Helmer drives Showtime spin on ‘Lilac’

Cabler pacts with LaBute for skein

Neil LaBute is headed down “Lilac Lane” with Showtime.

Cabler has given a six-episode commitment to a half-hour drama series to be written, produced and directed by the feature scribe and playwright. Project has been in development for more than a year, but new Showtime entertainment chief Robert Greenblatt recently read the hourlong pilot and signed off on a series commitment.

“I’m a big fan of Neil’s work and I’m thrilled he wanted to think about doing television,” Greenblatt said. “He’s a really interesting visionary, and for me, it’s all about people with vision.”

“His characters are really vivid,” he added. “They have points of views, they’re political, they’re smart.”

“Lilac Lane,” which will be produced by LaBute’s Pretty Pictures, tells the story of a young male college professor who finds himself disgraced and unemployed after having an affair with a co-ed. He continues to live on-campus because of his wife’s involvement with the university, but things grow darker for the professor when the woman he slept with turns up missing.

In addition to the mystery element, “It’s about students and teachers in a small liberal arts college in a small town,” LaBute said “It’s about the symbiotic relationship that the school and the town have with each other.”

While LaBute is a former college prof, he stresses the skein isn’t based on his own life.

Scribe said he’s excited about the chance to work in television.

“When you work in theater and films, you try to tell a story in as contained a way as possible. The idea of being able to take characters and carry stories through for years is an amazing idea,” he said. “I want do a half hour drama because it’s something I don’t see on TV.”

LaBute called Greenblatt “very good at story” and said the exec/producer has already given good notes.

“Lilac Lane” is currently set for six episodes but if the show is a success the scribe hopes to take the story further.

“I’m ready to go beyond six and take it as far as they’ll let me,” he said.

Gail Mutrux of Pretty Pictures is also producing “Lilac Lane.”

LaBute’s feature credits include “The Shape of Things to Come,” “In the Company of Men,” “Possession,” “Nurse Betty” and “Your Friends and Neighbors.”

Showtime also aired a version of his play “Bash: Latter-Day Plays.”

“Lilac Lane” was packaged by BWCS; LaBute is repped by WMA and manager Brad Gross.

(Josef Adalian and Michael Schneider contributed to this report.)

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