A horse is a horse, of course of course — unless that horse is a new version of “Mr. Ed” in active development at Fox via Neal Moritz and Marty Adelstein’s Original Television banner.
Fox has given a put pilot commitment to the Original/20th Century Fox TV project, a half-hour reimagining of the classic laffer from scribe Jack Handey (“Saturday Night Live”) that stands as one of several highlights of Original’s first development slate.
Other projects being shepherded by Original TV topper Dawn Parouse include the greenlit Fox pilot “Still Life,” a Neil Simon comedy at ABC and a possible series spinoff of “Y tu mama tambien.”
Considering Original has been in the TV business less than a year, the 20th Century Fox-based pod is having a solid first at-bat, setting up more than a dozen comedy and drama projects at four networks. While such commitments don’t automatically translate into windfall profits, Adelstein said he’s pleased at the fast start.
“The amazing thing for us is, we didn’t even really start until July (2002), and yet I think we have this really interesting, far-reaching slate of development,” he said. “And it all revolves around talent we have relationships with, all of whom had something to say.”
Moritz said he and Adelstein want the Original TV brand to mirror the image the film division has worked to cultivate.
“It’s youthful, with an enthusiastic feel to it,” he said. “We want things with a clear identity, so that the audience can say ‘I really want to see this.’ With movies for the young audience, you need something that they’re dying to see on opening weekend. We want to go for that same thing with TV.”
Parouse said she’s trying to offer scribes and producers “a safe environment for pursuing your vision. If you’re a writer or producer who wants to take chances, we’ll completely back you.”
The new “Mr. Ed” certainly falls into the risk-taking category.
Endeavor-repped Handey has reshaped the horsey laffer so that Mr. Ed will speak with a more urban voice a la Eddie Murphy or Eddie Griffin.
“This one is so in (Handey’s) strike zone,” Parouse said of the scribe, whose “SNL” creations include “Deep Thoughts” and Toonces, the Driving Cat. “He loves talking animals, and we love the fact that he loves talking animals. I worked with Jack at ‘SNL’ and he was like a god to me.”
While the nets have just started greenlighting fall pilots, Original has already snagged a production commitments from Fox Broadcasting for the Kip Koenig-penned hour “Still Life” (Daily Variety, Jan. 9.)
An untitled drama script from scribe/exec producer Jon Feldman, to be exec produced and directed by Rob Cohen (“The Fast and the Furious,”) is also in development at Fox and has lots of positive buzz surrounding it. Skein is about a woman who works in a morgue and has the ability to change fate.
In addition, Cohen is exec producing “Animet,” an hourlong drama from scribe Skip Woods (“Swordfish”) that’s part of Fox’s three-for-one deal with Cohen. It’s about a crimefighter who uses very animated imagination to solve mysteries.
Original has hammered out a deal with “Y tu mama tambien” helmer Alfonso Cuaron and scribe Carlos Cuaron to adapt their hit indie pic as an hourlong coming of age drama with American characters. Original is pitching the project to webs now.
Scribe Ron Leavitt (“Married…with Children”) also has two comedy projects in the works at Original: “The Pool at Maddy Breaker’s” for Fox, which shows what happens to high school gossip queens 20 years later, and a half hour at the WB Network that will focus on the domestic servants of some very rich people.
Original is teaming with David E. Kelley Prods. on the Kerry Ehrin-penned hour “Five Finger Discount,” which Adelstein thinks could be “the next ‘Wonder Years.’ It’s about a 9-year-old girl in Jersey City growing up in a family where everything falls off a truck.”
Christian Gudegast and Paul Scheuring (the upcoming Vin Diesel pic “A Man Apart”) are developing the hourlong drama “McIntyre” for Fox. Skein is about an investigative reporter who engineers false identities to get to the bottom of stories.
Fox is also developing Original’s ani comedy “The Cake Eaters,” from “Spongebob Squarepants” scribe Merriwether Williams. Show’s about an eclectic, artistic family.
Also on the comedy side, scribes Jennifer Konner and Ali Rushfield (“Undeclared”) are scripting “The Sutton Sisters” for NBC. Half-hour revolves around two rich party girls and what happens when their cousin moves in.
Scribe George McGrath (“Tracey Takes On…”) is also working on a half-hour script that’s being developed by Original and 20th on spec; it’ll be shopped to nets later this season. Show revolves around an aspiring young actor and the people living in his “Melrose Place”-style apartment complex.
And Simon is finishing up his half-hour laffer for ABC, which revolves around two separated couples. Dubbed “Separate Beds,” project was given a put commitment by ABC last fall (Daily Variety, Nov. 7.)
Adelstein praised Parouse for her leadership of Original TV during the shingle’s maiden development season.
“None of this would have happened without her,” he said. “She’s the perfect complement to Neal and me.”