Twelve years after The Practice-Boston Legal franchise ended its run on ABC, David E. Kelley is returning to the broadcast network. ABC has given a straight-to-series order to drama The Big Sky, created and executive produced by Kelley. The project, based on The Highway, the first book in C.J. Box’s Cassie Dewell series of novels, hails from A+E Studios, which will produce in association with 20th Century Fox Television, part of Disney TV Studios.
Written by Kelley, The Big Sky is a procedural thriller, in which private detective Cassie Dewell partners with ex-cop Jenny Hoyt on a search for two sisters who have been kidnapped by a truck driver on a remote highway in Montana. When they discover that these are not the only girls who have disappeared in the area, they must race against the clock to stop the killer before another woman is taken.
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Kelley executive produces with Ross Fineman, with whom he works on Goliath, and Box.
The Big Sky originated as a spec Kelley had written which A+E Studios acquired about two years ago, setting it up at Epix. While the project did not move forward at the premium network, Kelley and A+E Studios remained high on it. At the same time, Kelley indicated to A+E Studios brass that he was looking to return to broadcast. They collaborated on an adaptation of The Lincoln Lawyer, also created and executive produced by Kelley, which scored a straight-to-series order at CBS. The Big Sky also subsequently was reworked for broadcast, landing at ABC.
This is the second high-profile drama project A+E Studios, whose parent company A+E Networks is co-owned by ABC parent The Walt Disney Co., has at the broadcast network, along with Kevin Costner national parks crime drama ISB, which has a put pilot commitment.
At Disney, Kelley also has new series Big Shot starring John Stamos, for Disney+.
The Big Sky is believed to be the first ABC pilot or series from an outside studio to be laid off at new corporate sibling 20th TV vs. ABC Studios. It marks a return of Kelley to 20th TV where he was based for 22 years under a string of overall deals, creating a string of popular series, including the Emmy-winning Ally McBeal for Fox and The Practice for ABC. The latter spawned a spinoff, Boston Legal, headlined by James Spader.
Kelley most recently collaborated with 20th TV on the 2013 CBS comedy series The Crazy Ones, which starred Robin Williams. Over the past five years, Kelley has been focused on premium cable and streaming with series, including Goliath at Amazon, Mr. Mercedes at Audience, the Emmy-winning Big Little Lies at HBO and the upcoming The Undoing on HBO and Big Shot on Disney+.
The Cassie Dewell book series includes four novels published to date, The Highway (2013), Badlands (2015), Paradise Valley (2017) and The Bitterroots (2019).
Box is repped by APA and Ann Rittenberg Literary Agency.
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