Alphabet mindful of ‘Days’

Fox conceives early 'Quintuplets' pickup

ABC has greenlit six episodes of drama series “The Days,” the first project to come out of the net’s partnership with media buyer MindShare North America.

Fox, meanwhile, gave an early pickup to the Andy Richter sitcom “Quintuplets.” Both programs are expected to launch in late summer.

“The Days” was created and will be exec produced by John Scott Shepherd (“Life or Something Like It”), while Tollin/Robbins Prods. will produce alongside MindShare. Hourlong skein revolves around a two-career couple and their three kids and is told through the eyes of the cynical 14-year-old son.

Project, originally developed at Touchstone through Tollin/Robbins’ deal there, narrowly missed the cut this February when ABC made its drama pilot orders. Alphabet web then passed along its favorite “bubbling under” scripts to MindShare director of programming Peter Tortorici, who immediately took a liking to “The Days.”

“It was a unique and interesting, funny twist on a conventional form — the family drama,” Tortorici said. “If we were going to do something straight to series, without the benefit of a pilot, the script had to be something special.”

As part of the arrangement, advertiser Unilever will be a partner in the project, taking an ownership stake in the series. Unilever and another undisclosed MindShare client have already made advertising commitments on the project; other MindShare clients will also be given limited advertising exclusivity in certain categories.

Tollin/Robbins principal Mike Tollin said he was particularly excited by the prospect of shooting six episodes rather than just a pilot.

“In a way, these six episodes can be considered an extended pilot,” Tollin said. “We’re looking at (the summer run) as a springboard to get on the air at ABC in midseason. This doesn’t feel like a consolation prize at all; this feels like a great opportunity.”

Several Hollywood creatives have expressed concern over the growing influence of advertisers in the creative process. But pressure also continues to grow for TV execs to develop alternative business models.

Because the advertiser involvement will be minimal onscreen — other than, for example, placement of Unilever household items — Tollin said he wasn’t concerned about undue media buyer tweaking of the show’s creative content.

“We love that we’re the first,” he said. “It’s always great to be the pioneers, to set the template.”

Tollin/Robbins is no stranger when it comes to working with advertisers. The studio’s WB drama “One Tree Hill” recently made a deal with Secret to feature the deodorant’s name in conjunction with a cheerleading contest on the show. The Secret money helped cover the cost of such an elaborate shoot.

“We studied cheerleading contests on ESPN, and there’s always a big banner with an advertiser name there,” Tollin said. “It was almost unrealistic for them not to be there. So we were able to generate another chunk of revenue.”

Tollin said he expected to start shooting “The Days” in Vancouver the first week of June. Show, which was packaged by UTA, will have a quick turnaround, with a projected late July debut. Besides Shepherd, Tortorici and Tollin, exec producers also include Brian Robbins and Joe Davola.

ABC pacted with MindShare last December for the media buyer to pitch, develop and produce shows for the Alphabet. Both the network and media buyer said other projects remain in the pipeline.

“We set out to establish a model to help deliver more compelling, cost-effective programming to our viewers and couldn’t ask for a better partner than MindShare,” said ABC Entertainment prexy Susan Lyne.

As for “Quintuplets,” Fox has ordered 12 episodes, in addition to the pilot, of the 20th Century Fox/Imagine TV laffer.

Mark Reisman-penned sitcom revolves around a family in the suburbs with 15-year-old quintuplets. Richter plays the husband and father, while Rebecca Creskoff plays the wife-mother.

“Quintuplets” also stars Johnny Lewis, April Matson, Jake McDorman, Ryan Pinkston and Sarah Wright. Reisman, Brian Grazer and David Nevins will exec produce.

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