[02/27/04 - 12:00 AM]
NBC Set to Oust 'Will & Grace' Creators
By Brian Ford Sullivan (TFC)

CHICAGO (thefutoncritic.com) -- Will and Grace are set to get some new company.

NBC is expected to announce shortly it plans to replace "Will & Grace" executive producers David Kohan and Max Mutchnick, who also created the series, with new showrunners as early as next week.

The news, first reported by trade publication Daily Variety, is seen as the end result of a messy legal battle between the duo and the Peacock.

Kohan and Mutchnick filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against NBC back in December, claiming the network failed to negotiate a fair license fee for the NBC Studios-produced series due to NBC and NBC Studios falling under the same corporate umbrella. "While (NBC Studios) purported to engage in arm's length and good faith negotiations with NBC, NBC in fact effectively sat on and controlled both sides of the 'bargaining' table," the complaint read. "NBCS' executives in the purported negotiations ultimately reported to NBC."

In addition, the suit claimed a host of additional improprieties including preferential treatment to series director James Burrows, reducing fees owed to the duo's reps at Vision Arts Management as well as threatening to cancel Kohan and Mutchnick's other series at NBC, "Good Morning, Miami," should they follow through with their lawsuit.

NBC and NBC Studios worked out a $5 million per episode deal for "Will & Grace's" fifth, sixth and seventh seasons back in March of 2002 in a pact valued over $300 million. That's reportedly on par with the license fees for "Friends" and "Everybody Loves Raymond" at the same point in their respective lives.

NBC said at the time they carefully documented the entire process and even hired independent consultant Chuck Larsen to work on the deal, adding they were fully willing to take the complaint all the way to court. Now industry insiders are saying NBC is set to file its own lawsuit against Kohan and Mutchnick, claiming the duo breached their contract with the network. Their suit, specific details of which were not revealed, will reportedly argue along the lines that Kohan and Mutchnick planned to sue NBC all along as they were offered and agreed to an independent third party to oversee the negotiations.

Regardless of the outcome of either lawsuit, Kohan and Mutchnick are not expected to continue with the series next season. A replacement showrunner (or showrunners) is expected to be announced in the coming days.

As for "Miami," an NBC source has confirmed that the series won't return to the Peacock's schedule until after May sweeps and that production was shut down after the show's 18th episode this season. While technically not canceled, the news more than likely spells the end of the sophomore comedy. The show's cast members also appear to be moving on as Constance Zimmer has already signed on to the CBS drama pilot "Cooking Lessons."

  [february 2004]  


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