Reality producer Renegade 83 (“Blind Date”) has gone scripted, hiring industry vet Maira Suro and setting up several network and cable projects.
Partners David Garfinkle and Jay Renfroe, meanwhile, continue to expand Renegade’s reality plate –including two new projects at MTV and Spike TV.
On the scripted side, Renegade most recently sold the project “Cover Girl” to Lifetime. The one-hour drama, which Renegade will produce with Lions Gate and Once Upon a Time, is based on the true story of an affluent housewife who spent 20 years as an undercover P.I. without her family’s knowledge.
“Cover Girl” joins several other Renegade-produced comedies and dramas in various stages of development, including USA pilot “The 4400,” Fox sitcom script “The Complete Asshole’s Guide to Life” and a WB sitcom starring M.C. Hammer.
It reps the first development season at Renegade for Suro, who last fall quietly joined forces with her husband, David Garfinkle, and fellow Renegade partner Jay Renfroe. Suro most recently ran Francis Ford Coppola’s American Zoetrope TV.
Although the shingle — which also produces hit syndie entry “The 5th Wheel” and the WB’s “The Surreal Life” (with Mindless Entertainment) — had dabbled with scripted product in the past, Garfinkle and Renfroe said Suro’s arrival repped a renewed commitment to expanding their business into the comedy and drama arena.
“This is a writer-driven medium, and it’s really about relationships,” Garfinkle said. “Maira brings 15 years of relationships and experience working with writers as a producer and an executive. It was a great opportunity for Renegade to bring someone in who knows the business.”
Garfinkle said he believed Suro’s resume gives Renegade — repped by Endeavor and Jeannie Newman — the edge over other reality shingles also trying to branch into the scripted world. While at American Zoetrope, Suro exec produced the critically acclaimed drama “Platinum.” Before that, she served as senior VP of drama at UPN and worked in development at CBS and Columbia Pictures Television.
“She’ll run the area and we’ll be there as the support,” Garfinkle said.
In looking to distinguish Renegade’s development, Suro said she hoped to emulate the edgy attitude of some of the company’s reality fare.
“There’s a real brand with Renegade on the reality side, a brand of humor that these guys have done a good job of establishing,” she said.
Hence “Asshole’s Guide,” a buddy comedy based on the book “The Complete Asshole’s Guide to Handling Chicks.” Project, which Renegade is producing with 20th Century Fox TV and Benderspink, is being written by Rob Cohen (Daily Variety, Nov. 24).
Then there’s the Hammer project, which came out of Renegade’s relationship with the “U Can’t Touch This” rapper — a cast member on the first edition of “Surreal Life.”
That project, written by Devon Shepard, will be loosely based on Hammer’s own experience as a rapper who was once a superstar but became a man of the cloth after his career chilled (Daily Variety, Dec. 9).
But Suro said Renegade’s reality fare doesn’t ultimately dictate what she does on the scripted side.
“It goes back to having autonomy,” she said. “They respect what I bring from the scripted side, as I do with them on the reality side.”
For example, the first major scripted project out of the production company is thriller “The 4400,” which Renegade is producing with Viacom and Suro’s old boss Coppola.
USA picked up a two-hour pilot, along with four backup scripts, of “4400,” which Scott Peters created and is writing; Suro, Coppola and Rene Echevarria exec produce (Daily Variety, Dec. 4). Alien-abduction story centers on the return of 4,400 missing people to Earth.
” ‘The 4400,’ in success, could help set us apart as telling stories in a different way, trying to come at it from a fresh angle,” Suro said. “There are opportunities for us to not just say we’re going to do the next cop show.”
Garfinkle said Renegade had been approached in the past about sealing a production deal to house its scripted division at a studio or network. But strategically, the partners said they’d prefer to stay independent for now.
“It would have to be the right scenario,” Suro said. “There is something really nice about having the freedom to do projects we like and to be able to lay them off where we think is right. The creative freedom that goes along with that is important to all of us.
“It’s kind of nice being at a boutique company. You can make up the rules as you go along,” she said.
As for the reality development, at Spike TV the weekly half-hour “Pornocopia” takes adult films and edits out the explicit stuff, leaving behind six-minute vignettes.
And “Scammers,” at MTV, follows contestants as they choose one of two “professionals” to make their fantasies come true. But one’s a scammer and one’s legit — and players must pick the right one.
(Josef Adalian and Denise Martin contributed to this report.)