Nets recruit stars to help polish pilots

Witt joins 'The Bench,' Fox asks for 'Patience'

Former “NYPD Blue” star Nick Turturro has found a new life on CBS, while TV legend Bob Newhart is mulling a return to the small screen opposite “Thong Song” crooner Sisqo.

Meanwhile, as networks raced Monday to put the finishing touches on their fall 2001 development:

  • Former “Cybill” regular Alicia Witt (“Citizen Ruth,” “Urban Legend”) signed up for ABC’s “The Bench”; she’ll play one of the lead clerks in the Supreme Court-based drama. The Alphabet net also confirmed that it’s in negotiations with Sally Field to join the cast of the high-profile Touchstone Television pilot.

  • Fox sealed a deal for the half-hour female therapist pilot “More, Patience” to be directed by feature helmer Jon Turteltaub (“While You Were Sleeping”). Mary McCormack (“Private Parts”) stars.

  • Randy Quaid agreed to star in “The Kennedys,” a CBS comedy pilot based on the BBC skein “The Royale Family.”

NBC is actively pursuing Newhart for a co-starring role in the Sisqo-led project. Newhart would both play himself and an actor in the pilot’s show-within-a show. Skein is from Big Ticket Television and NBC Studios.

On the pilot front, the Eye greenlit the Turturro-led “Mr. Life,” a half-hour Columbia TriStar Television/Brillstein Grey Entertainment pilot from former “Mad About You” exec producer Victor Levin. Skein revolves around a blue-collar man, played by Turturro, who owns and operates an Italian restaurant with his two brothers.

CTTV finalized another pilot order with Fox’s “More, Patience,” in which McCormack will play a femme therapist whose own personal life is fraught with problems. Pilot will be written and exec produced by Jed Seidel; Gavin Polone also serves as an exec producer.

In addition to “While You Were Sleeping,” Turteltaub directed the John Travolta starrer “Phenomenon” and the surprise hit “Cool Runnings.” Helmer is repped by Endeavor.

CTTV is also behind “The Kennedys,” in which Quaid will play the head of a blue-collar family. Quaid, whose last major TV series was ABC’s early-1990s laffer “Davis Rules,” has a slew of film credits to his name ranging from “Independence Day” to “Vegas Vacation.” Skein will be produced in association with Granada Television.

With “More, Patience” and “Mr. Life,” CTTV has locked up a solid 12 pilots for the 2001-02 season under new programming topper Tom Mazza.

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