Tom Fontana says there’s one reason he’s developing his next TV show for the WB.
“David Janollari is an old friend of mine,” the producer says, referring to the Frog’s fledgling entertainment prexy. “When he got hired, he called me and said, ‘Why don’t you come over here and do something?’ ”
During his first development season since joining the net, Janollari has been making a lot of phone calls like the one he placed to Fontana. Not every talent deal has been so easy, but Janollari’s efforts have started to pay off:
- David E. Kelley is doing his first show for the Frog, exec producing a medical-themed drama from scribe Andrew Kreisberg.
- Jerry Bruckheimer is back in business with the WB, producing a drama and developing a comedy for the net titled “Dog Town Lawyers.”
- “Scrubs” creator Bill Lawrence is overseeing an offbeat laffer.
- “Will & Grace” creators Max Mutchnick and David Kohan are writing a comedy pilot; Sarah Gilbert is attached to star.
- McG is working on a spooky hour that’s a cross between “Route 66” and “The X-Files.”
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“We’ve tried to get in business with the best, with those producers who’ve created hits before,” Janollari says. “The big hits in TV are the ones with original vision. Anything derivative usually falls off the landscape pretty quickly.”
Janollari is looking to develop all sorts of projects rather than focus on past WB strengths in areas such as femme sudsers. That might mean procedural dramas.
WB shows could also become less teen focused in coming years, though the young demo remains the net’s core audience. “I noticed that we have a lack of characters in their 20s and 30s,” Janollari says. “As with everything in life, we all grow up.”
On the comedy front, Janollari is preaching what he calls a return to quality. “We haven’t really strived to develop the utmost in quality,” he says, referring not just to the WB but to other nets as well. “Comedy has largely been abdicated by the major networks, so that’s a great opportunity for us.”
The Frog also hasn’t had much luck in reality programming. Indeed, the net’s biggest unscripted success story — “The Surreal Life” — now airs on VH1, where it’s actually outdrawing some of the WB’s nonfiction shows.
Janollari thinks all that might change with “Starlet,” an unscripted hour from Mike Fleiss about wannabe actresses debuting soon. “We think it could be a really big franchise for us,” he says. “It’s got true drama and true stakes.”