Imagine Television is not giving up easily on its shows. Within the past year, the production company of Brian Grazer and Ron Howard managed to revive both of its signature series, the Emmy-winning Arrested Development and 24. Arrested Development got a new season on Netflix, while 24 is coming back as an event series for Fox. Both were able to do it with their key auspices and stars on board. Imagine now has five shows on the air, a record for the 20th TV-based company. They are returning NBC dramedy Parenthood, which landed the high-profile Thursday 10 slot for fall, new dramas Gang Related on Fox, from hot Fast & The Furious writer Chris Morgan, and Those Who Kill on A&E starring Chloe Sevigny, as well as Arrested and 24: Live Another Day. The company also has an animated presentation at Fox with 50 Cent loosely based on the rapper’s childhood and Conquest, a sweeping period drama at Showtime that has Howard attached to direct. In an interview, Grazer and Imagine TV president Francie Calfo talk about how Arrested Development and 24 came back, whether there would be another season of Arrested, how 24 foreshadowed the era of binge-viewing and what new projects the company is working on, including a hybrid comedy/reality presentation for Fox.
DEADLINE: Arrested Development‘s new season premiered more than seven years after the last original had aired on Fox. How were you able to resurrect the show and bring everyone back?
BRIAN GRAZER: It was an unified effort that was spearheaded by Mitch Hurwitz, Arrested Development‘s creator, producer and sometime director, and Ron Howard. They kept their arms wrapped around the subject of Arrested Development and were able to keep the team of actors unified, wanting to do the show. The key was finding a way to unlock it logistically. Gratefully, Mitch did. A lot of it was made possible by the success of the DVDs, which kept the show alive in the hearts of the minds of its core audience. Arrested Development is one of those shows that is one of the first things someone walking into our offices talks about, there has been such a desire for the show. Luckily, Ted (Sarandos) had the same experience on Netflix.
DEADLINE: Netflix executives recently indicated that they’re open to another season of Arrested Development. Will we see Season 5?
GRAZER: It’s up to Ted. If Ted is into it, we would be very excited то pursue it.
FRANCIE CALFO: It’s also up to Mitch, who is probably resting right now as he put everything he had into these episodes and hasn’t had a chance to think beyond that.
DEADLINE: What about the Arrested Development movie, which the new season was intended to lead to?
GRAZER:We’re hoping that we could do that; the popularity of the series will inform that decision.
DEADLINE: What about 24‘s comeback as an event series at Fox? How did that come about?
GRAZER: The way it came about was Howard (Gordon), Kiefer (Sutherland) and I had been working on making 24 into a movie. We stayed on it but it never materialized in a movie form over concerns about moving the character of Jack Bauer so far outside of the original concept because of how much we loved the series. Meanwhile, Howard had a conversation with (Fox’s) Peter Rice, then they spoke with Kiefer, and, with help from (Fox’s) Kevin Reilly and (20th’s) Dana Walden, the project materialized as a 12-part event series for Fox. A lot of it was the unified synergy that lives inside News Corp that made this happen. And we were lucky that Kiefer wanted to do it because he does the role so well; he is on top of his game playing that character, a character that does things we all would love to do too but rules prevent us from doing.
DEADLINE: 24 introduced binge viewing before it even existed. What do you think about the changing viewing habits?
GRAZER: There is evidence that people do want to watch shows back to back — that’s why DVR use is so high. When you’re able to DVR something, people will watch more than one episode. This is natural for us as 24 was one of those shows where people waited for the DVD set to watch it. The spirit of the way people watched 24 seems to have caught on with the viewing habits on other shows. And serialized television is now more popular than it was when we launched 24.
DEADLINE: Two of Imagine’s best-known TV series, Parenthood and Friday Night Lights, were based on movies. Are there other Imagine film titles you would like to mine for TV?
GRAZER: There are 1-2 moves that would work well as TV shows. And there are two really big subjects for amazing limited series, 10-part sagas, that I’m really exited about. They’re very different — one is set in the 1990s and one 16th century London. We also have a half-hour animated show with 50 Cent for Fox. I love it, it is a way to go inside the audience of Family Guy from a totally different perspective. We will continue to do shows that we love and have tremendous interest in the subjects. I started in TV movies and then had success in my move to features with Night Shift and Splash. But I love television, which enabled me to go back. I was lucky the first two shows I did were (J.J. Abrams’) Felicity and (Aaron Sorkin’s) Sports Night. We weren’t driven by chasing economics but by doing quality shows with visionary artists that set the template for how we continue to do television. The only difference is that when we started there were four networks. Now there are far more, giving us an opportunity to do more shows with more artists.
CALFO: Off-season, we sold a show to Fox, a comedy presentation shooting in June. It’s called WTF America, a hybrid scripted/unscripted project with a bit of reality from Dan Maser, which is a really exiting brand new format. We love that we always try to push boundaries.