Thursday, October 2, 2008

The CW Makes Easy Money

Sunday is an incredibly competitive night on network and cable television -- and it's about to get even more so, with the debut this weekend of the CW's Easy Money.

When I attended the show's premiere at the New York Television Festival last month, I was impressed with the caliber of its cast, its visuals, and most importantly, its sophisticated storytelling.

I shouldn't have been surprised, because Easy Money comes to us courtesy of the writing team Diane Frolov and Andrew Schneider, former scribes on Northern Exposure and later The Sopranos. And with its quirky location and a crime-tinged family business at its core, Easy Money has elements of both of those great shows.

After the screening, Frolov and Schneider took to the stage to answer critics' enthusiastic questions about the show. But it couldn't be too long an evening -- because cast and crew were due the very next day back in Albuquerque, to continue shooting the season's fifth episode. With a generous tax rebate in town, Schneider explained, many productions are popping up in the New Mexico town, including a constant stream of feature films, AMC's series Breaking Bad and USA Networks' In Plain Sight. But in truth, he adds, the writing pair chose Albuquerque as their location because, as a fast-growing Wild Western boomtown, it's perfect for this tale of a moneylending family whose business, although legal, skirts an association with an undesirable element. Even the light in the area, at Albuquerque's higher altitude, is different from the look of L.A., Schneider says. That's why the show takes such advantage of the outdoors, shooting just two days a week inside, in a converted semiconductor factory.

Frolov and Schneider were first approached with an outline for the Easy Money idea, which is based loosely on a concept that U.K. producer Hat Trick Productions is also developing for British audiences, and prepared the show first for Fox before landing it at the CW courtesy of production company Media Rights Capital. The timing, Schneider says, was perfect, because of the credit crisis now enveloping our nation, to create a show "examining people's relationship with money." And, as luck would have it, the elegant and patrician-looking Frolov, surprisingly, already had a relative in the moneylending biz. That family member, named Bobette, is not only now a technical advisor to the show, but she lent her first name to the matriarch of Easy Money's Buffkin clan, played by Laurie Metcalf (right).

After MRC signed an interim agreement with the Writers' Guild, Easy Money got a head start on producing its pilot, even while the strike waged on, last February. And now, this Sunday night, October 5, the show will be part of MRC's historic inaugural lineup for the CW; in a never-before-tried arrangement in TV, the production company has contracted with the network to be fully in charge of its entire Sunday night lineup.

Partnered with an adaptation of a Canadian documentary show, 4Real, the reality show In Harm's Way and the Greek Gods-and-Goddesses romantic-comedy Valentine, Easy Money is debuting as part of a lineup whose demographic targets seem to be all over the map. Luckily, with a pedigree like Frolov and Schneider's, this should be a show that gets its share of attention, and hopefully draws in the viewers. Because after watching the show's pilot, I can tell you -- I'd never want to borrow from the Buffkins, but I sure like watching others fall into that very trap.

Easy Money
Series Premiere
Sunday, October 5
9 PM Eastern

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