Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

`Christy' Is Being Readied as a CBS Backup Series

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

`Christy' Is Being Readied as a CBS Backup Series

Article excerpt

NO SERIES ever just appears on television.

Before a network sends an entertainment show to its 200-plus stations, its executives have interminable meetings with producers, actors, agents, lawyers. Before a minute is shot, the "project" undergoes months of script preparation and rewrites, casting, set construction, etc.

With "Christy," now being readied as a CBS backup series, this process took much longer. Before anything could start, producer Ken Wales had to get TV rights to the property from MGM.

The concept is based on a 1967 best-seller, written by Catherine Marshall, fictionalizing her mother's life as a teacher in the Tennessee mountains. MGM bought it for a feature film that was never made.

So the book gathered dust for years. Then, in 1986, Wales - who loved the story - mortgaged his house and spent every cent he had to buy the rights.

He met Marshall, who had spent nine years recording stories from her mother, Leonora Wood (the model for Christy).

Still, Wales couldn't get the film financed. (Thousands of such "properties" languish for years, unproduced for lack of venture capital. Many never get made.)

One day, Wales' pal, TV producer Barney Rosenzweig, was talking with Jeff Sagansky, then CBS' head of entertainment. Sagansky casually mentioned that he'd like to make a movie of "Christy." Rosenzweig said that his friend owned the rights.

After many meetings, CBS decided to order a telefilm and five episodes. Wales and Rosenzweig cast Kellie Martin, from "Life Goes On," in the title role, with Tyne Daly and Tess Harper in support.

After scouting locations, they built a small village in Tennessee's Great Smoky Mountains, transferred their company there and shot six segments that aired last spring.

They did pretty well in the ratings, finishing 34th for the season. CBS was pleased enough to renew "Christy," but not pleased enough to put it on the fall schedule.

"Networks have trouble making commitments," Rosenzweig said last week. "I feel like a moderately attractive woman in a bar at 11 p.m. CBS had a date with me, but it was looking for a prettier girl."

Ultimately, Sagansky chose the comedy drama "Due South," which also aired last spring, for the 7 p. …

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