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June 30, 2009

ABC to air sci-fi series 'Gravity'

By Nellie Andreeva

Fox's "Virtuality" pilot may be have crashed, but sci-fi fans will get another deep-space series on broadcast TV this summer instead. ABC has picked up Fox TV Studios' 13-episode adventure drama "Defying Gravity" starring Ron Livingston.

The internationally produced series, also set to air on Canada's CTV, Germany's ProSieben and the BBC, hails from familiar ABC auspices: creator/executive producer James Parriott, who served as an exec producer on ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" and "Ugly Betty," and exec producer Michael Edelstein, former exec producer of the network's "Desperate Housewives."

"Gravity," whose cast includes Laura Harris, Christina Cox, Malik Yoba and Florentine Lahme, is set in the near future and revolves around eight astronauts from five countries who undertake a mysterious six-year mission through the solar system.

The FtvS-produced series, slated to air on ABC this summer, is a co-venture with Vancouver-based Omni Film Prods., whose Brian Hamilton and Michael Chechik also exec produce.

"Gravity" is one of three drama series that FtvS produced independently with international partners in the past year, along with "Mental" and "Persons Unknown." It is the second after "Mental" to land a U.S. distributor and the first to go somewhere other than a Fox-affiliated network.

"Since we originally pitched "Gravity" to the international marketplace as 'Gray's Anatomy' in space, getting the series on the network that has 'Grey's' and makes the most successful sci-fi show on TV in 'Lost' is a good fit," FtvS executive vp David Madden said. He describes the show as "having a sci-fi premise but being told in a female-friendly way."

At ABC, the deal was championed by senior vp Quinn Taylor, who added acquisitions to his longform duties during the network's recent executive restructuring.

FtvS is in advanced talks with cable networks for "Persons," with a sale expected during the next couple of weeks.

Unlike "Persons" and "Mental," which were existing pilot scripts at FtvS originally developed for other networks, "Gravity" was developed specifically for the company's international producing model.

"We're excited about being pioneers in doing television a different way," said Edelstein, who got the ball rolling on the project more than three years ago when he caught a repeat of the BBC docu-drama "Space Odyssey: Voyage to the Planets" on Discovery Channel, about an international crew of astronauts on a trip through space.

He acquired the rights to it from British producer Impossible Pictures and approached Parriott, with whom he worked on ABC's drama "Threat Matrix."

If "Gravity" goes well on ABC and FtvS' foreign broadcast partners, the two hope to do more seasons of the show.

"I have the first three seasons blocked out, and I know the ending of the series," Parriott said.

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