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Fox prescription

'ER' creator Crichton, ATG pack for drama

In a blockbuster deal worth upwards of $20 million, megascribe Michael Crichton has inked with Artists Television Group to write and exec produce an hourlong drama series for Fox Broadcasting — his first since creating “ER” for NBC in 1994.

Fox has committed to 13 episodes of the series at a per-seg license fee of $1.5 million. Crichton, whose feature blockbusters include “Jurassic Park” and “Twister,” will receive additional fees above and beyond his share of the license fee.

The skein will be produced by Crichton’s Constant C Prods. in association with ATG and is being targeted for late fall 2000 or early 2001. Concept for the program has yet to be determined, though the hour will not be based in a hospital.

The deal was announced Tuesday by Fox Television Entertainment Group chairman Sandy Grushow and Fox Entertainment prexy Doug Herzogat the web’s portion of the winter 2000 Television Critics Assn. press tour.

Home base

“We couldn’t be any more excited to become home to such a prestigious project,” Grushow said. “I am delighted to continue a long-term relationship with Michael Ovitz, Eric Tannenbaum and all the great people now creating great television at ATG.”

ATG topper Tannenbaum calls the agreement “a tremendous deal.”

Crichton “created the biggest show in the history of television, both creatively and commercially. Everything he does is smart and intelligent, and this is a tremendous opportunity for Fox and ATG.”

Crichton signed with Artists Management Group, the sister company of ATG, last fall. A deal with AMG to produce the skein for Fox Broadcasting came together later, with Tannenbaum, Ovitz and ATG’s Sandra Stern negotiating the pact with Grushow.

Disastrous fall

After bluntly owning up to the disaster that was Fox’s fall 1999 lineup, Grushow and Herzog also outlined several other development deals they hope will help rebuild the web, including:

  • a two-series comedy commitment with the Carsey-Werner Co. One skein will be produced by Bonnie and Terry Turner; the other is being developed by “3rd Rock From the Sun” producers Bill Martin and Mike Schiff;

  • previously announced development deals with Tom Hanks, Haxan Films, Barry Sonnenfeld, Tom Fontana, John Ridley, Mark Tinker, Richard Donner, Renny Harlin and John Leguizamo; and,

  • a first-look deal with “Ally McBeal” producer David E. Kelley, which will funnel product exclusively through 20th Century Fox Television to Fox Broadcasting through the former’s new long-term production and distribution pact (Daily Variety, Oct. 27, 1999).

“David is absolutely brilliant, surrounds himself with great actors, terrific producers and top-flight executives, and time after time proves with his pen that he’s perfectly in tune with the public, if not one step ahead,” Grushow said. “He is a true treasure, and we have all the faith in the world that the unprecedented success this corporation has enjoyed with him will continue far into the future.”

Following the formal session, Grushow also said 20th Century Fox Television is developing, with “X-Files” creator Chris Carter, a possible “Files” spinoff focusing on the Lone Gunmen characters featured on a recurring basis in “X Files.” Frank Spotnitz, Vince Gilligan and John Shiban are working on the project with Carter.

The Crichton project is a major get for Fox, which could soon find itself seriously in need of new franchise hours. Grushow said Tuesday the odds were “no better than 50/50” that “The X-Files” will be back next fall and that it might not make sense to continue with “Party of Five” if a number of expected cast defections turn the show into “Party of Two,” as he quipped.

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