'Mother' producer eyes new series

"How I Met Your Mother" executive producer Greg Malins has teamed with best-selling mystery novelist Harlan Coben for an hourlong series project.

The project, about a larger-than-life former private eye who teaches a college criminology class, was sold at the first place it was pitched, Fox, where it landed a script commitment with a penalty attached.

The untitled series, described as a drama with humor, hails from 20th Century Fox TV, where veteran comedy writer-producer Malins has an overall deal.

Coben, author of 18 novels in the mystery and thriller genres who lives in his native New Jersey, had been thinking about venturing into television. He had an idea to center a crime drama on a character with a frontal-lobe injury that suppresses his inhibitions.

Meanwhile, across the country in Hollywood, Malins was moving from one successful comedy series to another, doing exec producer stints on "Friends," "Will & Grace" and "Mother." He also happens to be a huge Coben fan who had read each of his books.

One day in the fall, Malins was surprised to see a collection of Coben novels in the offices of his agency, Endeavor (now WME). He was shocked to find out that he shared an agent with Coben; he immediately set up a meeting with the writer.

"It was a dream come true, the coolest thing I've ever done," Malins said. "Before (the meeting) I had him on a pedestal, but he turned out to be a regular guy."

The two hatched the idea for a series, a procedural about a private investigator-turned criminology teacher who solves crimes with his graduate students while also schooling them.

The setting will be an UCLA-type school in Los Angeles. With most of Coben's books set in and around New York and New Jersey and Malins working on three consecutive series set in New York, both were looking for a change of scenery.

Not long before he took the teaching job, the show's private eye suffered a bullet wound to the head that made him lose his inhibitions. That "makes him a psychopath," Coben said. "It (also) makes him a better cop and teacher because he doesn't have a sympathetic outlook."

Thus the tagline for the show: "They want to learn about the mind of a psychopath. Well, they are about to learn from the best."

Peter Oberth
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