Shepard joins Peacock flock

Helmer added to next season's sked

NBC Universal Television Studio has inked Richard Shepard, helmer of “The Matador” and ABC’s upcoming “Betty the Ugly,” to a mid-six-figure exclusive holding deal under which he’ll direct a comedy or drama pilot for the studio next season.

He’ll begin focusing on potential projects in late fall, after he returns from lensing the Weinstein Co.’s Richard Gere-Terrence Howard starrer “Spring Break in Bosnia,” which he also wrote (Daily Variety, May 2).

Deal caps a year that saw Shepard direct two pilots — and land both on the air. In addition to “Betty,” he helmed the pilot for the CBS procedural hit “Criminal Minds.”

Shelley McCrory, senior VP of comedy series at NUTS, said the studio began pursuing Shepard as soon as “The Matador” was released.

“If you look at both ‘The Matador’ and ‘Betty,’ he does a really deft dance in tone,” she said. “The humor ends up being very organic to the material.”

McCrory also predicted the “comedy and drama teams are going to be fighting over” which project Shepard ends up directing.

Shepard said it’s not a coincidence that he’s worked for ABC and CBS, and now NBC. His plan is to get to know as many major TV execs as possible in the hopes of ultimately signing a deal to develop and write his own series, perhaps as early as next year.

“A lot of the best storytelling and writing is on television right now, and this is a great way to meet the players,” he told Daily Variety.

It’s been more than two years since production wrapped on “The Matador,” and Shepard said directing pilots has proved to be a good way “to keep myself sharp” as he readied his next feature. He’s also enjoyed the relative instant gratification that comes with TV pilots.

“They’re like mini-movies, except without the three years of stress and pulling your hair out,” he said. “It’s three months of stress and pulling your hair out.”

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