Ritter ruler of ‘Rules’; Sara’s on road to ‘Oz’

Melman set to helm pilot for Fox laffer 'Beene'

John Ritter has agreed to ABC’s “8 Simple Rules,” while John Hannah has taken “The Oath” for the Alphabet, as the networks continued nabbing top talent for their pilots Thursday.

Among other pilot pacts, Mia Sara is going to get “Lost in Oz” for the WB.

On the directorial front, Jeff Melman (“Scrubs,” “Titus”) is set to direct the pilot for the Fox laffer “Oliver Beene.”

Here’s the latest in pilot casting:

  • Ritter has joined the tentatively titled ABC/Touchstone comedy pilot “8 Simple Rules,” based on W. Bruce Cameron’s book “8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter.” In the project, written by Tracy Gamble, Ritter will play a protective dad to three children, two teen daughters (Kaley Cuoco and Amy Davidson) and one son (Martin Spanjers). The role of the mother is not yet cast. Gamble is exec producing with Flody Suarez and Tom Shadyac. Ritter, repped by ICM, co-stars this summer in InDigEnt’s “Tadpole,” helmed by Gary Winick. Miramax will distribute the pic.

  • Hannah has nabbed one of two leading roles, as Dr. Hugo Del Toro, in the one-hour pilot tentatively titled “The Oath,” which Touchstone is producing for ABC. Drama concerns two doctors fighting the system at an HMO hospital. While the Alphabet has yet to cast the other lead, thesps Robert Joy, Jacqueline McKenzie and Jane Lynch were previously tapped to co-star (Daily Variety, March 5). Gary Tieche is writing and exec producing the pilot, skedded to lense in late March; Michael Hoffman is helming. Marc Platt is also exec producing. Hannah, who recently guested on two segs of “Alias,” can next be seen in the romantic comedy “I’m With Lucy.”

  • Sara will co-star in the Warner Bros. TV-produced skein “Lost in Oz” for the WB. Pilot, which Aussie thesp Melissa George and Colin Egglesfield will topline, is a new take on the L. Frank Baum “Wizard of Oz” books. Lynn Whitfield will guest star in the pilot. Project comes from scribe-exec producer David Hayter. Lawrence Bender, Kevin Brown and Joel Smith are exec producers.

  • MGM and Touchstone are turning young thesp Jennifer Hall “Legally Blonde.” Hall, a relative newcomer, will portray Elle Woods in the ABC comedy pilot based on the Reese Witherspoon starrer of the same name. Rachel Sweet wrote the script and will exec produce with Marc Platt. Hall, repped by Abrams Artists Agency, will make her bigscreen debut in George Clooney’s “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.”

  • Hyphenate Bill Duke (“Exit Wounds”) has joined the ensemble cast of Paul Attanasio’s “R.U.S./H.,” an hourlong drama from Studios USA for CBS.

  • Constance Zimmer (“The Fighting Fitzgeralds”) and Devon Gummersall, best known from TV stints on “The Fugitive” and “My So-Called Life” will join Lindsay Sloane and J.K. Simmons in the ABC drama pilot “Homeward Bound,” about a young woman who moves home to live with her family after her life falls apart. Studios USA is producing the pilot from Gabe Sachs and Jeff Judah. Danielle Stokdyk and Jennifer Gwartz are also exec producers.

(Melissa Grego and Josef Adalian contributed to this report.)

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