|In a major coup, CBS is working with the showrunners of all three of Studios USA's "Law & Order" series -- Neal Baer, Rene Balcer and Barry Schindel -- to create drama series programming for the Eye's 2002-03 lineup.|
Should all three projects end up on the Eye's fall sked, Studios USA and "Law & Order" exec producer Dick Wolf would have to find new showrunners for all three NBC skeins. However, since nets usually end up ordering only 10% to 20% of their pilots to series, it's unlikely such a scenario will play out.
Baer's potential skein for CBS, described as an ensemble medical drama dealing with controversial issues in cutting-edge medicine, is already attracting top-name talent.
Josh Brolin, Helen Mirren and Alfred Molina have all expressed interest in different roles on the Studios USA project. The Paradigm-repped Baer, a former "ER" scribe/producer, is exec producer of "Law & Order: SVU."
Molina has a holding deal with CBS; the other two thesps are still in discussions with CBS. Eye has given a pilot commitment to the idea.
The Balcer concept, for which CBS has given Studios USA a premium script order, is about a former New York prosecutor who becomes mayor of small town overrun by a charismatic and corrupt adversary. CAA-repped Balcer will co-create and co-write the show with Therea Rebeck ("NYPD Blue") via his Mattawin production banner, in association with Studios USA.
Oliver Platt, who has a holding deal with CBS, has expressed interest in both the Balcer and Baer skeins. Balcer, who ran the original "Law & Order" for years, currently exec produces "L&O: Criminal Intent." Rebeck, repped by CAA, is a consultant on "CI."
The third potential series is a project from helmer Michael Mann ("Ali," "Miami Vice.") Details are still being hammered out, but if all the deals can be worked out, Schindel -- who now works on the original "L & O" -- would come on board with Mann and serve as showrunner. CAA reps both Mann and Schindel.
With so much development with CBS, Studios USA and Wolf have already begun lining up backup producers. What's more, the "Law & Order" franchise has survived a slew of cast and producer changes over the years, yet is currently more successful than ever. And Wolf recently inked a new long-term deal with USA.
Studios USA topper David Kissinger said it's not surprising all three of Wolf's showrunners would end up with development in the same season.
"Each one of these producers has done an extraordinary job on their 'Law & Order' show," he said. "We are fiercely protective of the ongoing need to preserve the quality of the 'Law & Order' franchise. However, we also recognize that talented writers have unquenchable ambitions of their own, and each of these projects represents an exciting opportunity not only for them, but for the studio."
In addition to CAA, Balcer is also repped by Don Walerstein. Besides Paradigm, Baer is repped by Michael Gendler and manager Elizabeth Robinson. Mirren is repped by ICM. Brolin, Platt and Molina are all repped by William Morris.