EXCLUSIVE: ABC is getting a jump on pilot season with a second early comedy pilot order. The network has given a cast-contingent pickup to Strange Calls, from writer Donick Cary (New Girl), director Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland) and producer Aaron Kaplan of Kapital Entertainment (The Neighbors). The project, based on an Australian format, was developed at ABC last season when it had a put pilot commitment. Strange Calls centers on good-hearted, bumbling Boston cop Toby Banks, who is exiled to night duty on Nantucket island, where strange, unexplainable occurrences become the norm nine months out of the year. Working out of a creaky lighthouse on the outskirts of town, he is teamed with Gregor, the eccentric lighthouse keeper and local paranormal authority. The two make an unlikely crimefighting duo dealing with the “strange calls” that come into the station at night. Nantucketer Cary wrote the adaptation and will serve as showrunner, with Fleischer set to direct the pilot. The two executive produce with Kaplan and Tracey Robertson and Nathan Mayfield, executive producers of the original series, which was produced by their company Hoodlum. 20th Century Fox TV, where Fleischer is under an overall deal, is producing with Kapital Entertainment and Hoodlum and Heather Petrigala.
The Australian Strange Calls, which aired on ABC2 last fall, was created-directed by Daley Pearson based on his 2011 short film (watch a trailer below). It was conceived as a multiplatform show that invites audiences to communicate with the characters and share “strange” sightings via Twitter and the show’s website. It premieres exclusively on Hulu/Hulu Plus on October 19. At ABC, Strange Calls joins recently greenlighted comedy/musical fairytale pilot Galavant, from The Neighbors creator Dan Fogelman.
WME-repped Cary started on Late Night/Late Show With David Letterman where he moved up to head writer at 25. He also worked on The Simpsons, created Comedy Central’s animated/TV series Lil’ Bush and helped run HBO’s Bored To Death. He is currently a co-executive producer on Parks & Recreation after a two-year stint on the Fox/20th TV comedy New Girl. The pilot order for Strange Calls joins several big commitments for Kaplan this development season, including a production commitment at NBC for The Mysteries Of Laura and put pilots for Henchman and Dead Boss at Fox, and for a Justin Spitzer comedy at NBC. Fleischer’s sales include comedy F.O.M.O. at Fox, which has penalty. He is with UTA. The Strange Calls format, Robertson, Mayfield and Hoodlum are repped by ICM Partners.