Newly independent Fox Entertainment plans to have an open writers room for a yet-titled country music drama, via Deadline. Hailed by writer and executive producer Melissa London Hilfers (Blasphemy), Fox seeks a possible order for the series in the 2021-22 season. The project displays a step in a new direction as Fox reconfigures TV development.
According to Deadline, executive producers Gail Berman (The Addams Family, Elivs), Hend Baghdady (Tidying Up with Marie Kondo), and country music manager Jason Owen are attached for the first live-action scripted series completely owned by the network. The show was originally developed under Fox Entertainment’s SideCar Content Accelerator, formerly headed by Berman. SideCar closed in June as it became a part of Fox’s scripted programming department.
The musical drama focused on a pioneering country music family fits Fox’s imprint, according to Fox Entertainment President Michael Thorn. “Music-driven programming is a big part of the DNA of Fox’s success with shows like The Masked Singer, Empire, American Idol, and Glee,” Thorn said via Deadline. “We have been looking for new ways to tell stories with music; what’s the next chapter for us in terms of a juicy drama that incorporates music in the storytelling.”
According to Deadline, the network secured the pitch with a penalty in the summer but wanted to make sure they properly cultivated the material to be the most successful. “The question was how we move it to the next level and set it up for success, both creatively, which is the priority, as well as financially, given that we own it ourselves,” Thorn said via Deadline.
Since Disney’s acquisition of 20th TV, the sister studio that handled Fox’s TV division, the network has had to rework how to cultivate projects, via Deadline. Fox started to co-produce new scripted series, pairing them with outside studios and forging direct singing deals with new talent. One immediate reward of this strategy was Fox’s development of a new studio that oversees The Masked Singer. This permitted Fox more ownership of the hit series and the development of future reality shows. Mimicking this strategy in the scripted department is already underway as Fox recently purchased Bento Box for their animation division.
The current COVID-19 pandemic ceased production across all of Hollywood in March. It was during this shutdown Fox examined their current practices, seeking further readjustments. With this in mind, the straight-to-series/open writer’s room combo made the most sense to Thorn. According to Deadline, his team ordered two scripts from Hilfers and proceeded to “write most of the first season so when we are ready to jump into production, we would have the majority of our scripts, we would know how to shoot it in the best way, given where the world is.”
This particular method of series development is not new. According to Deadline, it was first popularized in 2015 by streaming and cable networks. The most notable practitioner was AMC, who was then led by Charle Collier. Collier is Fox Entertainment’s current CEO.
Thorn assures this approach will not be a catch-all practice for the network, via Deadline. “It would be one of the strategies we use going forward,” he said. “This is a strategy you will see us continue to employ across drama, comedy, and potentially animation,” Thorn stated according to Deadline.