Media Rights Capital has put the finishing touches on its first-ever Sunday night schedule for the CW, lining up two dramas, a comedy and a reality skein.
MRC has worked quickly to program the night, following CW’s decision earlier this month to outsource Sundays to the shingle (Daily Variety, May 9). In one case, an exec producer was informed just two weeks ago that his long-shelved script had suddenly been commissioned as a series.
Projects include “In Harm’s Way,” from reality vet Craig Piligian (“Dirtiest Jobs”); the family laffer “Surviving Suburbia,” from Kevin Abbott (“Reba”); romantic dramedy “Valentine, Inc.,” from Kevin Murphy (“Reaper”); and “Easy Money,” a sudsy drama about loan sharks, from Andy Schneider and Diane Frolov (“The Sopranos”). Night is scheduled to launch Sept. 14.
The series all target a slightly older adults 18-49 aud than the rest of CW’s sked — in response to a request made by Tribune, which owns the CW’s major market affils and is looking for better late-news lead-ins. And because it’s going up against “Sunday Night Football” in the fall, the shows all come with a slight female bent.
“We got people who are proven successes, not only previously in this demo but also on this night,” said MRC’s Modi Wiczyk, who runs the company with Asif Satchu.
Nonetheless, MRC TV prexy Keith Samples said he knows the Sunday block faces an uphill battle against established competish.
“We are cognizant that NBC is running football, and we have no anticipation on our part that we’ll knock off ‘Desperate Housewives,’ ” he said. “Plus, HBO will have their Sunday block loaded up again. It’s a tough, competitive night.”
MRC rapidly grew its TV division over the past year and had already lined up a slew of series commitments and pilots for broadcast and cable nets when the CW deal materialized. As a result, Samples was able to dive in and quickly identify several projects that would fit the block.
“Once this thing looked like it might happen, we looked at what kind of things we could do or might be able to do,” said MRC TV prexy Keith Samples. “Over the last six months, we’ve seen so much material. This is an opportunity to try something different and not just replicate what’s being done (on the rest of the CW schedule). It wouldn’t make sense to compete against what they’re doing.”
For this first batch, Samples centered on auspices he’d worked with in the past — as a director, he’s helmed segs in the past for Abbott and Murphy — and said he felt confident he could deliver, given the quick turnaround.
“In Harm’s Way” secured a 10-episode order from MRC, while the shingle is producing 13 segs of the scripted series.
The block will still be branded “CW Sunday night” and receive promotions throughout the week on the net. In exchange, the Sunday-night block will include promos for other CW fare.
MRC has gone immediately into production on all four series, bypassing the pilot process to ensure that the series are ready for a fall launch.
“Unless you have the luxury of looking at a lot of pilots, I’m not sure producing these as pilots would gain us a significant advantage,” Samples said. “The piloting process can tell you a lot, but at the same time, I think you have to look at other ways to do things in the current environment.”
Some of MRC’s CW series will shoot two episodes at once with the same director, while others have already scheduled reshoot days with the understanding that they may not get it right the first time. Samples also notes that going pilotless allows productions to bank five or six scripts before turning the cameras on.
Samples said he plans to gather the showrunners this week for a meeting with advertisers and media buyers about potential sponsor integration, but he stressed that producers will decide for themselves what works for their show.
“It’s just good business: Put them in a room, and let the advertisers hear from the men and women who are going to make these shows,” he said. “It makes for better communication. They’ll hear any concerns about integration or placements and where the shows are going.”
Samples said the shows have budgets “comparable” to those of other mid-range network series.
“It’s not going to be in the ‘Heroes’/’Lost’/’Fringe’ range, but we’re also not making those kinds of shows,” he said. “I told Kevin (Murphy) that he could blow up a plane, but it has to be a Cessna.”
In an unusual move, MRC has also decided to start the evening at 6:30 p.m., rather than the usual 7 p.m. start for Sunday primetime. MRC can do so because it has also taken over CW’s 5-7 p.m. Sunday afternoon block, which the weblet previously programmed with repeats. (MRC is still mulling what to do with the 5-6:30 p.m. slot).
MRC had originally planned to air two half-hour comedies in the 7 p.m. hour — “Surviving Suburbia” and “Book of Murphy.” Samples decided that “Murphy” wouldn’t be ready in time for fall, but the show will continue to be developed for midseason. Samples said he expected to pick up at least two more shows for the Sunday block later on.
MRC probably won’t pick up canceled shows or busted pilots just yet — and said it didn’t make sense to take on shows like CBS’ recently axed “Moonlight” (something that was pitched to them) in the first go-round.
“It just didn’t seem in the end that it was the right thing to do at this moment in time,” he said. “We’re going down a new path here, I’ll be the first to admit. Things will come up on this road we didn’t foresee, and we will evolve.”
The MRC shows:
- “In Harm’s Way,” an hourlong reality skein that airs at 6:30 p.m., will follow the stories of people who work for the benefit of society in dangerous jobs: avalanche hunters, subway tunnel diggers and hurricane chasers, for example.
Show, currently in pre-production, is still scouting for a host. Piligian and MRC had originally been shopping another show to networks, but Samples asked Piligian to come up with “In Harm’s Way” after the CW deal was inked.
- “Surviving Suburbia” will follow at 7:30 p.m. Half-hour comedy, which scored a 13-episode pickup, was originally written several years ago by Abbott, who then tucked the project away and forgot about it. Abbott’s “Reba” exec producer partners Mindy Schultheis and Michael Hanel alerted Samples to the comedy. (It’s unclear whether Schultheis and Hanel will be further involved). “It was just a bolt from the blue,” Abbott said. “In this marketplace, with no comedy going on, to get a call like that.”
Project is based on Abbott’s own experience as a grumpy dad — Abbott, who worked on “Roseanne,” said it’s in the mode of that blue-collar laffer but told from the husband’s perspective.
- “Valentine, Inc.,” which will air at 8 p.m., is based on a feature spec script that Murphy (who’s no longer with “Reaper”) is adapting for the smallscreen.
High-concept romantic comedy centers on the premise that the Greek gods live among us, and that Aphrodite and son Eros are running a matchmaking business.
- “Easy Money,” at 9 p.m., about a family of loan sharks, centers on the matriarch who runs the biz and her middle son, who’s great at it but ambivalent about this predatory line of work.
Project, which will be shot in New Mexico, is based loosely on a concept that U.K. producer Hat Trick is also developing for British auds.