Julian Fellowes, creator of the U.K.-based upstairs-downstairs 1920s drama “Downton Abbey,” is following the success of his international hit by developing another period piece, this time for American audiences. NBC has given a script commitment to “The Gilded Age,” which is described as a “Downton”-style epic that follows the millionaire “princes of the American Renaissance,” as well as their rising and falling fortunes, in late 19th-century New York City.
“This was a vivid time, with dizzying, brilliant ascents and calamitous falls, of record-breaking ostentation and savage rivalry—a time when money was king,” Fellowes said when the project was announced.
Fellowes will continue to write and executive produce “Downton Abbey,” which was recently renewed for a fourth season; production is expected to begin in February. (Season 3 premieres in the U.S. Jan. 6 on PBS.)
While Fellowes works on bringing one historical era to television, another relic from a previous century may also be making a comeback. Former “Boy Meets World” stars Ben Savage and Danielle Fishel have officially committed to reprise their roles as Cory Matthews and Topanga Lawrence in “Girl Meets World,” a potential sequel series to the ’90s hit that is in the pilot stage at the Disney Channel. Cory and Topanga are now happily married and the new show’s central character is their 13-year-old daughter Riley, a role that is currently being cast via a nationwide casting search.
ABC is developing “Big Children,” a half-hour multi-camera comedy pilot from writer-executive producer Scott Marder (“It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia”). Comedian Rory Scovel will star as a 30-something only child who has to move home with his parents, who revert to acting like “big children” with too much free time after they retire.
ABC also bought an untitled single-camera comedy project by “Little Fockers” co-writer Larry Stuckey, inspired by the writer’s sibling rivalry with his brother.
“Saturday Night Live” veteran Kenan Thompson is working with “SNL” boss Lorne Michaels on an untitled single-camera comedy, which has been given a script commitment from NBC. Thompson will write, co-executive produce, and star as Kenan Monroe, who contends with three generations of family problems when he gives up his New York life and moves to his in-laws’ house in the suburbs.
Also at NBC, “House” star Hugh Laurie is reportedly in negotiations to star as the infamous pirate Blackbeard in “Crossbones.” The network has already ordered 10 episodes of the 1715-set period action-adventure series.
David Graziano is writing and executive producing “Bloodline,” an NBC drama pilot that is described as a “contemporary pulp action thriller” about a young woman who was abandoned at birth by an ancient line of mercenaries and killers. Graziano has also sold “The Sixth Family,” a drama based on true stories from the streets of South Brooklyn about the changing face of organized crime in the wake of 9/11, to Cinemax.
And NBC is developing Jessie Miller and Bennett Wolin’s spec comedy script “The Messed Uptons,” about a woman who hits rock bottom but realizes she’s “the crazy glue that holds her broken family together.”
Fox is developing “The Happy Tree,” a sitcom from former “Entourage” executive producers Mark Wahlberg, Rob Weiss, and Steve Levinson about a brilliant young corporate attorney who becomes an unlikely voice in the movement to legalize marijuana.
On cable, AMC has ordered two new dramas pilots, “Turn” and “Halt & Catch Fire,” both of which are scheduled to shoot in 2013. “Turn,” based on the book “Washington’s Spies,” follows farmer Abe Woodhull in the summer of 1778 as he forms an unlikely group of American spies called the Culper Ring during the Revolutionary War. “Halt & Catch Fire” dramatizes the personal and professional relationships between a visionary, an engineer, and a prodigy at the beginning of the personal computer revolution in the 1980s.
“These additional pilot orders demonstrate AMC’s investment in our original scripted programming,” said Susie Fitzgerald, SVP of scripted development and current programming for AMC. “Both of these projects take the audience into unique worlds through compelling characters told with an original voice.”
USA is renewing “Necessary Roughness” for a 10-episode third season. The network had already renewed “Royal Pains,” “Burn Notice,” “Suits,” “Covert Affairs,” and “White Collar,” but cancelled “Fairly Legal,” “Common Law,” and “Political Animals.”
FX has ordered 13 additional episodes of its comedian-hosted late-night shows “Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell” and “BrandX with Russell Brand.” New episodes of “Totally Biased” begin Jan. 17, while “BrandX” is expanding from a half-hour to one hour when it returns Feb. 7.
And Comedy Central just renewed sketch comedy show “Key & Peele,” created by and starring Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, for a third season. “Since Obama won re-election, it only seems fair that we would give ‘Key and Peele’ another season,” Kent Alterman, Comedy Central’s head of original programming and production, said in a statement.
“We are so thrilled about the pick-up and want to thank Comedy Central for four more years!” Key and Peele said. “Oh wait, what’s that? One more year? Oh… OK, that will work too.”