Although the situation hasn’t reached Friends-level intensity, Everybody Loves Raymond star Ray Romano is currently wrangling for a bigger paycheck. Now that Phil Rosenthal, the creator of CBS’ No. 1 comedy, has a new deal worth a reported $50 million over four years, sources believe that Romano is seeking a windfall comparable to what other television comedians-cum-producers reap (Kelsey Grammer earns $1 million-plus an episode for starring in and executive-producing his NBC show Frasier). ”Ray is not the most demonstrative man, but whatever he’s negotiating should be reasonable and fair, given what he’s brought to CBS,” says a source close to the actor. One interesting side note: Romano’s attorney is Jon Moonves, brother of CBS Television president Leslie Moonves. Wouldn’t you just love to give those talks the Big Brother treatment?
”Heat” Stroke of Genius
When good pilots go bad (i.e., don’t get picked up by any of the networks), that’s usually the end of the story. But Heat Vision and Jack, a beloved Ben Stiller-produced project starring Jack Black (HBO’s Tenacious D) as a freakishly intelligent superhero, could see some action after all. Although it was passed over by the Fox network, Fox 2000 is developing Vision for the big screen. (Hey, the pilot did win a Silver Spire at this year’s San Francisco International Film Festival.) ”It’s exciting, considering the networks were like, ‘Oh, we don’t get it,”’ says a source close to the project. ”This show has a little cult life, and it’s not just going to go away.”
— Dan Snierson
A Harsh Dose of Reality
Prepare to get good and sick of reality television: Both Fox and ABC are currently developing Fugitive-style game shows, Wanted and The Runner, respectively (the latter is produced by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck), in which on-the-lam contestants rake in the dough by eluding capture. Fox may also snag Boot Camp, in which 100 contestants must survive the Navy SEAL’s Hell Week, from LMNO Productions (creators of Kids Say the Darndest Things), while Big Brother‘s creators are peddling the human stunt show Now or Neverland. Even Dick Clark and Vin Di Bona (World’s Funniest Home Videos) each have their own endurance-type shows in development. ”Simply trying to clone Survivor won’t work,” says TN Media senior VP Steve Sternberg. ”This requires getting edgier.” Does that mean this people-in-peril trend may soon translate into people in pain? ”I hope not,” says William Morris agent Mark Itkin. ”A lot of these formats have been produced overseas, and they’ve [tested] the actual stunts to make sure no one gets hurt. But nothing is 100 percent foolproof. Let’s hope it never leads to that.” Tell that to those chickens on Survivor.