In a competitive situation, NBC has landed TriBeCa, an hourlong drama based on the hit Korean original series Sky Castle, from Supergirl executive producers/showrunners Jessica Queller and Robert Rovner and Supergirl producers Berlanti Prods. and Warner Bros. TV.
Written by Queller and Rovner, TriBeCa has received a put pilot commitment. Described as a sophisticated family drama set in New York’s most expensive ZIP code, the show explores the inner lives of a group of families and the lengths they will go to ensure their children succeed, regardless of the cost.
Queller and Rovner executive produce alongside Berlanti Prods.’ Greg Berlanti and Sarah Schechter and the original series’ writer Hyun Mi Yoo, director Hyuntak Jo and executive producer Joon Suh Park. Warner Bros. TV, where Queller, Rovner and Berlanti are under overall deals, is the studio.
The 2019 college admission scandal has been a huge news story that resonated with families across the country. As a result, TV projects reminiscent of it are a hot commodity right now. Universal Television and producer Sherry Marsh just won bidding for the rights to Bruce Holsinger’s hot new novel The Gifted School, which touches on similar themes.
This marks the first development collaboration for Queller and Rovner. The duo were looking for formats to adapt this development season when the studio presented to them Sky Castle.
The satirical drama, which aired on Korea’s JTBC cable network from November 2018-February 2019, was a smash hit, growing its audience 14-fold over its run, from a 1.7% nationwide audience share for the premiere to a record-breaking 23.8% for its finale.
Sky Castle, which became the highest-rated Korean cable drama of all time in peak ratings (third in average ratings) and subsequently was picked up by Netflix, revolves around elite families in a wealthy neighborhood where mothers are desperate to get their children into the best college in Korea and would spare no expense and stop at nothing to do it. (You can watch Netflix’s trailer with English subtitles below.)
While Sky Castle predates the U.S. college bribery scandal, the similarities are striking — a fact that was not lost on Queller and Rovner when they first watched the original series. But with TriBeCa, they are not exploiting the scandal, with no characters based on or inspired by any of the 51 people indicted in the scheme. The duo wanted to explore social issues and the pressures of living in a modern urban environment.
Queller is from New York and worked on Gossip Girl. Because the Upper East/West Sides of Manhattan have been done so often on TV, the duo decided to set their show in TriBeCa. Once filled with artists and musicians, the area underwent a wave of renovations to create $10 million-$20 million pads for the rich and become the mix of a hipster scene and money and privilege that it is today.
This marks the second put pilot commitment for Berlanti Prods. so far this broadcast buying season, joining drama Found, from the showrunner of another Berlanti Prods. series, All American‘s Nkechi Okoro Carroll, at ABC.
Queller joined Supergirl midway through the first season, which aired on CBS, as a consulting producer. She was upped to co-executive producer at the start of Season 2 on the show’s current network, the CW. Rovner joined Supergirl midway through the first season as a consulting producer, and was elevated to executive producer at the beginning of season 2.
Queller was upped to executive producer and she and Rovner were named co-showrunners alongside Supergirl co-creator Andrew Kreisberg in June 2017. Queller and Rovner took full reins of the series several months later when Kreisberg was suspended and subsequently removed from his CW/WBTV series over misconduct allegations.
Queller’s series credits also include Felicity and Gilmore Girls. Rovner also served as executive producer/co-showrunner on ABC’s Private Practice, executive producer on Blood & Oil and TNT’s Dallas, producer on Summerland and writer on NBC’s American Dreams. He is repped by the Shuman Company and attorney Bob Myman.