‘Significant’ cast set; Island gets ‘Trophy’

SIGNIFICANT’ MOVES: “Party of Five” creators Chris Keyser and Amy Lippman have set Scott Bairstow, Eion Bailey, Jennifer Garner, Michael Weatherly and Elizabeth Mitchell as the stars of “Significant Others,” their new series creation produced by Columbia TriStar for the Fox Network.

The ensemble drama, which has a six-episode commitment, begins shooting Dec. 4. Fox will launch it in March.

The best known in the young cast is Bairstow, who starred in the Warner Bros. film “Wild America” and the “Lonesome Dove” syndie series. He will play one-third of a triangle of best friends, with two guys carrying a torch for their galpal. The other sides of the triangle are played by Bailey and Garner (she co-starred in the indie “Washington Square” and will be seen in the Woody Allen-directed “Deconstructing Harry”).

Weatherly, who just finished Whit Stillman’s “The Last Days of Disco,” plays Bailey’s brother, who in the pilot spontaneously marries Mitchell, the ex-girlfriend of his brother.

The series might be called “Twentysomething,” in that it explores the angst that goes into career and romantic decisionmaking of characters at the formative age of 24 — a time that Keyser described as “just past the period in which you can make mistakes without paying the price.”

Decisions at that age, he said, determine who you will be at 30; getting the characters to that age, he added, would also mean the show lasted the six seasons needed for syndication.

Rather than cast a crop of big stars, Keyser and Lippman hope to replicate the success of the “Party of Five” cast, several of whom have burgeoning movie careers. After wondering week to week the last two seasons whether the “Party” would crash because of low ratings, the two creators have a bonafide critical and ratings hit. Still, they said they were surprised to find their second series creation pursued not only by Fox, but also NBC and ABC.

“Fox had made such a commitment to our work that it felt right to place the series there,” said Lippman, who teamed with Keyser at Harvard and wrote together on “L.A. Law” and “Sisters.”

“When we aired on Mondays, I used to wake up the morning after the show and call in for the ratings, and walk away saying, ‘Those are numbers that get you canceled,’ ” said Lippman. A move to Wednesday and a Golden Globe Award later, the ratings have more than doubled.

ISLAND PACTS FOR TROPHY PIC: In further evidence of a warming trend to gay subject matter after the success of films like “In & Out” and “My Best Friend’s Wedding,” Island Pictures has made a deal to develop “Trophy Boys,” a film inspired by the Aug. 18 New York magazine cover story about well-built gay men who haunt Hollywood and Hampton hotspots looking for sugar daddies. They hope to fall in love, but will also settle for career and financial help while they aspire to acting and modeling careers.

“What we have in mind is the gay version of ‘How to Marry a Millionaire,’ ” said Island Pictures president Mark Burg. ” ‘In & Out’ proved that gay-themed projects can be viable if they’re funny and edgy, and when you read the article, you can see the humor possibilities in it.”

The film will be produced by Howard Rosenman, who, coincidentally, is mentioned in the Maer Roshan and Eric Konigsberg-bylined article. Rosenman was among the crowd at a July 4 party at a Fire Island beach house in which trophy boys mingled with top-tier gay honchos. The film will have little to do with the article, which described how handsome gay men capitalize on alliances with wealthy gay men.

“What I’m hoping,” joked Burg, “is that this doesn’t turn into the Howard Rosenman life story.” Rosenman, who replied that he wasn’t good-looking enough to have been a trophy boy, felt there was potential for a “funny, affectionate and not exploitative look at that world, in which an innocent comes looking to fall in love with a millionaire for the easy life, and finds you ultimately have to depend upon yourself to make it. Of course, he finds love in the most unexpected place. We’re looking for a director and writer with the right touch,” said Rosenman. “The only thing it has to do with the article really is the title, which is perfect.”

Perhaps not as perfect as a gay-themed series he’s producing at HBO with Brad Weston and Gary Adelson, which bears the working title “Lesbian Woman Seeks Gay Man for Marriage of Convenience.” Steve Antin (“Gloria”) and Cindy Mort are writing that one. ICM’s Kevin Crotty and Island’s Lisa Shapiro closed the “Trophy Boys” transaction.

AROSEY RANT: Don’t think the decline of ABC’s Tuesday-night stronghold has gone unnoticed by its former anchoring presence Roseanne, whose sitcom “Roseanne” ended after ABC declined to go for a 10th season.

While Roseanne herself isn’t commenting — she’s preoccupied with her upcoming King World daytime talker — her manager Jeff Wald sure is. Wald felt that after his client generated nearly $1 billion in ad revenue over nine years, ABC let her go with a lousy $250 piece of crystal — which he admits might not be in one piece — and belittling comments from ABC prexy Jamie Tarses in her famed New York Times Magazine profile.

“She’s being dismissed by Tarses, who has virtually no credits or accomplishments except in getting the job, abetted by Bob Iger, who’s an empty suit,” said Wald. “Tarses implied in that story that Roseanne pitched them a black comic to help revamp the show, as though it was a tasteless and stupid suggestion. The comic we pitched them was Whoopi Goldberg, and when ABC knew we were talking to her, they went around us to talk to her directly. They’re despicable.”

The folks at ABC, biting their tongues hard, declined comment. Wald said Roseanne’s daytime talker deal with King World gives her the last laugh: “Look at one artist’s impact on two companies. ABC is in the toilet, down 35% in ratings on a night they used to own.” Wald said he’s not oblivious to the fact “Roseanne’s” ratings declined in the last year, but argued, “Even in her worst year, they were 35% better off with her. The opposite is King World, whose stock from the day she signed on went from 38 to nearly 50.”

Wald said he wasn’t pinning that rise to his client, but added: “Her show let the stockholders know there was a backup to Oprah when it looked like she was leaving. We’ve done $80 million in license fees, and over $14 million in foreign, not including barter sales.” Roseanne herself will begin talking on the show Sept. 14, 1998.

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