Tartikoff show gets PBS order

Brandon Tartikoff has received a 13-episode script order from PBS to develop “Under New Management,” a topical sitcom set in a New Orleans bar.

The project is just one of several new series in development PBS announced at Wednesday’s Television Critics Assn. tour.

Other projects include “The People’s Plague: TB in America,””Who Plays God?” (a series that looks at medical ethics), and “Future Quest” (a science series to be hosted by Dr. Timothy Ferris).

In addition to the much-publicized 90-minute finale of Lorimar’s “I’ll Fly Away” on Oct. 11,PBS also touted several of its new fall franchises: “The Secret of Life,””The Nature of Sex,””Death: The Trip of a Lifetime” and “The Great Depression,” an eagerly anticipated seven-hour documentary from “Eyes on the Prize” creator Henry Hampton.

During remarks to the nation’s TV critics, PBS’ programming chief Jennifer Lawson quipped that with a slate featuring “Sex,””Death” and “Depression,” she felt more like Sally Jessy Raphael.

She stressed PBS’ role in broadcasting programs that reflect issues of interest to American society. To that end, she pointed out that this fall’s sked featured nonfiction programs about gangs and cultural friction on college campuses.

Lawson also expressed guarded optimism that the acquisition of “I’ll Fly Away” and the purchase of its $ 1.8 million opening installment would be an intermediary step toward PBS creating and producing its own serial dramas.

When asked by one critic whether the Tartikoff pilot would be “‘Frank’s Place’ meets ‘The McLaughlin Group,’ ” Lawson explained that “Under New Management” was pitched with the phrase “water-cooler television.” The sitcom is tentatively slated to be produced in New Orleans and feature local talent working for scale.

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