HBO in clinch with Norman Lear

Wed Oct 1, 2008 2:42am EDT

Producer Norman Lear in Beverly Hills in a file photo. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

Producer Norman Lear in Beverly Hills in a file photo.

Credit: Reuters/Fred Prouser

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - In his first major collaboration with HBO, Norman Lear, who produced such landmark sitcoms as "All in the Family," "Maude," "The Jeffersons" and "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman," has teamed with the premium cable network for a drama series set in the world of 1970s pro wrestling.

Written by Aaron Blitzstein and produced by Lear's Act III Prods., the character-driven drama, tentatively titled "Everybody Hurts," revolves around a family running a pro-wrestling business in New York and peeks into the lives of the wrestlers and their fans.

Lear and Act III's Lara Bergthold, who are executive producing the project, had wanted to do a show about pro wrestling for a while.

"Pro wrestling is a pretty fair reflection of good and evil in our culture," Lear said.

Added Bergthold, "Wrestling is where people turn to when they feel the government is lying to them and there are no real heroes in their lives."

The two met with Blitzstein to discuss a different show idea when the conversation turned to Blitzstein's stint with World Championship Wrestling (WCW).

Blitzstein is a late bloomer as a writer. He started off working in the music representation business with such bands as Foo Fighters and Sonic Youth, and spent a couple of years as vice president of marketing for WCW before moving to Los Angeles in 2004 to pursue a career as a writer.

"Every day was the greatest day ever and the worst day you could possibly imagine," Blitzstein recalled about his time at WCW. "I've never seen more colorful people than pro wrestlers."

The three started developing a pro-wrestling show, setting it in the early days of the sports entertainment phenomenon, before it became a billion-dollar industry.

"It was more of mom-and-pop type of feel back then," said Blitzstein, who is drawing on his memories as a wrestling fan growing up in Baltimore and New York. "And it was a little bit more ridiculous and fun."

Lear, Bergthold and Blitzstein found a lot of similarities between the political and economic climate in the '70s and today.

"It was post-Watergate, and the U.S. was dealing with an energy crisis and the Iran hostage crisis," Blitzstein said. "Now we're dealing with the Bush administration, our soldiers in Iraq and the skyrocketing gas prices. The show is as much about family and politics as it is about wrestling."

There will be comedic touches, especially in the portrayal of the wrestlers, that will capitalize on Blitzstein's comedy-writing background on such shows as "Late Show With David Letterman" and "Crank Yankers."

He moved to drama with FX's "The Riches," leading to his project for HBO.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter