EXCLUSIVE: I’ve learned that E! is finalizing deals for its first two scripted pilots. The orders, which will be be cast-contingent, are going to dramas Songbyrd, from writer Krista Vernoff (Grey’s Anatomy), top songwriter Diane Warren and producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, and The Royals, from Lionsgate TV and the One Tree Hill team of creator Mark Schwahn and producers Brian Robbins & Joe Davola. Both projects were part of E!’s most recent scripted slate unveiled at the network’s upfront in April. Entering the scripted space had been a priority for E! under its new NBCUniversal leadership team led by Bonnie Hammer. Sibling cable channel Bravo has been on a similar path and recently produced its first scripted pilot, drama Rita.
Songbyrd was originally developed at E! sibling NBC by Universal TV this past development season. It centers on Lauren Byrd, a character loosely inspired by hitmaker Warren. Lauren, writer of hit love songs, employs a small staff, including her sister, to enable and manage her eccentric, yet wildly successful process.But when her ex-fiance reveals himself to be less than the man she remembers, she realizes that she can no longer live in the past and must find a new, true inspiration for her sake and those around her. Uni TV is co-producing Songbyrd with Universal Cable Prods. Academy Awards producers Zadan and Meron executive produce with Vernoff, while Warren serves as a consulting producer.
The Royals is a contemporary drama about a fictional royal family informed by the regal opulence of the British monarchy and framed by William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Part fairy tale, part cautionary tale, The Royals is described as a tale of men and women corrupted by power, wealth and desire. Schwahn wrote the script and is exec producing with Robbins and Davola.