ABC and Touchstone Television is marching to West Point, signing scribe Dave Lipsky to pen a pilot script for a one-hour military college drama based on his just-released bestseller “Absolutely American.”
Studio has snapped up the TV and feature rights to the book, which hit the New York Times bestseller list immediately upon publication last month. Marc Platt (“Legally Blonde”), who has a pod deal at Touchstone, is attached as exec producer along with Lipsky.
“Absolutely American,” from Houghton Mifflin, chronicles a class of West Point cadets from enrollment to graduation. Lipsky, a contributing editor at Rolling Stone and other pubs, was given almost unlimited daily access to the students; he traces their development over four years.
“It’s an incredibly interesting and timely project,” Touchstone TV prexy Steve McPherson said.
McPherson said the project was exactly the kind of show ABC and Touchstone execs had discussed at a recent programming retreat.
“It fit into a number of different arenas we’re looking to fill or serve,” he said. “We’ve talked about what kind of family shows we’re going to be producing as we move forward. And we talked about the military, perhaps focusing on a military academy.”
Lipsky said the show will revolve around fictional characters inspired by the actual cadets he chronicled. He thinks his first-hand knowledge of the institution will set “Absolutely American” apart from various other West Point-themed projects that have been unsuccessfully developed at the webs.
“What will make this work, hopefully, is the realism,” Lipsky said. “I know these characters. The gag at the academy was that I was the one member of the class of 2002 not to be commissioned (as an officer).”
Lipsky, who wrote on MTV’s “Celebrity Deathmatch” for a season, said he had potential TV and/or feature spinoffs of “Absolutely American” in mind when he wrote the book.
“If you look at the book, it’s a product of somebody who loves TV and movies,” he said. “You can’t grow up in America and not have gotten a sense for how TV feels and is structured.”
Lipsky said “Absolutely American’s” four-year chronicle of the West Point cadets naturally lent itself more to the small screen.
“Movies are great, there are certain emotional high points you can hit in 120 minutes, but there’s a sense of people changing over time here that lent itself beautifully to the episodic TV format,” he said.
Once ICM-repped Lipsky finishes the first draft of the pilot script, Touchstone and ABC will bring on a writer-showrunner to also serve as exec producer.
“We’ll hire whoever seems to have the best voice in conjunction with (Lipsky),” McPherson said. “It’s got to be a collaboration. We’ll enlist Marc’s help as well. He’s got a good take on the material and how to produce the show.”