East Falls native selected to develop new Showtime series

Philadelphia native David Bar Katz, a Tony and Emmy-nominated writer and director, is partnering with Denis Leary to develop “Sober Coach,” a new TV series for Showtime.

Leary’s inspiration for the original concept came from a new real-life trend in the treatment of addiction among celebrities and the wealthy. A well-paid “coach” takes supervision of the addict’s treatment to the extreme, moving into his or her house and monitoring every activity to prevent relapse.

Leary settled on Katz to pitch the concept to Showtime after Jim Serpico, co-founder with Leary of the New York-based production company Apostle (creator of “Rescue Me”), read a play by Katz. “Philip Roth in Khartoum” premiered in 2008 with New York’s LAByrinth Theater Company, and when Serpico read it, he was convinced Katz was the one to help develop “Sober Coach” for Showtime.

The show will be set in New York City and Katz is currently at work on a pilot script, which will focus on a fictional addict and a live-in coach who has overcome an addiction of his own. As is often the case in these real-life pairings, the coach knows what it’s like to hit bottom and fight your way back.

Born in Philadelphia, Katz lived in the East Falls area until he graduated from Chestnut Hill Academy, where he was a rower. He considered attending the University of Pennsylvania, as his father and grandfather had done, but instead opted for a much-needed change of scene at Williams College in Massachusetts, where he majored in Philosophy and Religion and continued with crew.

Now a resident of Manhattan, Katz keeps close ties to family members that remain in the Philadelphia area and visits often. But it’s not only his family that keeps him coming back. To him, Philadelphia is also about the food. It’s a land of great hoagies, and he also keeps up a judicious, long-running sampling of Pat’s and Geno’s cheesesteaks, though he can’t name a favorite. “The quality of each tends to vary,” he says of long-term alternate tastings. “It’s about 50/50.”

In the course of his career, Katz co-wrote and directed the Broadway production of FREAK, earning a Tony nomination for Best Play. John Leguizamo received an Emmy for his starring role in the HBO presentation of the play, directed by Spike Lee. Katz also received an Emmy nomination for his work as co-creator and head writer for the FOX TV series “House of Buggin.” After developing the pilot for Showtime’s “Sober Coach,” he’ll stay on as a co-creator and head writer.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.