Cable has a ‘Paranoid’ problem

Uhls' TV script earns raves but no greenlight

Cable nets are ever hungrier for original projects that will distinguish them from the competition. And features scribe Jim Uhls has one of the boldest scripts around.

So why hasn’t a deal been closed?

Uhls, best known for his adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk’s novel “Fight Club,” has for months been pitching to cable nets a script called “Paranoid,” the story of a surveillance agent who himself may be spied upon, all set against the backdrop of Patriot Act-America.

Execs in the cable biz have privately raved about it for months, comparing it to “The Conversation” and “The Parallax View” — with a dash of the “X-Files.”

But the show, which Uhls is exec producing with his wife Yalda Uhls and Greer Shephard and Michael Robin, is described as unyielding and dark; in one scene, a man rips open his palm in search of a subcutaneous tracking device that may or may not be there.

That could explain why it hasn’t sold yet to one of several originals-happy nets.

“Paranoid” originally had been bought and put into development at FX, but the net passed in its last round of greenlights (though sources say the net could yet pick it up). Execs at AMC then wanted to buy the project for development (they already had picked up another envelope-pushing former FX project, “Breaking Bad”) but couldn’t yet commit to a pilot, so Uhls and his reps opted not to sell it.

And the script was deemed too challenging for originals powerhouses USA and TNT to even pitch it there.

Uhls’ story shows that while top talent from the feature realm is more eager than ever to bring ideas to television, they’re finding that even cable has limits as to how far it can go.

Uhls says he doesn’t plan on doing much revising to the script — and the storylines are too complex and open-ended to turn it into a feature project — so he just hopes to wait things out.

“I feel philosophical about it. It will hit one of those waves when the interest is going in that direction, and then it will get made.”

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