EXCLUSIVE: There is a change at the helm of ABC’s high-profile new drama Nashville. Veteran showrunner Dee Johnson has come on board as executive producer/showrunner, replacing Jim Parriott. Johnson will serve as an executive producer alongside series’ creator Callie Khouri, the pilot’s director R.J. Cutler and Steve Buchanan. The showrunner gig will fall under a shared overall deal Johnson has closed with the two studios behind Nashville, Lionsgate TV and ABC Studios.
Nashville, which is getting strong early praise, is a family soap set against the backdrop of the Nashville music scene that follows one star at her peak (Connie Britton) and one on the rise (Hayden Panettiere). Parriott joined the series, currently in production on Episode 3, after it had been picked up to series in May and assigned the Wednesday 10 PM slot. Ultimately, it turned out not to be a good fit, which led to the showrunner change. Johnson was already in the Lionsgate TV fold, having served as showrunner on the current second season of the company’s Starz’s drama Boss, which has wrapped production. I hear Johnson is in first position to Boss if the Kelsey Grammer series gets renewed for a third season.
Oscar winner Khouri hails from the feature world and, aside from writing two pilot scripts, has no series experience. Johnson has background in guiding series creators with little or no showrunner experience. She served as showrunner for the pilot and the first 12-episode order of CBS’ acclaimed drama The Good Wife, handing off the reins to creators Michelle and Robert King after that. On Boss, she worked with creator/executive producer Farhad Safinia. Johnson, repped by CAA and attorney Jamie Mandelbaum, previously worked on ER, Army Wives and Southland. This is the third new broadcast series to switch showrunners, along with NBC’s Animal Practice and ABC’s Family Tools.