×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

U TV stays committed to drama

Universal TV, MCA’s network production unit, started last fall as the season’s second-largest supplier behind Warner Bros. by investing heavily in the production of one-hour drama series.

Several of those new series are currently on the fence in terms of renewal, so the network will likely need a strong selling season to retain that status. The division has seven pilots currently in contention for the ’95 fall season at five different networks and program services.

Three long-running Universal series – “Murder, She Wrote,” “Coach” and “Law & Order” – already have been renewed for next season, with several others (among them “seaQuest DSV,” “Earth 2,” “Northern Exposure” and “Sliders”) awaiting word as the networks get ready to set their fall schedules.

Universal has remained committed to science-fiction-oriented dramas – including Amblin TV’s NBC hours “Earth 2” and “seaQuest,” and Fox’s “MANTIS” and “Sliders” – at a time when other studios fluctuated in their commitment to the one-hour form. The studio’s writer-producer roster includes the likes of drama maven Dick Wolf (who recently inked a new pact that extends until the year 2000), Barry Kemp, Michael Chernuchin, Tracy Torme and filmmakers John Landis and Sam Raimi.

In addition to its network development, the studio’s firstrun wing, MCA TV, continues to produce the firstrun hit “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys” and is planning a new companion show to go under its “Action Pack” banner, dropping “Vanishing Son.” Additional firstrun fare is in development, after MCA launched but was unable to maintain the strips “Last Call” and “Suzanne Somers” last season. MCA has also sought to push into the children’s arena with animated programs like “Back to the Future,” produced through Universal Cartoon Studios. A new version of “Casper” will premiere as a Saturday-morning series next year on the Fox Children’s Network, with another show based on the videogame concept “Earthworm Jim” in production for the WB Network’s Kids’ WB.

While Universal is producing fewer pilots than some of its competitors, officials have stressed that they don’t see development as a volume business and that they’ve walked away from deals that don’t make sense financially. The studio is also producing two direct-to-video movies based on the features “Darkman” and “Tremors” that will serve as backdoor pilots for potential series.

A breakdown of U TV’s, primetime pilots follows:

* “American Gothic” (CBS) – Gary Cole plays an evil sheriff who rules a small town in this bizarre drama. Sam Raimi, Robert Tapert will exec produce, with Shaun Cassidy as producer.

* “Jam Bay” (ABC) – From the producers of MTV’s “Real World,” Jon Murray and Mary Ellis-Bunim, this young ensemble drama focuses on workers at a hotel in Marina Del Rey.

* “Partners” (Fox) – Comedy about an architect who finds himself caught in a tug-of-war between his new wife and his best friend-business partner, Jeff Greenstein and Jeff Strauss (currently producers on “Friends”) are the exec producers.

* “People V.” (NBC) – Produced by NBC Prods., Universal will serve as distributor on this drama series, which would follow a single murder case from “soup to nuts” over the course of an entire season. Michael Chernuchin and Rene Balcer, producers on the studio’s “Law & Order,” exec produce.

* “A Perfect Life” (UPN) – Twenty-something ensemble comedy from “Coach” producer Sheldon Bull about a guy whose friends think he has the perfect life.

* “Pranks” (ABC) – A hidden-camera reality show that plans and executes pranks at the written request of viewers. Dane Cook will host, with Gabe Sachs as exec producer.

* “Swift Justice” (UPN) – Producer Dick Wolf is developing this single lead drama for midseason consideration. It would fulfill a series commitment at the fledgling service.

More Film

  • Robert Smith, Longtime Executive at DuArt

    Robert Smith, Longtime Executive at New York's DuArt Film Labs, Dies at 88

    Robert Smith, a longtime executive with New York’s DuArt Film Labs, died Jan. 11 in Montvale, N.J. He was 88. Smith spent some 62 years with DuArt, the film processing and post-production facility founded in 1922 in the penthouse of an automobile garage in Midtown. Smith rose to president of DuArt before retiring in 2015. [...]

  • Bird Box

    Los Angeles On-Location Feature Filming Surges 12.2% in 2018

    On-location feature filming in Greater Los Angeles expanded impressively in 2018, gaining 12.2% to 4,377 shooting days, according to FilmL.A. Production activity for feature films rose 15.5% to 1,078 shooting days during the fourth quarter, with 146 days coming from projects receiving California tax credits — including Netflix’s “Bird Box,” Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a [...]

  • 'Ghostbusters': First Look at Jason Reitman's

    Watch the First Teaser for Jason Reitman's 'Ghostbusters' Sequel

    If there’s something strange in your neighborhood, it’s time to watch a teaser for Jason Reitman’s “Ghostbusters” forthcoming film. Sony Pictures released a first look at the upcoming movie, a sequel to the 1984 classic. The footage shows a glimpse of the memorable station wagon Ecto-1. The studio announced on Tuesday that the wheels are [...]

  • Anne Hathaway

    Anne Hathaway to Star in Robert Zemeckis' 'The Witches' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Anne Hathaway has closed a deal to star as the Grand High Witch in Robert Zemeckis and Warner Bros.’ “The Witches” adaptation. Variety first reported that Hathaway was holding the offer for both that and “Sesame Street,” and at the time, scheduling for both films were holding up dealmaking. With those issues settled, Hathaway is [...]

  • Film Ratings Overhauled in the U.K.,

    Film Ratings Overhauled in the U.K. With Tougher Restrictions on Sexual Content

    The body that oversees film ratings in the U.K. is tightening its age restrictions and giving movies with certain types of sexual content older age ratings. The British Board of Film Classification said the changes were in response to public demand after a consultation that took in the views of over 10,000 people in the [...]

  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame

    'Hunchback of Notre Dame' Live-Action Reboot in the Works at Disney

    Disney is in early development on a live-action “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” movie, based on Disney’s animated film and Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel “Notre-Dame de Paris.” Playwright David Henry Hwang is attached to write the script, with Mandeville Films and Josh Gad set to produce. Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz will pen the music. [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content