May 14, 2006

“EZ” choice to relaunch Brilliant But Canceled

By Cynthia Littleton

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - The archeologists of
Brilliant But Canceled are back in action again, and that's
good news for anyone with an appetite for off-the-beaten-track
programs that suffered premature deaths in their first

Moreover, it's great news for anyone with a stake in any of
the four dozen-plus new series that will be unveiled this week
during the broadcast network "upfront" presentations to
advertisers, which begin Monday with NBC's event at Radio City
Music Hall. The odds are against any new television series
taking root in primetime, but with the erstwhile Trio program
showcase Brilliant But Canceled returning to life next week as
a broadband channel unto itself, there's at least hope for
creative we-were-ahead-of-our-time vindication down the road.

One of the poster children for that type of TV is "EZ
Streets," a gritty crime drama from future Oscar winner Paul
Haggis that was part of the first CBS primetime schedule that
Leslie Moonves unveiled 10 years ago this month.

Tonally, "EZ Streets" was a precursor to "The Sopranos" --
so much so that it even had Joe Pantoliano as a creepy-vicious
crime boss whom the undercover cop played by Ken Olin was
trying to nail despite the maneuverings of Pantoliano's shady
lawyer, played by Debrah Farentino. Jason Gedrick also starred
in the show as a wrongfully convicted goodfella type who was
trying to go straight after getting out of prison but couldn't
resist the lure of working for Pantoliano.

TV pundits couldn't summon enough superlatives to shower on
"EZ Streets," but the vast expanse of America couldn't have
cared less. Tony Soprano and his flawed-character mob would
receive a far warmer welcome on HBO just three years later.

But all of the above, plus the fact that Haggis is hot off
success of "Million Dollar Baby" and "Crash," makes "EZ
Streets" the picture-perfect program to highlight on, which goes live May 23,
according to Kris Slava, vp digital content and acquisitions at
Bravo. (The Bravo team now oversees the and broadband channels that are the
legacy of the Trio cabler that was transformed by owner NBC
Universal into the Sleuth channel in January.)

"A lot of the shows we gravitate to fall into three
categories: shows that were ahead of their time, shows where
you see future major creative talents working out ideas that
become recurring themes in their careers, and shows that are
just so fondly remembered (by TV enthusiasts) as having been
killed too soon," Slava says.

"EZ Streets" hits all of those buttons. So does
"Delvecchio," an early Steven Bochco effort from the 1976-77
season that starred a pre-"Taxi" Judd Hirsch and pre-"Hill
Street Blues" Charles Haid as crusading big-city cops.

Based on highly unscientific surveys of Trio and Bravo
staffers and their friends, the Brilliant But Canceled team
came up with a list of more than 100 shows and unaired pilots
that were candidates for the BBC treatment. The hardest part
has been tracking down the shows and then wrangling licensing
deals, especially for the uncharted waters of broadband

"Most studio executives are focused on doing $100 million
output deals, and here we come wanting to license six episodes
of a busted old show for a month on broadband," Slava says.
"It's a whole new business paradigm. But we've been lucky to
find, at almost every studio, one or two people who know where
the gems are and who really care about this stuff."

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter