Cleese to co-create laffer for Alphabet

Monty Python vet developing demon lawyer skein

ABC commited to a half-hour comedy pilot from John Cleese, who’s expected to team with producers Jeff Reno and Ron Osborn (“Cupid”) for the project.

Warner Bros. Television and Granada Entertainment USA will produce the project, which reps Cleese’s first stab at creating a series for U.S. television. Cleese will co-write the pilot and serve as exec producer of the show, which is targeted for fall 2000.

Reno and Osborn are in final negotiations to join Cleese as exec producers and co-scribes of the project.

The as-yet-untitled laffer will be set inside the law firm of Karpool, Ruumki & Whetfish. Some of the partners have literally made deals with the devil and have become demons; a few are regular humans who are kept around so the demons can keep tabs on the enemy.

At the center of the action will be a young female lawyer recruited as a demon candidate. Plots will focus frequently on the battle between good and evil for the soul of the newcomer.

Cleese, a Monty Python vet whose sitcom resume includes the British “Fawlty Towers,” said his desire to develop a skein for U.S. television stemmed from guest stints he’s had on series here.

“I was so impressed when I appeared on ‘Cheers’ and ‘3rd Rock’ with the way those programs were organized,” he said. “I’m hoping we can do as well.”

There are no plans at this point for Cleese to make an on-camera appearance in the skein, though the writer-thesp would seem to be a natural for a recurring role as Satan.

Reno and Osborn have an overall deal at Warner Bros. TV and most recently served as consulting producers on “The West Wing.” In addition to exec producing “Cupid,” the duo were creators and exec producers of the USA Network skein “Duckman” and wrote the first draft of the Brad Pitt starrer “Meet Joe Black.”

Cleese’s deal was brokered by David Wilkinson of U.K.-based Wilkinson and Assoc. Reno and Obsorn are repped by CAA.

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