Polone takes the pilot seat

Pariah finds its TV projects popular

Just a few months into a new overall deal at Sony, Gavin Polone’s Pariah Television has set up a slew of projects and snagged blind development commitments from NBC and UPN.

Peacock has made what Polone called “a very generous pilot commitment” to Pariah. UPN, meanwhile, has agreed to develop at least two scripts with Polone via the Sony deal.

And Fox has committed to a script for an “X-Files”-like thriller set in the world of cloning. Dan Therriault (“Witness Protection”) will write and exec produce.

Pariah also has snagged a pilot greenlight from HBO for “Sex Life,” a boundary-pushing drama about three couples with intimacy issues that was in the works before the Sony deal. Casting has just begun on the project from scribe Cynthia Mort, helmer Patricia Rozema (“Mansfield Park”) and exec producer Vivian Cannon.

On the exec front, Polone has hired Christa Zofcin as VP of business affairs and general counsel for Pariah, working on both TV and film. Zofcin was most recently at Media 8 Entertainment, where she helped bring pics such as “Monster” and “The Upside of Anger” to the marketplace.

April agreement

Flurry of activity comes barely four months after Polone signed an overall TV and film deal with Sony, in the process tapping Beata Henrichs as director of TV development (Daily Variety, April 15).

Unlike in his last TV deal, at NBC Universal, Polone doesn’t have a discretionary fund at Sony. Instead, he’s working in conjunction with the studio to develop and sell projects to networks.

Polone said Sony TV topper Russ Krasnoff has been particularly supportive in helping Pariah set up development.

And Polone said that having his film and TV companies set up at one studio also has proved to be an advantage.

“It helps when you’re at the same studio,” he said. “I’ve been talking to (Sony movie execs) I work with in TV who I’d like to move over to features.”

Projects planned

Polone said between cable and network sales, he’d like to set up 10-15 projects this development season.

In addition to the Fox thriller, Pariah has set up a half-hour script at CBS from scribe Rob Cohen (“The Simpsons”). Polone also is working with former “Saturday Night Live” star (and current “Desperate Housewives” scribe) Julia Sweeney on a couple of projects, as well as a possible feature.

Pariah is in various stages of development on projects from several notable scribes, including Adam Barr (“Will & Grace”); Fax Bahr and Adam Small (“Blue Collar TV”); Ajay Sahgal (“Nevermind Nirvana”); Bruce Wagner (“Force Majeur”); Steven Antin (“The Young Americans”) and Kevin Bisch (“Hitch”); and Laurice Elehwany (“The Brady Bunch Movie”).

As part of Polone’s deal with NBC, Peacock has agreed to produce at least one pilot with Pariah or else pay an attached penalty. Polone most recently exec produced the Peacock skein “Revelations,” and while the show didn’t earn a second season, Polone said he’s looking forward to another at-bat at NBC.

“Nothing would make me happier than to get a show on NBC’s fall schedule next year,” Polone said, adding he planned “to put forward maximum effort toward that goal.” He said NBC’s current fourth-place status means the net is looking to try riskier ideas.

Overall, Polone said he’s bullish on network development this season.

“Everyone was (previously) so narrow and closed off,” he said. While nets still are interested in procedural dramas, “They’re realizing it has to stop. I feel like there’s an opportunity (for) the cable-ification of network TV.”

Pariah and Sony are working on ABC midseason laffer “Emily’s Reasons Why Not,” while Pariah is a producer on Comedy Central’s “The Showbiz Show” and FX’s “Thief.”

Polone, who produces “Curb Your Enthusiasm” for HBO, is particularly keen on “Sex Life.” Skein is expected to feature full-frontal nudity and extraordinarily graphic sex scenes.

But “The show is not erotic,” Polone said. “It’s supposed to feel as real as possible.”

Indeed, Polone is looking to cast unconventional thesps. It’s too soon to say whether the pilot will film actual intercourse, but Polone did say it will “push past whatever’s on the air now.”

If greenlit to series, Polone said he sees a scenario where he produces one version of the show for HBO and another, more graphic edition for DVD.

As for Zofcin, she’ll handle Pariah’s feature negotiations, unscripted-TV deals and production legal work, while also working on strategic planning.

On the feature front, Pariah is in pre-production on the Ivan Reitman-helmed “Super Ex,” starring Luke Wilson and Uma Thurman. Post-production has begun on indie pic “Population 436,” while 20th will release the New Regency/Pariah-produced “Little Manhattan” next month.