In a competitive situation, ABC is finalizing a deal to buy two projects from Friends co-creator Marta Kauffman: one with DreamWorks TV, Red Band Society, and one with Ben Silverman’s Electus, The Avalon. Both are based on international formats and neither is cookie-cutter, traditional broadcast fare. Red Band Society, which Kauffman will write and showrun, is based on the Spanish format Polseres Vermelles and revolves around young hospital patients. The Avalon, which Kauffman will write with Jessica Queller (Gossip Girl), is based on the Pan Asian format The Kitchen Musical and is a musical drama set at a restaurant. Both shows have been laid off at ABC Studios. I hear that ABC made a substantial, seven-figure commitment to Kauffman, which makes a pilot order likely. This marks Kauffman’s first year developing without Warner Bros TV, where she was based for nearly 20 years. She opted not to renew her deal there and take the indie route so she can partner with different companies on different projects and explore both broadcast and cable development.
Red Band Society, which was the engine of the complex two-show arrangement at ABC, is a coming-of-age drama with humor set at a big-city hospital. Unlike most hospital series, it doesn’t center on the doctors but on the patients. It chronicles the day-to-day lives of a group of six teens in the children’s wing. They can be sick, skinny, special, they can have their bones broken or their hearts broken, but they’re still kids who want to be normal. Red Band Society is based on the Filmax-produced 2011 series Polseres Vermelles for Catalonia’s TV3 network, which was created by Albert Espinosa. The format was brought to WME by former Endeavor agent-turned-producer Sergio Aguero (No Reservations, Y Tu Mama Tambien), who produces primarily international and Latin source material. The agency showed it to client Kauffman, who jumped on board, and the project was sent to DreamWorks TV. The company’s co-heads Justin Falvey and Darryl Frank liked it and gave it to Steven Spielberg, who also responded to the material, which is important, especially on projects with difficult subject matter. Kauffman, Falvey, Frank and Aguero are executive producing, with brothers Carlos and Julio Fernandez of Filmax co-executive producing. This is DreamWorks TV’s third broadcast drama sale with big penalty this season, along with Legacy at CBS, from writer Jonathan E. Steinberg and author James Frey, and The Raiding Party at Fox, from Nick Santora. On the TV side, Aguero is working on an American version of cult Chilean series Gen Mishima with former Numbers showrunner Ken Sanzel.
The Avalon is one-hour comedic, musical series that takes place onstage and in the kitchen of LA’s hottest cabaret restaurant. It is described as a “ménage à trois of sensual food, sexy performances, and adult drama,” and the setting is reminiscent of the Moulin Rouge, where the rich and powerful can mix with the young, the beautiful, and the penniless. And everybody can sing. Silverman’s Electus announced in August that it had partnered with Asia’s The Group Entertainment and Small World IFT to bring The Kitchen Musical format to the U.S. The original series, which started off as a successful stage play, is being produced in Singapore by Group, whose creative head CheeK created the format. The series is launching this fall across 18 Asian countries including Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. Group’s Tim Crescenti, Nelia Molato-Sustrino and Chris James will executive produce The Avalon with Silverman, Kauffman, and Queller, who also is writing/executive producing a medical dramedy for Fox. The format is repped by Paradigm.