USA Net gets good look at ‘Monkeys’

U TV, Atlas pitching series version of thriller

NEW YORK — Universal TV and Atlas Entertainment are pitching the USA Network on a series version of the Bruce Willis/Brad Pitt sci-fi thriller “12 Monkeys.”

That’s the word from writer-producer Jeff Fazio, who would be involved in the production if it goes to series.

Fazio is also pitching Showtime on a weekly hourlong action series called “Smith & Lopez” from Scott Free Prods., the company owned by Ridley and Tony Scott, and Polygram TV.

“Smith & Lopez” is about two women wrongfully accused of a crime who have to live their lives as fugitives.

Polygram has an output deal giving Showtime exclusive pay TV rights to its theatrical movies. Fazio said that, as part of the deal, Showtime gave Polygram an open-ended commitment for 22 episodes of a series — and “Smith & Lopez” could be that series.

“I have a first-look deal to develop a slate of TV projects with Scott Free,” said Fazio, who is executive producer of “The Hunger,” the Scott Free series for Showtime that’s based on the theatrical movie directed by Tony Scott.

Fazio said Showtime has picked up “The Hunger” for a guaranteed 12 half-hour episodes on top of the 22 produced last season.

A Showtime spokesman said the parties are talking about a “Hunger” renewal, but the deal hasn’t closed.

Scott Free’s joint-venture partner on “Hunger” is the Montreal-based Telescene Communications.

Telescene plans to produce a full 22 half-hours even if Showtime doesn’t greenlight the final 10, Fazio said, because the distributor has guaranteed foreign broadcasters that they’ll get 22 episodes.

Sources said the budget of each half-hour is a strapping $720,000. Showtime puts up one-third of that amount in license fees, Telescene chimes in with a third (getting the money from advances on foreign sales of “The Hunger”) and — with Montreal serving as headquarters for the production — the final third comes from Canadian government subsidies.