Thesp Kevin Sorbo is saying good-bye to “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys” and hello to Gene Roddenberry’s brand of sci-fi/action TV.
Sorbo has inked a rich deal with Tribune Entertainment to star in a syndie skein developed by the late creator of “Star Trek” and now shepherded by his widow, Majel Barrett Roddenberry. Series is expected to bow in fall 2000.
Sorbo’s pact with Tribune signals the end of Studios USA’s “Hercules,” which will wrap a successful five-year syndie run in December, after Sorbo fulfills his contractual obligation to star in eight more segs (Daily Variety, April 16). The midseason timing of Sorbo’s departure from “Hercules” will force Studios USA to launch a replacement series in January.
Studios USA would not comment on its plans, but it’s understood that the distrib will test two half-hour series, both from “Hercules” creators Rob Tapert and Sam Raimi, in the hourlong “Hercules” timeslot for the remainder of the 1999-2000 season. The concepts are still being developed, but they’re likely to be in the same reality-bending period vein as “Hercules” and “Xena.”
The competish between Tribune Entertainment and Studios USA for Sorbo’s services was intriguing because “Hercules” has been a hit for Tribune’s sibling station group, which carries the show in Gotham, L.A., Chicago and other major markets.
Naturally, there were competing explanations as to why Sorbo bowed out of “Hercules.” Sorbo’s manager, Eric L. Gold, said Studios USA had asked Sorbo to take a pay cut at a time when the actor was already looking to move on to new projects.
Toward that end, Sorbo will eventually have his pick of two vintage Roddenberry-penned series ideas that Tribune is developing. Tribune first began mining the Roddenberry vault in 1997, partnering with Majel Barrett Roddenberry to produce the syndie series “Gene Roddenberry’s Earth: Final Conflict.”
“Since my pre-teen days, I have been a fan of Mr. Roddenberry and the worlds he created in ‘Star Trek,’ ” Sorbo said.
The first of the two new series in the pipeline is “Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda,” centering on a scientist on the distant planet Korkyra who has to find his way home after inadvertently being transported 500 years into the future.
“Gene Roddenberry’s Starship” sounds akin to the original “Trek,” revolving around the adventures of a team of intergalactic troubleshooters led by the dynamic captain of an exploratory space vessel.
Tribune intends to produce both series, although the non-Sorbo project may be pitched to cable. The Sorbo series will also be shopped to network and cable outlets, but syndication is the most likely option, according to Tribune Entertainment prexy Dick Askin.
Sorbo will have an ownership stake and creative input in his series, and manager Gold will serve as co-exec producer. Sorbo is repped by ICM’s Eddy Yablans and Nick Styne, while his deal with Tribune was packaged by ICM’s Steve Wohl and attorney Dave Feldman.