In another sign of how the WGA strike is reshaping network TV’s development process, CBS Paramount Network TV is planning to team with Canada’s CTV to produce at least 13 episodes of a police drama dubbed “Flashpoint.”
Skein will begin lensing April in Toronto using scripts from Canadian scribes and a cast of Canuck thesps, including Enrico Colantoni (“Veronica Mars”). “Flashpoint” is believed to be the first scripted project developed and ordered to series by a broadcast network since the WGA walkout in November.
Final deal points between CBS Par and CTV were being finalized Monday, and a deal could be announced as soon as today.
While the strike focused Eye execs on “Flashpoint,” CBS insiders are cautioning that the show is not meant as pure strike programming. Indeed, it’s likely the show — which is expected to air concurrently on both CBS and CTV — won’t premiere until late May or June at the earliest, after the current TV season is over.
Even before the strike, CBS went into the season determined to expand the development process beyond U.S. borders. It’s understood the Eye has about a dozen other scripts and formats in the works from outside the country, including projects from Blighty, Oz and Israel.
CBS sees “Flashpoint” as a possible alternative business model, one that could be more financially — and creatively — attractive than the usual pilot process.
Eye didn’t have to waste millions on a rushed pilot that might have to be retooled anyway. And because there’s no rushing to get the project on the air, producers will be able to map out episodes well in advance, rather than doing so on the fly.
CTV developed and produced the pilot for the show on its own late last year. It then was brought to CBS, which agreed to a series order after seeing how the show’s concept was executed.
“It just worked,” said one CBS creative exec. “It hit all the right buttons for us. And we had a great meeting with the producers, who already had story ideas for another four or five episodes.”
Because “Flashpoint” is a co-production, the Eye’s license fee will be far less than a typical one-hour drama. However, the show’s production values “will be as good as any American production,” one person familiar with the project said.
What’s more, CBS execs will still get creative input on the series, offering notes and creative guidance to make sure the show works for its audience.
Eye will also retain domestic distribution rights, allowing it to sell the show to a U.S. cable network if it’s a hit.
CBS is just the latest network to shake up its development process.
NBC U CEO Jeff Zucker last week said he planned to dramatically reduce the number of pilots the Peacock commissions each season, to as little as one or two per year. NBC last year also gave a 13-episode order to a scripted series it will co-produce with a Blighty production shingle, but in that case, no pilot had been shot.
As for “Flashpoint,” skein fits into the Eye’s police drama motif.
Skein revolves around an urban Strategic Response Unit (SRU) — essentially a SWAT team. Cops in the unit bust gangs, defuse bombs and rescue hostages.
CTV and Toronto-based Pink Sky Entertainment originally developed the pilot for “Flashpoint.” Avmar Entertainment then came on board for the series, and the three companies are now in business with CBS Par.
Mark Ellis and Stephanie Morgenstern created “Flashpoint,” which also stars Hugh Dillon (“Degrassi: The Next Generation”) and David Paetkau (“LAX”). Exec producers include former Alliance Atlantis producer Anne Marie La Traverse and ex-CTV drama chief Bill Mustos.