Initial Kids hunts for laughs with ghostly new series
Looking to fill a teen comedy void, London-based Initial Kids is hooking up with Flextech-owned U.K. teen channel Trouble to co-produce a 26 x 30-minute comedy/drama series called Ed Stone is Dead. Aimed at 15- to 24-year-olds, the US$5-million live-actioner features 18-year-old Tilly Brewster, who inherits a ghost-inhabited house in Notting Hill. Although Tilly is normally creeped out by all things spectral, this particular haunting is complicated by the fact that the phantom happens to be young, good-looking. . . and male. Created by Flextech’s director of TV programming Lisa Opie, Ed Stone is Dead will be broadcast on Trouble in fall 2000. Mitchell Kriegman and Initial Kids head Christopher Pilkington will serve as co-executive producers on the project, and Gem will distribute.
Paranoic meets paramour in Will Vinton’s latest stop-motion toon
A happy-go-lucky stud and an asthmatic hypochondriac hit the open highway together in a new stop-motion series originated by Fax Bahr and Adam Small, the creators of Mad TV. Fox has ordered eight half-hour episodes of Gary & Mike, a co-pro between Oregon-based Will Vinton Studios (The PJs) and distributor Big Ticket Television, and will air the series in a prime-time slot on Fox in early 2000. With a per-episode budget of US$1 million, Gary & Mike targets a Gen X and Y audience ranging in age from 14 to 35. Bahr and Small will executive produce the series, along with Vinton president and CEO Tom Turpin.
MTV grows a teen pop band on the small screen
MTV and Bunim/Murray Productions are pouring on the pop this winter with a reality series that takes viewers behind the scenes with a fledgling teen band. With a working title of The Pop Band Project, the show will feature a five-member band chosen from nation-wide auditions held in October and November. Once the band is formed later this month, the members will decide on a name. Although aimed at a broad demo of 12- to 35-year-olds, the series’ core teen audience will be able to turn on and tune in to the band’s development from inception, to first performance, to first tour. Other teen pop sensations such as Backstreet Boys, N’ Sync, LFO, Innosense and C-note will make guest appearances, and co-creator and executive producer Ken Mok says the idea is to mold the series’ band into the next big thing. To that end, Lou Pearlman, the man behind N’ Sync and Backstreet Boys, has been brought on-board to guide the group’s development. The half-hour prime-time series will air on ABC in spring or summer 2000. Production for 13 episodes began November 3, and shooting will continue into January.
Natterjack gnaws into satire of the cannibalistic kind
Vancouver-based Natterjack Animation is developing a satirical toon that stars a suburban family trying to avoid the rash of cannibalism that has invaded their previously peaceful community. With a name spun from a line of Canadian convenience stores that constantly faces the threat of being gobbled up by larger national chains, The Beckers is a 12 x 22-minute series based on hand-drawn animation that combines the look of a 1950s-style educational film with clip art images. At a cost of US$100,000 per episode, the toon will maintain its hand-drawn look as the sketches are scanned and then manipulated digitally. Although on paper the series targets a broad demo of 18 to 44, Natterjack creative director Steve Evangelatos expects it will appeal to teenage fans of irreverent shows like South Park and the Tom Green Show as well. France’s Canal + aired the pilot for The Beckers this fall, and Evangelatos hopes the French broadcaster and its Spanish affiliate will also pick up rights for the series, which will be completed for fall 2000.
Cambium mines the Web for Canuck comedy series
Toronto’s Cambium Entertainment and cyberco Infopreneur are starting to pitch an animated series called Chilly Beach that pokes fun at typical Canadian stereotypes. Based on a Webisode that runs on Infopreneur’s site http://www.chillybeach.com, the 13 x 30-minute toon stars a couple of toque-wearing hosers living on a floating iceberg with neighbors like May June, an ex-hippie who roasts tofu over a burning-bra bonfire, and Jacques Laroche, a washed-up NHL goalie who runs a café at the local skating rink. Featuring a rough-around-the-edges, South Park-esque style, Infopreneur president Dan Hawes says the ‘grunge-imation’ show will maintain the look and feel of an Internet property, with the focus being on witty writing and character development. Cambium’s director of television development and new media producer Dan Fill expects Chilly Beach’s budget to be fairly low and hopes the project will be financed entirely in Canada. Cambium is distributing the series, which is slated for completion by fall 2000, and has just started to negotiate with Canadian broadcasters.
Book-based rodent mutates for the tube
Toronto-based Red Giant is in cahoots with Catalyst Entertainment on a 30-minute young adult cartoon called Murphy the Rat. The series follows the adventures of a thigh-high mutant lab rat in Tuff City. Aimed at a prime-time demo of 14- to 35-year-olds, the show, which is loosely based on a same-name children’s book by Paul Duggan, is currently in the scripting and design phase. Red Giant executive producer Stephen Price says the series’ 3-D characters will be layered over 2.5-D flat backgrounds like the building fronts in old western movies. Murphy will be distributed by Catalyst, and broadcasters have already shown interest in the project.
NBC’s mid-season entry animates a father-son relationship
NBC Studios, Brillstein-Grey Entertainment and Columbia TriStar Television are co-producing a new animated comedy series called Sammy, a mid-season addition to NBC’s sked. Featuring the voices of David Spade, Andy Dick and Maura Tierney, the 13 x 30-minute series primarily targets an 18 to 49 demo with a story line based on Spade’s relationship with his father. However, Sammy is also expected to draw in a hefty audience of younger teen fans of David Spade’s live-action projects, which include Saturday Night Live and feature films like Black Sheep and Tommy Boy. The first 13-ep run of the series is currently in production, with a TV debut tentatively slated for early 2000.