Cassidy pilots TV tuner from Elton John

This article was corrected on October 13, 2003.

Warner Bros. TV-based scribe-producer Shaun Cassidy is developing a potentially groundbreaking musical drama series for Fox Broadcasting.

Net has made a pilot commitment to “Rhapsody,” and is negotiating for the licensing rights to use the Elton John/Bernie Taupin catalog of pop hits to power what Cassidy calls “a drama with a strong musical component.” WBTV will likely approach John to be a consultant on the project, though no deal is in place.

Characters will be seen singing on camera, though Cassidy said “Rhapsody” will not be a musical, per se.

“It’s a soap opera with the emphasis on the opera,” Cassidy said. “There’s a murder mystery and a power struggle and a big, grand love story. The storytelling will have a strong musical component like what’s been out there for 20 years with musicvideos but not (TV) longform.”

Cassidy said “Rhapsody” will have more in common with the BBC’s “Singing Detective” and “Moulin Rouge” than with Steven Bochco’s “Cop Rock.”

“As much as I admired it, ‘Cop Rock’ was set in a very gritty, realistic world,” he said. “Musicals are at their heart fairy tales.”

If successful, skein will also borrow key elements from reality TV in that the show’s second season would feature an almost entirely new cast, as well as a new catalog of music.

“Audiences seemed primed to accept a new format and characters (each season), where the only constant is the narrator,” Cassidy said. “One year it’s ‘The Bachelor’ and then it’s ‘The Bachelorette.'”

Cassidy wouldn’t divulge many details of the setting or plot, save that the hour will be set in “a heightened reality.”

“The music will be a constant component of the show,” he said. “But by the time a character starts singing, hopefully you won’t have seen it coming. It will have been borne of the emotional content of the scene.”

Fox development exec VP Craig Erwich called “Rhapsody” a “really intriguing tale of two families that’s just loaded with story and emotion. The music will just give it that much more depth and accent. And it’s just a really bold show.”

WBTV prexy Peter Roth said Cassidy “has proven himself time and time again to be one of the most innovative, talented and exciting producers in our business” and called the pilot “one of our most anticipated projects for next season.”

Cassidy said he first met with Taupin about the idea, then pitched it to John’s manager.

“Elton and Bernie’s catalog is one of the most well-known in popular music history,” he said. “At its heart, there are a lot of stories in there, and to be able to use those songs is a gift.”

Cassidy, who has his own music background, will not write or sing any songs for the project.

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