It’s drama-development time again, which means the networks are desperately combing through scripts to find those precious few that deserve a greenlight. Although it’s still early in the game, the good news is: no more feeble X-Files clones among the pitches. The bad news: A lot of stuff sounds like lukewarm Erin Brockovich. Some highlights: NBC is looking at not one, but two projects that focus on a Brockovich-esque lead. One would turn Julia Roberts’ feisty cinematic persona into a ”no-nonsense coroner”; the other — which would star La Femme Nikita‘s Peta Wilson — repositions her as a criminal investigator. Writer-producer Kevin Williamson (Dawson’s Creek) is pitching NBC ”a hopeful show about heroic teachers” (watch your back, David E. Kelley). Other NBC candidates include modern-day versions of The Rockford Files, Kung Fu, and Moonlighting. The most complex proposal, however, has to be the one described as ”48 HRS. meets To Catch a Thief meets Wiseguy.” That drama would find special investigators for the U.S. Justice Department going undercover ”with the help of a guest-star-of-the-week criminal.” But the lone drama to pass muster so far: This Life (not to be confused with CBS’ current That’s Life), which will follow ”the lives and loves of young lawyers who work and live together.” The Peacock has already given the series an eight-episode commitment for mid-season.
CBS is considering a Diane Keaton-produced pilot about a soap opera actress who returns to her hometown to teach at her alma mater (Jeanne Tripplehorn is attached). The creators of Party of Five are pitching the Eye an ensemble drama about cardiologists. There’s also an hour-long show based on the feature film My Dog Skip and one from the team of Gary David Goldberg (Family Ties) and sportswriter Mitch Albom (Tuesdays With Morrie) about a young journalist who keeps involving himself in the lives of his subjects (hey, wasn’t that Deadline?).
Over at ABC, the most intriguing show in development is one created and produced by Ben Affleck and partner Sean Bailey. Thom Sherman, ABC’s VP of drama, describes it as ”a murder mystery set in a Twin Peaks-type arena that also involves a series of embezzlement schemes.” Subtle clues will be woven into each episode, leading at the end of the series to an actual viewer search for a ”prize of some sort, like a pot-of-gold-type thing,” says Sherman. ABC is also involved with superproducer Steven Bochco on a legal series starring NYPD Blue alum Kim Delaney, and is developing a Moonlighting-style hour about reformed jewel thieves costarring John Stamos.
And, finally, what’s up at Fox? The only drama in development that the net would divulge is an hour entitled Ball & Chain. The plot is described thusly: ”A husband and wife superhero team on the brink of divorce are forced to stay together or risk losing their powers.” In other words, it’s like an A&E Biography of the Clintons.