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‘Desperate’ facing a creative shake-up?

Times Staff Writer

With critics and fans harping on what they call lackluster storytelling this season, ABC’s hit “Desperate Housewives” is undergoing a creative shake-up at the top.

Creator Marc Cherry and Tom Spezialy, the executive producer and show runner who leads the writers’ room, have feuded in recent days, according to one executive close to the show and several agents with clients on the series. Cherry is said to be irked that Spezialy agreed to rewrites and other changes without first consulting him, one agent said.

For the record:

12:00 AM, May. 04, 2006 For The Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday May 04, 2006 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 48 words Type of Material: Correction
‘Lipstick Jungle’: The Channel Island column in Wednesday’s Calendar section reported that NBC attempted to hire writer-producer Darren Star to oversee “Lipstick Jungle” after another writer left the project. In fact, Star considered working on the project early in the development process but was not approached by NBC.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday May 13, 2006 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 36 words Type of Material: Correction
‘Desperate Housewives’: The Channel Island column in the May 3 Calendar section said “Desperate Housewives” won the best television drama series award at the Golden Globes this year. It won for best musical or comedy series.

The Hollywood Reporter broke news of their power struggle Monday. Later that day, the pair met and agreed that Spezialy will leave the series after this season, according to several sources briefed on the situation. Other writers allied with Spezialy, including co-executive producers Chris Black and Kevin Murphy, may also be headed for the exit.

The signs point toward Cherry asserting unquestioned day-to-day control of the series, albeit possibly with a co-show runner. Until now, the pair appeared to work well together. In fact, at the 2006 Golden Globes, Spezialy, at Cherry’s behest, accepted the award for best drama on behalf of the creator and cast, according to one person close to the show. But since the show’s premiere, Cherry has been the publicly celebrated creative force behind the series, the pilot of which, in a now-familiar Hollywood legend, he penned on spec after years of setbacks and underemployment.

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Spezialy is expected to finish work on the two-hour season finale airing May 21, which will complete shooting Friday. Through a spokeswoman for Touchstone Television, he declined to comment and did not immediately return a message left at his home. Through a spokeswoman for the series, Cherry declined to comment.

Charissa Gilmore, a spokeswoman for Touchstone Television, downplayed talk of a rift. “This is a nonstory,” she said. “Tom is at work in his regular capacity.”

‘Lipstick Jungle’ fights for survival

“Lipstick Jungle,” NBC’s much-heralded reply to “Sex and the City,” has hit a few snags.

“Lipstick,” based on Candace Bushnell’s bestseller, was pitched as a one-hour comedy about a trio of Manhattan women who’ll do anything to advance their careers. The project was announced last fall as an early acquisition by Katie O’Connell, an NBC executive charged with improving the network’s development in New York (O’Connell recently moved to the Burbank HQ). “I was a dog with a bone on this one,” O’Connell told Variety in November.

But executives at NBC’s in-house studio hated the script written by Robin Schiff (formerly of ABC’s “Emily’s Reasons Why Not”), one agent familiar with the situation says.

Schiff exited the project last month and, after an ill-fated attempt to pursue Darren Star, who developed “Sex and the City” as a smash hit for HBO, the network quietly settled on Jill Gordon, a former scribe for the cult hit “My So-Called Life.” Gordon will pen an entirely new script, although it’s unclear with how much input from executive producer Bushnell (she was originally pegged to co-write with Schiff).

NBC is now aiming to shoot during the summer for a possible midseason launch, but casting isn’t settled. Gina Gershon and Melissa George have been hired to play two of the female leads, but the network is still scouting for the third, according to several executives and agents familiar with the situation.

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NBC’s public relations department would not comment.


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