Diplomatic dips into scripts

Caruso to o'see development; co.'s first project is 'Cap' redo

Diplomatic Prods. (“Wife Swap”) plans to launch a preemptive strike in the comedy and drama worlds, hiring former Jim Henson TV exec Ruth Caruso to head up a scripted series division.

Expansion comes soon after Diplomatic founder Michael Davies renewed the shingle’s first-look deal with ABC that also covers the company’s overhead.

Caruso — who most recently served as VP of creative affairs at Jim Henson TV — will oversee development of comedy, drama and animation for both broadcast and cable.

First up, Diplomatic has secured the domestic rights to remake the BBC military police drama “Red Cap,” which comes from London-based Stormy Pictures (and airs here on BBC America). Davies and Caruso are also in talks with an undisclosed New York columnist about developing a comedy project.

“The timing made sense,” Davies said of the leap into scripted series. “We’ve been around alternative comedy and standup for a while. And with the Communications Act of 2004 in the U.K., a lot of indie producers that I’ve been dealing with in foreign formats are also now drama and comedy producers. That’s opened up opportunities.”

The U.K. act has allowed smaller producers like RDF, Monkey and Celador to hold on to their international rights when selling a program to broadcasters such as the BBC or Channel 4.

“That means a lot of rights are ending up in the hands of independents,” he said. “It’s the complete opposite of us here. For people sitting between Britain and the U.S., it’s a very good time to be in that business.”

Besides ABC’s “Wife Swap,” Diplomatic is also behind the upcoming WB skein “Studio 7.” Unscripted series will remain Diplomatic’s bread and butter, Davies said. But the production company is looking to branch into other genres as well, including documentaries.

Davies said he moved to the U.S. 15 years ago to get into the comedy and drama biz; instead, he stumbled into the alternative world (where he helped bring “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” to ABC).

“After a long beat into the subgenre of TV gameshows, I’m finally doing it,” Davies said. “The same alternative point of view we brought to the alternative business we can bring to the scripted world. We know we have got to go to the table with assets. I’m not going to pitch a funny idea based on my life.”

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