Following the success of artist-driven films about Elton John and Queen, MGM Television is turning to Billy Joel.
The studio is teaming with Universal Music Publishing Group to bring the New York singer-songwriter's music to life as a scripted "arc-thology" called Scenes From an Italian Restaurant.
The show, which takes its title from Joel's favorite song from his sizable catalog, will see each episode based on lyrics of his hits and populated by characters from his songs, including the Stranger, the Piano Man, Mamma Leone and Sgt. O'Leary. The tracks will be reimagined and rearranged by Joel's music team — with his input — and take his tunes in new directions.
Kevin Fox Law & Order: SVU is creating the series, which will be shopped to networks, and will exec produce alongside Joel and his longtime producing partner, Steve Cohen with whom he collaborated on Billy Joel: New York State of Mind. Universal Music Publishing Group's Jody Gerson and Marc Cimino will associate produce the show, which represents the first time Joel's entire body of work will be licensed for a series.
"Billy Joel is a beautiful storyteller, and it just so happens that his stories are accompanied alongside remarkable songs," MGM TV president of development and production Steve Stark tells THR. "This series is going to focus less on Billy's life and more on the stories inside his catalog of classic songs."
While other songs have been the basis for TV series — see ABC's failed pilot based on John Mayer's "Heart of Life" — this is the first time that an artist's entire catalog is the basis for one. Joel, 70, is the sixth best-selling artist in the world, with more than 84.5 million units sold.
This story first appeared in the Sept. 25 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
Joby Harold, whose writing credits include Awake, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, and Zack Snyder’s upcoming Army of the Dead, has been hired as the new writer of the untitled Obi-Wan Kenobi series on Disney+. Get the details below.
Variety has the news, reporting that Harold is taking over as the show’s writer after the show was shut down earlier this year. Drive screenwriter Hossein Amini turned in scripts, sets were built, staff were hired, and star Ewan McGregor was back on board…but Lucasfilm decided to pull the plug and start from scratch, throwing out Amini’s scripts and beginning the search for a new writer to come in and take over. That search, which at one time reportedly included The Mandalorian veterans Dave Filoni and Christopher Yost as options, is now over, as the studio has hired Joby Harold to get things back on track.
Harold is an unexpected choice for this job, since he’s arguably better known as a producer than a writer at this point. He’s produced or executive produced Edge of Tomorrow, Robin Hood, John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, and the WGN America series Underground. On the writing side, he wrote and directed his first feature film, Awake, back in 2007, and a decade passed before his script for King Arthur: The Legend of the Sword was eventually produced. That film was supposed to launch a six-movie franchise, but didn’t perform well enough to even get a single sequel, let alone five. Army of the Dead is in post-production and he’s on board to write another Transformers project, but those are the only four writing credits listed.