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Parton, Firm in Disney pact

Dolly Parton and her Sandollar Prods. have entered into an exclusive three-year series production and development deal with Walt Disney TV that includes plans to develop a first sitcom vehicle for the country music star.

The agreement, which also provides the studio first-refusal rights on TV movies and specials, follows the end of official ties between Sandollar — the 8-year-old partnership of Parton and producer-manager Sandy Gallin — and 20th Century Fox. At one point, Fox had a first-look feature and exclusive television deal with the company.

Parton, in fact, initially agreed to star in a sitcom through Fox’s network TV production arm, Twentieth TV, in March 1992, but the division’s management changed a few months later and the project didn’t go forward.

Sandollar switched studio affiliation via a first-look feature deal with Columbia Pictures in January 1992, and the TV portion of its Fox deal expired May 31.

Gallin said that coming up with the right half-hour comedy for Parton is “our primary, No. 1 focus,” with various writer/show-runners under consideration and interest expressed by all four primetime services.

Twentieth had discussed taping its show in Nashville to accommodate Parton’s schedule, but Gallin said the actress might shoot at least the first season of a new series in Los Angeles “under the right circumstances.”

Parton isn’t required by the new agreement to star in other Sandollar productions, but Disney said it anticipates she’ll appear in at least some. Although Parton’s 1987 ABC variety show proved a ratings disappointment, the singer-actress has scored big numbers with specials — among them “Dolly Parton … Christmas at Home,” which lassoed a 17.8 rating, 31 share for the Alphabet web. Sandollar also produced the short-lived Fox Broadcasting Co. series “Babes” and the NBC telefilm “Wild Texas Wind” under the Twentieth banner.

Parton’s most recent feature role was in “Straight Talk,” produced by Sandollar in association with Disney’s Touchstone Pictures. Earlier films include “Steel Magnolias,””The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas” and “9 to 5.” Sandollar produced Fox releases: “Shining Through” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

Parton is in the midst of a North American tour to support her platinum album “Slow Dancing With the Moon,” distributed by Sony Music.

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