Pariah, Peacock partner

Prez Zucker eyes 'diversity,' to work directly with Polone

Producer Gavin Polone (“Gilmore Girls,” “Panic Room”) has inked a three-year deal to bring his Pariah Television banner to NBC.

Pact includes an annual development budget of between $2 million and $3 million and will also cover Pariah’s overhead costs, including the hiring of several new execs.

Polone will work directly with newly supersized Peacock entertainment prexy Jeff Zucker, bypassing NBC Studios as part of the net’s desire to diversify and streamline its series development process via several “pod” deals with Polone and others (Daily Variety, April 9).

NBC will have first-look rights to all television projects developed by Pariah. It will also finance Pariah projects for other broadcast and cable nets, as long as those skeins fall within prescribed deficit limits.

Polone wouldn’t say what those limits are but said they were generous enough to cover any show he might want to produce. That’s important given Polone’s desire to be in business with other nets, particularly the WB, which has given Pariah a blind pilot commitment for the 2002-03 season.

Pariah’s two new fall series, “Hack” (CBS) and “Family Affair” (the WB), will not be part of the deal.

Zucker said Pariah is being set up outside of NBC Studios in order to establish a banner that gives scribes a chance to develop projects without jumping through quite as many bureaucratic hoops.

‘Diversity of ideas’

“We’re trying to do away with layers and have (the development process) be as seamless as possible,” Zucker told Daily Variety. “We want a diversity of ideas and diversity of thought. If it all gets funneled through one place, you don’t necessarily get those things.”

While stressing the continuing importance of NBC Studios, Zucker said Polone and Pariah would give the Peacock access to talent that may otherwise be missed.

“Gavin’s had terrific success in uncovering and finding talent that wouldn’t normally come across our desk,” Zucker said. “This deal gives us an additional set of eyes and ears out there looking for new talent.”

Zucker is considering potential pod pacts with DreamWorks TV and Original, but no deals are on the table.

While Pariah probably could have snagged more upfront coin, the deal includes generous backend components that allow Polone to profit handsomely from a big hit.

“What’s always been important to me is autonomy, control and incentive for success,” he said. “This was the right possible deal in every way.”

There were other suitors for Pariah, but Polone said his recent experience working with NBC on the comedy pilot “Life at Five Feet” sold him on inking with the Peacock.

Long courtship

“The great thing in this particular situation is that we were able to date all year before getting married,” he said. “They didn’t put it on the fall schedule, but other than that, it couldn’t have gone any better.”

Polone is actually redeveloping “Life” for NBC, which has agreed to shoot a new pilot.

NBC was also attracted to Polone because of his fiscal discipline: “Life” cost less to make than any other Peacock comedy pilot this development season. Polone’s personal involvement in projects added another incentive to doing a deal.

“He’s the kind of guy who’ll get on a plane to London on Monday and come back Tuesday with the rights to something everyone thought couldn’t be had,” said NBC exec VP of business affairs Mark Graboff.

Honing the cutting edge

While not every Pariah project will be as cutting edge as the Polone-produced Larry David laffer “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” Polone said he has no plans to move too close to the mainstream now that he’s based at one of the Big Three.

“I’m going to get shows on the air, but if all I get on are cop, lawyer or medical dramas, or a-bunch-of-people-sitting-in-a-room sitcoms, then I will have failed,” he said.

Founded a year ago, Pariah was originally based at Sony. Polone got out of that deal after Sony decided to move away from a roster-based primetime business last winter.

Deal with NBC was brokered by Endeavor.