EXCLUSIVE: Lifetime’s new president and general manager Nancy Dubuc is putting her stamp on the female-centered cable network with her first scripted series orders. Lifetime has picked up to series two female-driven cop dramas, Against the Wall and Exit 19, for a launch later this year.
The orders, both for 13 episodes, can’t come soon enough for Lifetime, which desperately needs more original scripted programming. It is down to two scripted series – veteran Army Wives, which was renewed for a fifth season, and dramedy Drop Dead Diva, which has been picked up for a third season. The last scripted series premieres on the network were in 2009 (Diva and the short-lived comedy Sherri). Because of Lifetime’s acquisition by A&E Networks, Lifetime held off on development from mid-2009, when the deal was announced, until May 1, 2010 when History president and general manager Nancy Dubuc took over as Lifetime’s new president and general manager. She dived into development, reading piles of scripts identified by Lifetime’s development team led by JoAnn Alfano. “Over the last several months, we have been working tirelessly on a new development slate of scripted dramas, nonfiction series and original movies at Lifetime,” Dubuc said stressing that “continuing our legacy of great scripted dramas is critical” to the network’s success. She cited the newly picked-up Against the Wall and Exit 19 as examples of the “high-quality auspices and great emotional storytelling you can expect from Lifetime in the future.”
Written by Annie Brunner, Against the Wall is a family drama set in Chicago following policewoman Abby Kowalski (Rachael Carpani), who causes a rift with her three cop brothers when she decides to join the department’s Internal Affairs division. Co-starring in the project, from Universal Cable Prods., are Treat Williams and Kathy Baker. Nancy Miller is exec producing with Brunner; Michael Fresco directed the pilot. This marks the second straight series order from a non-NBCU network for UCP, following the recent pickup by MTV of I Just Want My Pants Back. “UCP is really hitting its stride in producing for networks outside the NBCU family,” UCP co-head Jeff Wachtel said.
Exit 19, from Jeff Bell, follows single mother Gloria Shepherd (Ally Walker) as she juggles her demanding personal and professional lives raising two children while working as a New York Police Department homicide detective. The pilot hails from ABC Studios and CBS TV Studios, with Bell , Nina Wass and Gene Stein exec producing. Peter O’Fallon directed the pilot, his 9th pilot to go to series. This marks a happy ending for Exit 19, which was originally developed at CBS during the 2007-2008 season when it was ordered as a pilot presentation starring Geena Davis but didn’t make it to series.
Over the summer and fall of 2010, Lifetime ordered a total of 5 pilots. Four of them, Exit 19, Against the Wall, Meet Jane and the untitled Josh Berman project, were completed and submitted to Lifetime for consideration for this round of series orders. The fifth, the untitled Michael Sardo pilot, starring Carrie-Anne Moss, is yet to film.
Of the 4 that were delivered, the Josh Berman project is not going forward while Meet Jane remains in contention and may be retooled. At TCA last month, Dubuc said she planned to pick up 2 of the 4 completed pilots to series. In addition to doubling its scripted portfolio from 2 to 4 series this year, Lifetime also is launching a dozen new unscripted series this year, with the rollout beginning in February, along with 15 original films.