EXCLUSIVE: I hear a romantic comedy TV series inspired by Nick Hornby’s 1995 novel High Fidelity and the 2000 feature starring John Cusack is in early development for Disney’s upcoming direct-to-consumer service. The project, a gender-swapped take on the classic title, comes from writers Veronica West and Sarah Kucserka (Bull, Ugly Betty), the Midnight Radio producing team and ABC Signature Studios (SMILF), the cable/streaming division of ABC Studios. Midnight Radio is comprises Scott Rosenberg — who co-wrote the High Fidelity feature — Jeff Pinkner, Josh Appelbaum and Andre Nemec.
Written by West and Kucserka, the High Fidelity TV series is described as a departure from the book and the movie while still capturing the romantic comedy and authentic spirit of the original source materials. I hear it centers on a record store owner — a female take on the character played in the movie by Cusack — talking straight to the camera as she chronicles past relationships.
While the Touchstone Pictures movie was rated R, I hear the TV series — an optimistic-in-tone mixtape/diary rom-com — will be PG-13 and intended for family co-viewing, consistent with Disney’s plans for a family-friendly OTT service that is not expected not feature R-rated movies or series.
With the potential High Fidelity series, Disney is mining its library of IP for the new streaming service, whose cornerstones will be programs representing the top brands of the Walt Disney Company, including Disney, Marvel, Pixar and Lucasfilm. The announced inaugural slate that will help launch the platform in fall 2019 include a Star Wars, a Marvel and a Monsters Inc. series as well as a High School Musical reboot. A new Muppets TV series also might be in the works for the Disney-branded service, stemming from Disney’s ownership of The Muppets Studio.
Adding a romantic comedy series like High Fidelity to the planned sci-fi, superhero and kids/teen fare illustrates Disney’s intention to go broad in the scope of programming its OTT platform offers for the entire family. Launching next year, the service will feature thousands of hours of Disney films, as well as television library content.
As Deadline reported in February, the goal in the first year is to generate four to five original movies and five TV series. We had heard that latter will cost between $25 million-$35 million for 10 episodes, but an exceptionally ambitious series could have a budget cap of $100 million for that 10-episode season.
Written by Scott Rosenberg, D. V. DeVincentis, Steve Pink and John Cusack and directed by Stephen Frears, the 2000 movie High Fidelity starred Cusack as Rob Gordon, a music store owner who can’t make his relationships last. To improve his poor track record and understanding of women, he decides to seek out some of his old flames. The film, which co-starred Jack Black, Lisa Bonet, Joelle Carter, Joan Cusack, Sara Gilbert, Iben Hjejle, Todd Louiso and Lili Taylor, has been featured on a number of top romantic comedy movie lists (you can watch a trailer below).
The Midnight Radio quartet recently developed and executive produced the CBS summer drama series Zoo. Rosenberg and Pinkner wrote the very successful Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and have been tapped for the follow-up movie. The duo also co-wrote the upcoming Marvel/Sony film Venom. Meanwhile, Applebaum and Nemec wrote the upcoming animated feature Amusement Park, whose voice cast is led by Mila Kunis, Jennifer Garner and Matthew Broderick. Midnight Radio is repped by WME.
West and Kucserka serve as co-executive producers on CBS’ legal drama Bull. Their series credits also include Chicago Fire, State Of Affairs, State Of Dixie, Brothers & Sisters and Ugly Betty. They are repped by WME.