And Now It’s Renee Zellweger’s Turn

Speaking of celebrity writers:

Lifetime Orders CINAMMON GIRL pilot, Series Created by Renee Zellweger – by TeamTVWriter Press Service

As it continues to aggressively expand its scripted programming slate, Lifetime has ordered the drama pilot Cinnamon Girl from executive producers Academy Award® and Golden Globe® Award-winning actress-producer Renée Zellweger, Anthony Tambakis (Warrior) and Gavin O’Connor (WarriorPride and Glory). The announcement was made today by Rob Sharenow, Executive Vice President, Programming, of Lifetime Networks.

Created by Zellweger and Tambakis, Cinnamon Girl is the story of four girls — Cassie, Lola, Junie and Lou — coming of age in the Los Angeles music and movie scenes of the late 1960s/early 1970s, one of the most turbulent, creative and golden times in the history of American popular culture. The impetus for the project was Zellweger’s journey from small-town Texas to Hollywood stardom, combined with Tambakis’ lifelong fascination with both the Laurel Canyon music scene and the New Hollywood, auteur-driven era that began in the late ‘60s. Zellweger and Tambakis have co-written the story, with Tambakis writing the teleplay that explores the characters’ lives at the crossroads of the era’s political, artistic, social and sexual rebellions. O’Connor is set to direct the pilot, while Danny Bramson (Almost FamousJerry Maguire) will serve as producer.

Cinnamon Girl marks the second project on which Zellweger and Lifetime have partnered. In 2008, she executive produced the acclaimed original movie Living Proof, the moving true story of UCLA Dr. Dennis Slamon, who helped develop the breast cancer drug Herceptin, and his efforts to keep the drug trials afloat and save the lives of thousands of women. Living Proof starred Harry Connick, Jr., Tammy Blanchard, Amanda Bynes, Jennifer Coolidge, Angie Harmon, Regina King, Swoosie Kurtz, Amy Madigan, Bernadette Peters and Trudie Styler.

Lifetime’s current scripted slate includes The Client List, starring and executive produced by Jennifer Love Hewitt, which wrapped its first season in June; season six of the hit drama Army Wives, Drop Dead Diva, currently in its fourth season; and Devious Maids, which the network recently picked up from executive producers Marc Cherry, Sabrina Wind, Eva Longoria, Paul McGuigan, Larry Shuman, David Lonner, John Mass, Paul Presburger and Michael Garcia. Last week Lifetime ordered the scripted pilots The Secret Lives of Wives (working title) and Witches of East End.

And, as this announcement ends, drifting off into the sunset of audience/reader indifference, we find ourselves moved to ask the musical questions: What does “co-written” really mean here? Did Ms. Zellweger in fact do any writing on this project? Or was she the “talking/pitching” partner in the team? Are they in fact a team?

Are we being snarky? Sure, aren’t we always? After all, we’re writers. (Hmm, time now to check Renee’s public statements and search for a bit of la snark so we can determine her writerliness once and for all.)

WGAe Scores Benefits for Reality Writers

We know this isn’t about “scripted” televison, but let’s be practical: Anything that strengthens the Writers Guild of America, West or East, strengthens writers working in TV and films. So this is, like, important for us all:

WGA East Pacts With 2 Reality Producers To Provide Health Insurance & Benefits – by TeamTVWriter Press Service

Lion Television and Optomen Productions have become the first non-fiction TV producers to offer writer-producers company-paid health benefits, paid time off, grievance and arbitration provisions, and compensation minimums, according to WGA East.

The collective bargaining agreements come after WGAE landed Lion in May 2011 and Optomen in August 2011, and guild brass are calling them first-of-their-kind agreements for the reality industry.

“We are very pleased to have reached agreement with Lion and Optomen,” WGAE executive director Lowell Peterson said in announcing the deal. “This is a part of the television industry that has historically been non-union, and these agreements demonstrate that people who join with the WGAE get, not just a community of creative professionals, but tangible improvements in their working conditions.”

WGAE says it remains in negotiations with non-fiction TV producer Atlas Media after it voted to join up, and it will begin talks with a fourth, ITV Studios, when the National Labor Relations Board resolves an appeal.

ABC Schedules to a Strong Writer’s Strength

Yeah, we know that’s a confusing title. Because what we’re talking about just doesn’t happen very often. Read on:

ABC Tweaks Fall Schedule – by TeamTVWriter Press Service

ABC plans to move some shows around in its fall schedule, Deadline.com reports. The network’s new situation comedy “The Neighbors,” originally scheduled to air after the hit “Modern Family” at 9:30 p.m. ET Wednesdays, will now likely be in the 8:30 p.m. ET time slot instead, the story reports.

That would mean that the sophomore comedy “Suburgatory” would get the post-“Modern Family” slot at 9:30 p.m. ET.

The reason for the switch has to do with the family element in “The Neighbors,” a comedy from writer Dan Fogelman. He has written two animated successes, “Cars” and “Tangled,” as well as Steve Carell’s “Crazy, Stupid Love” and the upcoming Barbra Streisand-Seth Rogen mother-son comedy “The Guilt Trip.”

Fogelman’s family-friendly material would seem to mesh better with “The Middle,” ABC’s 8 p.m. comedy. Pairing that show with “The Neighbors” would give ABC the opportunity to promote a more kid-friendly hour than the typical network fare.

We Hope Not Dept: Another Cherished TV Series Stepping into Film Oblivion?

Hey, we love Denzel, but Edward Woodward he ain’t. Damn.

1980s CBS Crime Drama Heads to Big Screen With Denzel Washington in Lead Role Deadline (ripped – not ripped off – from TVBizwire

Two-time Oscar winner Denzel Washington will receive $20 million to play a character based on the CBS crime drama “The Equalizer,” reports Deadline.com.

The series ran on CBS from 1985-89 with Edward Woodward as Robert McCall, a former British operative who became a Robin Hood type trouble-shooter in New York City. The show was created by Michael Sloan and Richard Lindheim.

The Denzel Washington film will be tailored to his persona. His “Equalizer” will be a solitary man who lives a monastic lifestyle but helps those who have been victimized. The project is seen as the first in what is designed to be a series of “Equalizer” films starring Washington.

The film is set to start production in April 2013, produced by Todd Black, Jason Blumenthal, Steve Tisch, Alex Siskin, Mace Neufeld, Michael Sloan and Tony Eldridge.

Actually, the more we think about it, the more we like this idea. We think Denzel will be great in the role. It’s just that, shouldn’t a guy this good – this special – do better for himself and the audience by being somebody new?

Syfy’s DEFIANCE Started Shooting Yesterday

 

Too video gamey looking for TV?

The good news, as described by Syfy and its production partner, Trion Worlds:

 Defiance is the first-ever convergence of television and Massive Multiplayer Online gaming, featuring an interconnected world and storylines that will co-exist throughout a scripted drama series and a multiplatform MMO shooter. Both the series and the game will debut simultaneously in April 2013.

Set in the near future, Defiance introduces an exotically transformed planet Earth, its landscapes permanently altered following the sudden – and tumultuous – arrival of seven unique alien races. In this somewhat unknown and unpredictable landscape, the richly diverse, newly-formed civilization of humans and aliens must learn to co-exist peacefully. Each week, viewers will follow an immersive character drama set in the boom-town of Defiance, which sits atop the ruins of St. Louis, MO, while in the game, players will adventure in the new frontier of the San Francisco Bay area. The dramatic tapestry of the series and the intense action of the game will exist in a single universe where their respective narratives will inform one another and evolve together into one overall story.

The series is executive produced by Kevin Murphy (Desperate Housewives, Caprica; Hellcats) & Michael Taylor (Battlestar Galactica). Kevin Murphy serves as showrunner.

The not-so-good news, also as described by Syfy and Trion Worlds:

 Defiance will commence series production in Toronto, ON starting July 24

An unprecedented partnership between Syfy and Trion Worlds, Defiance is the first-ever convergence of television and Massive Multiplayer Online gaming, featuring an interconnected world and storylines that will co-exist throughout a scripted drama series and a multiplatform MMO shooter. Both the series and the game will debut simultaneously in April 2013.

Don’t get us wrong. We’re as pro-Canada as U.S. citizens can get. (Hell, LB lives an hour from the border and takes his wife on wild, carefree outings on Victoria Island every chance he gets.) But let’s be honest here. Canadian productions way too often have this way too, well, cheesy “Look! We’re saving money! Yay!” kind of look.

And then there’s this MMPG aspect. Do you know how extraordinarily complicated that is? Blizzard’s been doing it for centuries, and Diablo 3 is still all screwed up. Our prediction: No way will DEFIANCE be able to truly integrate TV and online elements. No matter how much they want to. It’ll turn out as bogus as a Chinese Apple Store. You’ll see.

Which will be a shame because, conceptually, this particular combo-pak is killer!

Too video gamey looking for TV!