental,” a medical drama it will air this summer.

Show reps the first international co-production from Fox TV Studios, which has been working with foreign partners to produce international fare that can be tested abroad and then sold back in the U.S.

“Since we started with this model 18 months ago, we’ve gotten a lot of writers very interested in it,” said Fox TV Studios prexy Emiliano Calemzuk. “We go directly to 13 episodes, they get to tell their own vision, and there’s no interference, as there’s no U.S. network at the beginning. Writers and agents have been intrigued, and we’re been given a lot of great material.”

Fox TV Studios and Fox Intl. Channels shot 13 episodes of “Mental,” starring Chris Vance and Annabella Sciorra, in the fall at Fox TeleColombia in Bogota, Colombia.

Next up, Fox TV Studios plans to shop “Persons Unknown,” the Christopher McQuarrie-produced drama being shot in Mexico and co-financed by broadcaster Televisa.

FTVS is also behind the James Parriott series “Defying Gravity,” starring Ron Livingston. That project, co-produced by CTV, ProSieben and the BBC, is being shot in Vancouver.

Beyond those initial three series, Calemzuk said he’s meeting this week with a group of international broadcasters and showing them 20 more scripts that he has identified as potential co-productions.

“One of our goals has been to get original scripted programming on our air during the summer, and (Fox TV Studios) created a model that will allow us to do it,” Fox Entertainment chairman Peter Liguori said.

Calemzuk said he’d like to produce at least three more series this year with international partners but that “the market will determine how much financing power exists and what the strength of our creative is.”

“Mental” — from exec producers Deborah Joy LeVine (“Lois and Clark”) and Dan Levine (“The Division”) — was originally developed at TNT. When that cabler passed, Calemzuk struck a deal to co-produce the series with Fox Intl. Channels.

As a result, Calemzuk said his shingle was able to keep the costs low on “Mental.” The license fee for the show is about 50% less than that of a regular scripted drama, he said.

“We were able to put together an unusually attractive financial deal for everyone involved, something that all studios, networks and companies are considering in this unprecedented economic climate,” Calemzuk said.

“Mental” will air day-and-date on Fox Intl. Channels outlets in 35 countries and the U.S.

Show stars Vance as the director of mental health services at a Los Angeles hospital; Sciorra plays his conservative boss.

If the initial run is successful, Calemzuk said he’s already put a system in place to produce additional episodes of “Mental.” Fox is expected to announce the show’s summertime sked in the coming weeks.

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