The Hollywood Reporter Trade Magazine - October 17, 2000
CBS taps 20th, Jersey drama for
Written by Cynthia Littleton
CBS has given a six-episode midseason order to an untitled ensemble drama series, led by Mary Stuart Masterson and Rhea Perlman, from Jersey Television and 20th Century Fox Television.
The pickup marks the first television series effort to come from Jersey Films' fledgling TV division. The show centers on a young single mother (Masterson) who is struggling to raise two high school-age boys in Los Angeles while working multiple minimum-wage jobs.
When Masterson's character is stiffed on a paycheck by an unscrupulous employer, she is referred to a local nonprofit advocacy center for help in making the company pay up. She is intrigued by the type of social and legal problems the agency tackles and through various plot twists, she winds up with a job as a case worker for them. Perlman plays a newly minted lawyer who also has recently signed with the agency.
The series, created by writer Stephen Tolkin, was initially developed as an in-house project under the joint development pact Jersey has with 20th. Masterson, who had a separate development deal with CBS, signed on after being impressed with the pilot script. A pilot presentation dubbed "Further Adventures" was shot last year, but Jersey and 20th kept developing the concept when the show didn't make CBS' fall lineup.
"Part of the impetus for this series was that we felt there was a whole (working-class) segment of American society that wasn't often portrayed on TV," Jersey TV president John Landgraf said, adding that Masterson's character is loosely based on Tolkin's real-life mother-in-law. "In many ways, the stakes of everyday life are much higher for the working class. They live hand to mouth, paycheck to paycheck. But the way this series is written is that (Masterson's) character has a tremendous amount of hope and wit, and she sort of treats life as an adventure."
20th co-president Gary Newman concurred that the show has been a "passion project" for everyone involved.
"From the moment we heard Stephen's idea, we knew it was special," Newman said.
With CBS now giving the green light for midseason, TV veteran Michael Braverman ("Chicago Hope") has been tapped as the showrunner, while Jim Frawley ("Ally McBeal") will direct the first episode.
Tolkin will serve as an executive producer on the series, along with Braverman Jersey's Landgraf and partners Danny DeVito, Michael Shamberg and Stacey Sher. Masterson and David Lewis will serve as producers.
CAA reps Jersey as well as Tolkin, Masterson, Perlman and Braverman. Frawley is with WMA.