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Viacom gets the ‘Beat’

Series toplines Ruffalo

Viacom Prods. signed on to produce the new Tom Fontana and Barry Levinson series “The Beat,” which has received a 13-episode midseason order from UPN.

Aside from that series, insiders say Fontana and Levinson are also in talks with HBO to create a new drama series there.

Fontana and Levinson, who created “Homicide” and “Oz,” currently have a producing pact with Rysher, but that company is close to being sold and is no longer deficit financing new projects.

Agents for Fontana and Levinson are shopping the duo to several other companies for a new overall deal, but in the meantime, Viacom is producing the UPN show. Viacom is also distributing the Fontana-Levinson Showtime series called “Hoop Life.”

“We’re extremely excited,” said Perry Simon, president of Viacom Prods. “Tom and I go back to my days at NBC.”

“The Beat,” formerly titled “Flesh & Blood,” is being revamped as a young cop drama exploring the personal and professional lives of young cops. Fontana and Levsinson are executive producing, and Fontana is expected to write the first few episodes. Mark Ruffalo is starring, and shooting begins in New York in August.

“The show is not an earnest cop show,” Simon said. “It’s going to have a swagger to it and a sense of humor.”

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