"Script for Sorkin's project was being hotly traded around Hollywood last week. The pilot includes a role for "Desperate Housewives" star Felicity Huffman, who serves as host of an episode of the fictional sketch laffer.
Sorkin has also written a network entertainment president character that bears a striking resemblance to former Peacock exec Jamie Tarses.
Sorkin's entertainment topper for his fictional UBS is a woman in her 30s named Jamie McDeere, an ex-NBC exec responsible for developing shows such as "Friends" and "Mad About You." Tarses' married named during much of her tenure at NBC was Jamie McDermott, and she's often credited with playing a key role in the births of both "Friends" and "Mad About You.""
"NBC released a statement from president of entertainment Kevin Reilly, hailing "Studio." "Aaron Sorkin's work is truly in a class all its own, and (director-producer) Tommy Schlamme, time and again, has delivered exceptional television."
While NBC is not believed to be making a multi-episode commitment to "Studio," as CBS did with "Class," the penalty attached to the project is said to be so massive that it virtually assures "Studio" a spot on the fall 2006 schedule.
The prospect of NBC being back in business with Sorkin and Schlamme again might have seemed unthinkable back in 2003, when the duo left "Wing" after reports emerged they butted heads with the network over the direction of the Emmy-winning series. But sources say the backstage tussling was more internal and did not involve the network.
The irony of the "Studio" pickup is that the series' subject matter echoes just the kind of network backroom maneuvering NBC engaged in to reach a deal with Sorkin and Schlamme.
And the tense executive chain of command depicted in "Studio" has similarities with a power struggle reportedly playing out at NBC. Sorkin might even have written a thinly veiled version of himself into the script, creating the character of a talented TV scribe whose career is compromised by cocaine use. Sorkin has publicly acknowledged his past struggles with drug addiction, including an arrest in 2001 for possessing illegal substances.
For its part, the peacock is believed to be unfazed by Sorkin's allusions to "SNL" or the network itself. The network also is considering a pilot from another A-list executive producer, David E. Kelley, that provides an insider take on a morning talk show similar to "Today.""
"NBC has ordered 13 episodes of new 60m drama project from Aaron Sorkin and Thomas Schlamme,and produced by Warner Bros. TV. Studio 7 on the Sunset Strip is a behind-the-scenes look into the world of late night network programming, a la Saturday Night Live. (This project should not be confused with another from Endeavor and Lorne Michaels with Tina Fey, which is also set behind the scenes of a sketch comedy show.) The project comes with a sizable seven-figure penalty if it does not get beyond the pilot phase. NBC also has agreed to pay a licensing fee for the series at $2 million per episode, and the show must air at either 9p or 10p, any night between Monday and Thursday. If all of this seems a little over the top, remember Sorkin and Schlamme are the guys behind West Wing."
The New York Post raises the question over whether Sorkin's new show will conflict with a similar show planned by Tina Fey.
" Only trouble is, "SNL" star Tina Fey already has a show in the works about . . . life backstage at a show very much like "Saturday Night Live."
Fey's show — as yet unnamed — was already being cast and was set to premiere sometime after January.
Also two years ago, Fey signed a new deal with "SNL" that included specifics about starring in a prime-time series for NBC.
Last week, Lorne Michaels, the head honcho at "SNL" and producer of the new Fey series, declined a request from The Post to talk about the Sorkin series — an indication that he was already upset about the competing series.
Meanwhile, Fey and her husband had their first baby last month — an arrival that may have played a role in the network's decision.
In an e-mail yesterday, an NBC spokesman said: "We're proceeding with the Tina Fey comedy and are excited about it." But he could not answer questions about whether the network intended to air two series based on "SNL." "
From Calendar Live:
"NBC, which beat out CBS for "Studio 7" after a lively bidding war, will pay at least $1.6 million per one-hour episode and is aiming for the fall 2006 schedule, according to an executive familiar with the deal. Warner Bros. Television, Sorkin's longtime studio home and the maker of "West Wing," will produce. Sorkin and frequent collaborator Thomas Schlamme are both aboard as executive producers, with shooting likely to start early next year.
"This project is a noisy, compelling combination of bold drama and laugh-out-loud comedy," NBC Entertainment President Kevin Reilly said in a statement on Friday. 10/14 "We're thrilled to again partner with this team on their next great NBC show." Sorkin and Warner Bros. declined to comment.
"Studio 7" promises to take more than a few swipes at network executives and programming, and viewers likely won't have much trouble figuring out real-life inspirations for characters and plot points. In many cases, it's NBC taking it on the chin.
In a copy of the pilot script obtained by the Los Angeles Times, the executive producer of the "SNL"-type show has an on-camera meltdown, saying on live television: "This show used to be cutting-edge political and social satire, but it's gotten lobotomized by a broadcast network hell-bent on doing nothing that might challenge their audience."
Later, the producer attacks the network for programming that involves "eating worms for money." That might be construed as a none-too-veiled reference to the gross-out stunts on NBC's reality show "Fear Factor."
"Aaron Sorkin and Thomas Schlamme are headed back to NBC.
Peacock has won an intense bidding war for the next TV show from "The West Wing""The West Wing" duo, an hourlong drama dubbed "Studio 7 on the Sunset Strip" that's set behind-the-scenes at a longrunning Los Angeles-based sketch comedy show (Daily Variety, Oct. 5). It's believed the net has made a rich 13-episode commitment to the Warner Bros. TV project.
Sorkin wrote the pilot script for the project before the pitching process began. That strategy helped build interest for the project among the webs and allowed WBTV to snag a premium commitment for it."