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NBC pays for ‘Criminal’ pilot

Peacock arrested by 'Criminal Behavior'

NBC has given a significant pilot commitment to “UC: Undercover” exec producer Shane Salerno and star Ray Liotta to develop a cop drama set in Los Angeles.

“Criminal Behavior,” from NBC Universal TV, is based on real-life police department squads popping up across the country that focuses on apprehending a city’s most dangerous fugitives before they commit more crimes.

The personality-driven drama stars Liotta as Frank Nolan, detective-sergeant with the Major Crimes Unit of the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. Nolan’s a smart and driven plain-clothes cop charged with tracking down these criminals.

The pilot commitment comes attached with a hefty $2 million penalty; Liotta has also snared a seven-figure paycheck to star in the project and will serve as a producer. Peacock was also behind “UC: Undercover.”

Jordan Davis, the wife of feature producer John Davis, first came up with the concept last fall after seeing TV reports and reading stories about the police units. The couple then called Salerno, who was in Prague rewriting “Alien vs. Predator” for Davis.

Salerno said he took six months researching the project.

“Of all the stuff I’ve written, I came across one statistic that blew my mind: 10% of the most active criminals are responsible for 50% of a city’s crime,” Salerno said. “Eliminate 10% of the criminals and you eliminate 50% of the crime — that was an incredibly cool concept for me.”

Much of that time was spent with law enforcement officers fighting these uber-criminals in Los Angeles, as well as studying profiles of the actual criminals on the loose.

“These are the anti-TV cops,” he said. “It’s not a secret unit, they don’t drive Ferraris, they don’t wear Armani suits, they’re not 27.”

In the vein of shows like “Law & Order,” Salerno said stories will be based on real-life fugitives.

“I’ve never found such rich story material as I have researching these real criminals,” he said.

“Criminal Behavior” will also focus on the dichotomy between Frank Nolan’s work and home life. Liotta’s character will begin dating a woman with a 3-year-old daughter later in the series. Salerno compares it to a cross between Liotta’s hardcore portrayal in “Narc” and dramatic role in “Corrina, Corrina.”

Salerno said the role was specifically written for Liotta, who came to the project through Davis. The thesp appeared in two features produced by Davis, including “Heartbreakers.”

Liotta joined Salerno in pitching the project; all four major nets bid on the project, but NBC stepped up the most.

“When we met with (NBC Entertainment prexy) Kevin Reilly, we were huge fans of “The Shield” and “Nip/Tuck” (which he developed at FX),” Salerno said. “He has a way of doing edgy, smart shows. We wanted to do the network version of that.”

Salerno (whose other credits include “Shaft” and “Armageddon”) and the Davises will exec produce “Criminal Behavior.” Davis, whose recent feature credits include “I, Robot” and “Garfield the Movie,” said he hoped to use “Criminal Behavior” as a launching pad to push his shingle further into TV.

“Shane has delivered a take on all this that’s truly different from anything we see on TV now,” Davis said.

(Josef Adalian contributed to this report.)

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