UPDATED with executive comment. Freeform has given a pilot order to a show with the working title Motherland, an hour-long military fantasy drama from Claws creator Eliot Laurence and Gary Sanchez Productions. The news came during an event in New York today, when the network also said it has put in development a dark comedy with the working title of Pippa Smith: Grown-Up Detective executive produced by Joss Whedon.
Motherland (which execs emphasized they prefer be known as Untitled Eliot Laurence Project) is from Freeform Studio and Gary Sanchez Productions. It was originally put in development in August 2016. The logline: Set in an alternate America where witches ended their persecution 300 years ago by cutting a deal with the U.S. government to fight for their country, the series follows three young women from basic training in combat magic into early deployment at Fort Salem. In this world, the traditional roles of gender and power are flipped with the more dominant women on the front lines fighting looming terrorist threats that are familiar to our world, but with tactics and weapons supernatural.
Gary Sanchez’s Will Ferrell, Adam McKay and Kevin Messick are executive producers on the pilot, which Steve Adelson is aboard to direct.
During a conversation with reporters at the lunch event, Karey Burke, EVP, Programming and Development, said the show fit with the network’s new brand identity and “A Little Forward” tagline.
‘We had been looking for a show about witches,” she said, citing the network’s investment in genre fare. The “alt” landscape of the show suggested a world in the vein of Man in the High Castle or Handmaid’s Tale, she said. While a military force is the center of the show, she said, instead of guns and bullets, the characters use elements like weather patterns and sound to subdue evildoers. “We really like the story possibilities that gives us,” she said.
The unveiling of a fantasy drama pilot comes a day after Freeform said it was ending Shadowhunters after its current third season. The network ordered two extra episodes that will wrap the story, with the expanded 12-episode final season (dubbed Shadowhunters: The Final Hunt) set to air in spring 2019.
Pippa Smith, meanwhile, from Electus’ Big Breakfast is a half-hour comedy created by Siobhan Thompson and Rebecca Drysdale. It is described as a dark comedy that follows Pippa Smith, a twenty-something former kid sleuth, as she deals with relationships, addiction and being too dang old for the detecting game. In each episode, Pippa solves a new case, while unraveling a bigger mystery and attempting to navigate a messy personal life.
Burke said Whedon had been “looking to get back to a female-centric story, like Buffy.”
Whedon and Drysdale are executive producers, while Thompson is a co-executive producer. Drew Buckley, Jillian Vogel and Sam Reich are executive producers for Big Breakfast.