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‘Mission’ man touts net gains

WB gives 'Degrees' premium script commitment

J.J. Abrams and his Touchstone-based Bad Robot are cranking up their development machine, pacting with feature scribes Raven Metzner and Stu Zicherman for a pair of drama projects set up at the WB and ABC.

Frog deal reunites Abrams with the network that gave him his first big TV hit (“Felicity”). Putting the Frog back in business with Abrams and Touchstone makes it one of new WB Entertainment prexy David Janollari’s most significant deals.

Metzner and Zicherman, who wrote the first draft of the Jennifer Garner starrer “Elektra,” have sold the twentysomething-themed drama “Six Degrees” (working title) to the WB, with Abrams and Bad Robot prexy Thom Sherman on board as exec producers.

WB has given the project a premium script commitment, with a penalty attached if the project is not greenlit to pilot.

Janollari said he was pumped to be back in business with Abrams and equally happy to be working with Touchstone. Frog and Disney-owned studio haven’t developed projects together for at least five years, despite such the success of “Felicity” and “Popular.”

Reopening “the door with Touchstone has been a top priority for me since I came on board at the WB,” Janollari said. He credited Touchstone prexy Mark Pedowitz for his “tenacity in making sure our two companies reunited, which I believe will make us a lot stronger creatively.”

Reunited, it feels so good

Lack of Touchstone development at the WB stemmed from differences in business philosophies at the two shops. What’s more, the Frog and Touchstone needed to work out a new business template before reuniting.

“It’s good thing for everybody,” Pedowitz said of the rapprochement. “If we could’ve worked out the template last year, we would have, so I have to give credit to David Janollari,” who only recently took over the reigns at the WB.

Over at ABC, Metzner and Zicherman are working with Bad Robot to develop caper drama “Pros and Cons.” Abrams and Sherman will exec produce with Metzner and Zicherman.

Scribes have fans at ABC: Duo developed projects at Touchstone last year with Steve McPherson and Francie Calfo, both of whom are now at the Alphabet.

Sherman said the projects fit into Bad Robot’s goal of doing “smart, broadly entertaining and populist television as much as possible.”

“We love the energy and the voice (Zicherman and Metzner) put on the page,” he said. “They also seem like they could be the next generation of showrunners, which is something else we’re looking for. They seem to have a lot of skills in their repertoire.”

As for the WB-bound “Six Degrees,” Metzner and Zicherman said the show will center around a group of six post-college young adults whose lives intertwine in various ways. Skein in some ways was born out of the way the two scribes became friends.

Rivals first

Both men, 35, met in college while courting the same woman. While they were aware of each other, they didn’t actually become friends until a few years later, when they were living in New York City.

“There’s something about New York City where you can wait in line at Starbucks with someone who’ll end up being your wife or best friend,” Zicherman said. “We really wanted to find a way to explore that theme of a group of friends who haven’t all met yet (in the pilot). We’ll see the interaction of their lives as they all come together.”

“Pros and Cons,” meanwhile, revolves around five ex-cons who end up working with the government’s antifraud forces — “a con team working for the cops busting other cons,” as Zicherman put it.

Both projects were packaged by WMA.

Metzner and Zicherman’s first major foray into TV came last year with their adaptation of “Naked Pictures of My Ex-Girlfriend,” a pilot developed at FX with Brett Ratner. Duo worked on “Rush Hour 2” with Ratner.