Rock 'n' roller adds touch of authenticity to skein

Call it This Year’s Models: Rockers Elvis Costello and T-Bone Burnett are teaming with scribe-producer John Mankiewicz (“Level Nine”) to create an hourlong WB dramedy about four fashionistas turned rock stars.

Imagine Television and 20th Century Fox Television will produce the skein, which revolves around a band of former models who, in their new careers as musicians, find themselves getting into a variety of sticky situations. Costello will write an original song for each episode.

“It’s about some beautiful girls who play rock ‘n’ roll songs and have a ball spending someone else’s money,” Costello told Daily Variety. “How can we lose?”

Frog has made a premium script commitment to the project, in development for fall 2001. Costello and Mankiewicz will serve as writers, creators and exec producers of the pilot; Burnett is also attached as exec producer, focusing on the heavy musical content of each episode.

Costello and Mankiewicz, who have been friends for years, began collaborating on the concept via e-mail earlier this year. The two pals traded ideas back and forth, “and before I knew what I was doing, I was writing a treatment,” Costello said.

Duo then pitched the show around, eventually selling the idea to Imagine TV topper Tony Krantz.

Mankiewicz said the show will not be “Charlie’s Angels” or “Josie and the Pussycats.” “They’re talented women in control of their own destiny. They won’t be solving crimes,” he said. “They’ll be getting into adventures. There’s a heightened sense of reality to this. It isn’t like anything else out there.”

Indeed, Costello envisions his rockers embarking on some far-out missions — literally. “They go into outer space, they rescue people from dastardly dictators — and they play songs,” he said.

Femmes will also have a “dastardly agent who has a peculiar agenda,” Costello added. “They’ll try to stay one step ahead of the usual record company pressure, using their skills, their wits and their charm.”

Authentic touch

Series will be set against the backdrop of the music industry, with Costello using his knowledge of the biz to add a layer of authenticity to the project. “Even though the girls lead this fabulous life, we want certain elements of the show to be believable,” Costello said.

While Costello isn’t ruling out an occasional cameo on the show. “Maybe I’ll pop up as a villain. Or a flunkie.”

Mankiewicz currently serves as co-exec producer of the UPN actioner “Level Nine.” He previously created the ABC cop drama “The Marshal” and the 1992 medical drama “The Human Factor.”

Deal was brokered by Rob Golenberg of William Morris, who reps both Costello and Mankiewicz. Mankiewicz is also repped by attorney Linda Lichter.

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