WB Entertainment prexy David Janollari’s campaign to lure heavyweight talent to the Frog has paid off, with David E. Kelley bringing his latest project to the net.
Frog has greenlit production on a pilot for scribe Andrew Kreisberg’s drama “Halley’s Comet,” an hourlong project with comedic elements about a 23-year-old first-year med student who, after battling a life-threatening illness for years, finds herself moving from patient to doctor while also finally maturing as an adult woman.
Kreisberg (“The Simpsons,” “Hope & Faith”), a young comedy scribe, created “Comet” and brought it to Kelley and David E. Kelley Prods. vet Jonathan Pontell, who quickly attached themselves to the project.
Kelley will exec produce with showrunner-helmer Pontell (“Boston Public”). Kreisberg, who wrote the pilot script on spec, will serve as co-exec producer of the DEK Prods./20th Century Fox TV project.
Kelley pilot is the first for the WB, which landed the show after at least two other networks expressed serious interest in the project, insiders said.
Frog is stepping up in a major way financially, offering one of the largest pilot license fees in the net’s 10-year history. The WB will likely seriously bend some of its own production requirements in order to come more in line with Kelley’s production quality guidelines.
“Comet” will balance drama and comedy, and Janollari said the pilot script — while not penned by Kelley — is nonetheless “reminiscent of a lot of great David E. Kelley shows, but it also has a new and unique voice at its center.”
“It has such romantic hopefulness to it,” Janollari said. “In the pilot, Halley comes in contact with three different romantic suitors, and it’s going to be fun watching how that unfolds.”
Webhead said “Comet” is filled with both “gallows humor and moments of romantic comedy.”
Pontell said “Comet” first came to him via former WMA agent Ross Fineman; when Pontell read the script, he said he “immediately bonded with it and wanted us to be involved with it.”
“It really had the David Kelley vibe,” Pontell said.
Fineman will be a producer on the project.
Kreisberg said he decided to try his hand in drama because he wanted “to write something with more immediacy and depth than is allowed in half-hours.” He wrote it on spec last winter because, as a comedy writer, “I knew it would be difficult for me to walk into a room and sell a drama like this,” Kreisberg said.
A ‘Desperate’ strategy
Comedy vet Marc Cherry adopted a similar strategy with this season’s boffo hit “Desperate Housewives.”
As for the specific storyline in WMA-packaged “Comet,” Kreisberg said he wanted to “write something that was based sort of on my own personal experiences that had a large amount of humor, grace and hope.”
Janollari, who’s in his first development season as prexy of the WB, has been busy bringing several major names to the Frog. Jerry Bruckheimer is exec producing a drama for the net and may also snag a greenlight for a comedy project, while Bill Lawrence (“Scrubs”) is also at work on his first Frog pilot. Announcements of other major signings are expected shortly.
Exec called landing the Kelley project “a coup for the WB,” noting Kelley’s track record for creating “of-the-moment hit shows that really resonate with the audience in a huge way.”
The WB also has confidence in Kreisberg: Net is developing a half-hour with the scribe called “Love Lindsey/Hate Hannah,” about a man who falls in love with his ex-wife’s sister.
Elsewhere Monday, both Fox and CBS greenlit drama pilots.
Fox has ordered “House of Payne,” a lighthearted drama from scribe-exec producer Bill Chais and exec producer Jeff Rake.
Hour, from 20th Century Fox TV, concerns a successful golden boy lawyer who has a nervous breakdown and teams up with another mentally disturbed lawyer with an anger problem. Together, they rep people with issues — and not just the legal kind.
Over at CBS, Eye has given cast-contingent approval to “3 Lbs.,” an hourlong drama from Peter Ocko (“Boston Legal”) about brain surgeons. Paramount Network TV is producing.