EXCLUSIVE: Ben Silverman is returning to scripted television via the same route that made him an independent producer. ABC is finalizing a deal for a single-camera comedy based on the popular Spanish series Aquí no hay quien viva (loosely translated as I Hate This Place). Silverman will executive produce with Sofia Vergara, star of the network’s Emmy-winning family comedy Modern Family. Craig Doyle has been tapped to write the adaptation, which marks the first broadcast scripted project for Silverman’s IAC-based company Electus which he launched last summer following his rocky two-year tenure at NBC. I Hate This Place is a multi-cultural and multi-generational comedy in the tone of Modern Family and set in an apartment building. It follows the lives of an old school father and his corner-cutting son who must somehow work together to manage the outrageously eccentric tenants of the building that has been in their family for generations. The original series ran on Span’s Antena 3 from 2003-06 and has been rebroadcast across Latin America.
I hear there was interest from multiple networks in the project before it ultimately landed at ABC, largely because of its compatibility with Modern Family and the involvement of Family co-star Vergara. It is ironic that Silverman’s first major broadcast sale is at ABC whose former entertainment president Steve McPherson once publicly assailed Silverman over the firing of Kevin Reilly from NBC in his infamous “Be a man” remarks at TCA. But it’s a new day at ABC under new president Paul Lee who replaced McPherson 2 months ago. The new project mirrors the pedigree of Ugly Betty: I Hate This Place is based on a very popular Spanish-language format and is also exec produced by Silverman and a well-known Latin American actress. (Salma Hayek in the case of Betty, Vergara on the new show.) Vergara left behind a successful career in Latin America for a shot at stardom in Hollywood and branching out into producing.
For Doyle, this marks the second high-profile sale this development season. The writer, repped by CAA and Madhouse Entertainment, recently set up comedy Mayors of Casterbridge at NBC and his pilot credits include ABC’s American Men and NBC’s Weekends.
Silverman started off as an agent at William Morris packaging U.S. shows based on British formats. He launched the scripted business of his former independent production company Reveille with two series based on foreign formats, NBC’s The Office and ABC’s Ugly Betty. So far, Electus has been more active in cable, signing deals with Starz for projects to be done as international co-productions, and with MTV for Pedro & Maria, a bilingual interactive telenovela.