Producers Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald have brought in former AMC executive Owen Shiflett as new head of television. He will shepherd TV development and production under Parkes + MacDonald’s first-look deal with Universal TV. One of the first projects Parkes, MacDonald and Shiflett are exploring is a TV drama adaptation of RASL, the black-and-white science fiction noir comic book by award-winning Bone creator Jeff Smith.
Parkes+MacDonald are closing a deal for the rights to RASL, which would mark the first time a Jeff Smith property has been optioned for television. (Wigram Productions acquired the feature rights to RASL 4 years ago.) The sought-after comic “was a motion picture pitch, which we felt was more potent as TV project in its merging of it sci fi, fantasy, and social commentary with strong characters and themes,” Parkes said.
RASL, a New York Times bestseller and the 2014 Eisner Award winner for best graphic novel, centers on a scientist turned art thief who tries to escape his past by hiding in multiple dimensions and building a new life. Smith and Vijaya Iyer of Cartoon Books are attached to produce along with Leslie Hough. Evan Hayes is co-executive producer.
“I have been a fan of Jeff Smith since reading and falling in love with his magnum opus Bone,” Shiflett said. “Thankfully television has finally caught up to the sensibility Jeff brings to his comics.”
The projects Shiflett would be overseeing also include an adaptation of the book Tokyo Underworld by Robert Whiting set up at Amazon with David Scarpa writing.
“Owen is already been transformative for us with his background, sensibility and talent relationships,” Parkes said.
At Parkes+MacDonald, Shiflett succeeds Ted Gold, who was head of TV for 3 years before returning to the executive ranks with a job at Spike TV last fall.
Under Parkes+MacDonald’s first-look deal at Uni TV, the company produced NBC’s limited series The Slap, written by Jon Robin Baitz and Parkes, and martial arts drama pilot Warrior, written by Dave Digilio and directed by Phillip Noyce.
Parkes notes that The Slap felt like a cable series, and notes that projects for cable and digital, like Tokyo Underworld, will be an important part of the company’s portfolio.
“Very conventional network shows may not be what we do,” he said. “At the end of the day, it’s about the quality of the idea and the writing talent. We love genre that can be elevated through good writing and characters.”
Shiflett spent 8 years at AMC where he was part of the development team that launched scripted programming. He was involved in such series as Mad Men, Hell On Wheels, Halt And Catch Fire and Breaking Bad.