EXCLUSIVE: When feature producers Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald got their newly launched TV company up and running with the October hire of Ted Gold as president of television, it was the tail end of the broadcast selling season. So now they’re jumping right in, selling a project to NBC earlier this month under Parkes/MacDonald Prods.’ first-look deal with UMS. Tentatively titled Republic of Pirates, it became the first drama buy this development cycle for new NBC chief Bob Greenblatt and his team. Co-written by Jim Hart and Amanda Wells and executive produced by Parkes, MacDonald, Gold and Tom Fontana, the potential series is based on the book The Republic of Pirates by Colin Woodard. Set during the 10-year “Golden Age of Piracy” from 1715 to 1725, it follows some of the world’s most notorious pirates as they forge their own rogue nation, called New Providence, which became the first democracy in the Americas.
Probably spurred by the headline-making Somali pirates, pirate TV projects have been red-hot in the past couple of months, with Graham King and Gale Anne Hurd producing Port Royal for FX Prods. and Fox International Channels, which just tapped Scott Rosenbaum as writer, and Ridley and Tony Scott developing Pyrates, a 10- to 13-episode event-type limited series at Fox created by Barry Schindel and to be directed by Stephen Hopkins, which is eyed for next summer. While the sale of Republic of Pirates comes on the heels of the other pirate projects’ announcements, Parkes/MacDonald had been developing the project internally with Fontana since November, and it was picked up by NBC based on a very detailed pitch. Also, there is a big distinction between Republic of Pirates and the other two projects, Gold said. “The ‘pirates’ of all the other shows we know of — the ones who lived in the time of Ridley’s show and in the time of Port Royal -- were actually ‘privateers,’ private sailors and ships that were authorized by their governments to attack foreign shipping during wartime,” he said. “Our pirates are not ‘privateers’ working on behalf of other governments. They are disenfranchised or unemployed sailors who are completely self-governing and work on behalf or their own pirate nation.”
During its first eight months in television, UTA-repped Parkes/MacDonald has also been active on the cable side, selling projects to USA, Lifetime and Showtime. (The Lifetime project was originally developed through UMS for NBC and will be produced by UMS as part of the studio’s new strategy to also supply cable networks.) Here are the three projects, all executive produced by Parkes, MacDonald and Gold:
Brent Forrester Comedy Project at USA: Single-camera suburban comedy written and exec produced by Brent Forrester (The Office), which takes a look at the suburban cul-de-sac over a weekend, where parents’ lives are ruled by their children’s schedules and the idea of going back to work on Monday sounds better each passing minute. Universal Cable Prods. will produce.
Liberty at Lifetime: From writer/exec producer Amy Holden Jones, the show follows Liberty Kincaid, a gifted physician and hospital sheriff who not only ensures care for her own patients but also for those being treated by other doctors.
Last H.O.P.E. at Showtime: Dave Digilio (Tron sequel) is writing/exec producing the project about the Last Hospital On Planet Earth.
Overall, the TV company will try to emulate Parkes and MacDonald’s diverse feature slate. “Our television business will include comedy and drama for cable and network, with an immediate and primary goal to produce something great for Bob Greenblatt and his team,” Gold said. “We want original voices and characters, and will take some big swings with challenging material — as reflected in our early development.”