Encouraged, perhaps, by Mark Wahlberg’s pioneering example of getting people to put his name on TV shows and maybe sometimes giving him awards and stuff, this development season is positively rife with film stars who are expanding their portfolios by investing in small-screen production credits the way they used to, say, seek out Japanese commercials. Heralded by Will and Jada Smith’s recent foray into multicultural sitcoms as a means of saving a marriage, this month has seen several more actor-led projects landing at networks probably because the ideas were so good and not at all because of who presented them.
Today Katherine Heigl joins that esteemed list of people with recognizable names they can put on scripts over at The CW, successfully selling the network Trending, an adaptation of Cynthia Langston’s novel Bi-Coastal Bible, which is about a 26-year-old trend-spotter who’s adept at spotting consumer trends, but ironically, is totally clueless when it comes to predicting her own love life (right, ladies?). Heigl reportedly “fell in love with” the novel—specifically, the idea of putting her name on a TV show based on the novel so that she could mention it in interviews as an example of her depth.
Also getting a new thing to talk about instead of whatever movie she’s forced to promote is Renée Zellweger, whose project Cinnamon Girl has just landed at Lifetime. It follows four ladies from the Los Angeles music and movie scenes as they navigate the shifting cultural and sexual mores of the late ’60s, a dramatic, revolutionary time period that would lay the groundwork for many of the 2011 fall season dramas we take for granted today. However, this likely won’t make the same mistake of ponderous, exacting verisimilitude that eventually felled The Playboy Club: Cinnamon Girl is only loosely based on the life of Zellweger herself, in that it concerns one girl’s journey from Texas to Hollywood, and doesn’t sound all that interesting.
That show is also, of course, one of the many, many ongoing attempts to replicate the success of Mad Men, a strategy that Lifetime is actually doubling down on by also purchasing a Johnny Depp-produced drama about mob-connected nightclub owner and Hollywood Reporter founder William Wilkerson, whom Depp’s producing partner comes right out and calls “the original Don Draper” in a total giveaway. In this case, the possibility of getting its own Mad Men was apparently enough to break Lifetime out of its typically lady-centric programming—that or, as with all of these other star-driven projects, the possibility of Johnny Depp coming to their offices. He might be right there in the break room, just like a normal person!