EXCLUSIVE: ABC has ordered its first pilot this development season, and fittingly, it is from the network’s most prolific writer-producer Shonda Rhimes. The untitled project, about the life and work of a professional fixer and her dysfunctional staff, is based on the career of famous PR guru and crisis management consultant Judy Smith. It was written by Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice creator Rhimes, her first pilot script since the two-hour May 2007 Grey’s Anatomy episode that served as backdoor pilot for spinoff Private Practice. It was a quick turnaround for the new project, which hails from ABC Studios and Rhimes’ studio-based Shondaland banner. ABC brass read Rhimes’ script on Thursday and 24 hours later, they greenlit it to pilot. The early order comes weeks before the traditional start of the broadcast networks’ pilot pickup season. ICM-repped Rhimes will executive produce with her Shondaland partner, UTA-repped Betsy Beers. Judy Smith will serve as a co-executive producer and a technical consultant.
UTA-repped Smith, a former White House press aide under President George H. W. Bush, has been involved in some of the most controversial cases of the past 20 years. She has guided and counseled Monica Lewinsky, Michael Vick and Senator Larry Craig and has worked on the Iran Contra investigation, the prosecution of former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry for drug possession, the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court confirmation hearings, the Chandra Levy investigation and the Enron Congressional inquiry.
ICM-repped Rhimes and her Shondaland have 3 series on the ABC schedule this season: Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice and the Jenna Bans-created new medical drama Off the Map, which premieres on Jan. 12. Additionally, the company is developing a comedic divorce drama project with BAFTA-winning British writer Danny Brocklehurst (Shameless).