[04/25/03 - 12:00 AM]
Studios Keep Producers Happy
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

CHICAGO (thefutoncritic.com) -- The folks behind such series as "Smallville," "The Bachelor," "Popular," "American Dreams," "The Bernie Mac Show" and "Everwood" all had reason to smile in the past month as they've each signed seven-figure deals with various studios to create, develop and executive produce new projects as well as stick with their current endeavors. Here's a rundown of recent happenings:

-- Prolific producers Mike Tollin and Brian Robbins, the duo behind the WB's quartet of "Smallville," "Birds of Prey," "What I Like About You," and "Black Sash" this season, have signed a two-year deal with Touchstone Television to develop, executive produce and direct new projects for the Disney-owned company. The pair's Tollin/Robbins Prods. had been at Warner Bros. Television for the past four years. Financial terms of the deal (which includes an option for another two years) were not disclosed however insiders place it in the high seven figures. The duo said they made the switch in order to escape Warner Bros. multitude of deals with other producers in favor of Touchstone's less cluttered environment. In addition to their series for the WB, the duo are behind such Nickelodeon shows as "All That" and "Nick Cannon" as well as TNN's "Slamball," HBO's "Arli$$" and the features "Big Fat Liar" and "Varsity Blues." The deal doesn't include its two pilots in the works for next season at ABC - "Better Days" (a.k.a. "The Flannerys") and "I'm With Her" - both which were developed at Warner Bros. The company is also behind FOX's untitled Glouberman/Orenstein comedy project and the WB's drama pilot "Ravens."

-- Al Gough and Miles Millar, the creators and executive producers of the WB's "Smallville," have signed a two-year, seven-figure deal with Warner Bros. Television to remain as showrunners on the young Superman drama. The duo (who previously created the short-lived UPN drama "The Strip") hope to remain focused on "Smallville" while at the same time working on feature scripts. In addition to writing the upcoming "The Amazing Spider-Man," Millar and Gough's feature credits include "Shanghai Noon" and its sequel, "Shanghai Knights," as well as "Lethal Weapon 4."

-- Reality guru Mike Fleiss ("The Bachelor," "The Bachelorette," "High School Reunion") has found a second home for his Telepictures-based Next Entertainment: CBS. The Eye has signed a seven-figure, multiyear deal to gain access to the prolific producer and his roster of reality showrunners which includes Scott Einziger ("The Amazing Race") and Lisa Levenson ("Big Brother 2"). The deal allows CBS to bring projects to Fleiss to produce, either by himself or with other Next-based producers. While he has a first-look deal with ABC for any project he (or his company) creates, that deal does not prevent him from producing series brought to him by other networks. CBS then, also as part of the deal, gets a second-look option on any projects he brings to ABC and are rejected. The deal completes the reality trifecta so to speak for CBS as the network has deals with three of the biggest players in reality television: Fleiss, Mark Burnett ("Survivor") and Simon Cowell (the upcoming "Cupid").

-- "Popular" producers Greer Shephard and Michael Robin have signed a new two-year, seven-figure deal to stay with Warner Bros. Television. The pair's original deal for their Shephard-Robin Co. was set to expire in mid-July. The announcement comes just in time for the duo's launch of the FX drama "Nip/Tuck" this summer (with fellow former "Popular" producer Ryan Murphy). Shepard and Robin are also behind the ABC drama pilot "The D.A.," starring Steven Weber.

-- "American Dreams" creator Jonathan Prince has sealed a two-year, seven-figure deal with Warner Bros. Television to develop new projects for the company as well as bring in young talent to the studio. Prince, who was previously at Universal Network TV, will continue to executive produce "Dreams" as part of the pact. Prior to creating "Dreams," Prince had been involved with such short-lived comedies as FOX's "Ask Harriet" and UPN's "Grown Ups." Currently, he also produces ABC Family's "My Life is a Sitcom," which was just picked up for a second season.

-- Larry Wilmore has found a new home at NBC after being kicked off FOX's "The Bernie Mac Show" due to creative differences. The Emmy and Peabody Award winning writer has signed a two-year, seven-figure deal with NBC Studios to create, develop and executive produce new series for the company as well as work on existing projects. In addition to creating "The Bernie Mac Show," Wilmore's credits include "The PJs," "In Living Color" and "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air."

-- "Everwood" creator and executive producer Greg Berlanti is set to stay at Warner Bros. Television as the producer has signed a three-year, seven figure deal with the studio. The pact calls for Berlanti to continue to stay with "Everwood" through next season while developing new projects for the company. The following season, he'll switch to being a non-exclusive consultant on the series instead of a showrunner. The deal also includes discretionary funds for Berlanti's production label Berlanti-Lidell Prods. with partner Mickey Lidell ("Go"), both of whom executive produce the WB drama. Previously to this season, Berlanti was a showrunner on another Frog drama, "Dawson's Creek," where he had a development deal with Sony Pictures TV.

-- While the kids may be graduating on "That '70s Show" this season, the executive producers/showrunners aren't. Husband-and-wife team Jeff and Jackie Filgo have signed a two-year, seven-figure deal to stick with Carsey-Werner-Mandabach where they'll remain in the current positions on the FOX comedy.

-- Former "Frasier" producer Saladin Patterson has inked a two-year overall deal with 20th Century Fox TV said to be valued in the low seven figures. The pact, which includes an option for a third year, calls for Patterson to co-executive produce one of 20th's existing comedy series as well as develop new projects for the studio.

  [april 2003]  

· ARLI$$ (HBO)

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