Elton, Alphabet in harmony on rock idol laffer
And you can tell everybody: This is Elton John’s TV show.
Single-camera comedy, which revolves around the relationship between an aging rock superstar and the people around him, was the brainchild of longtime John confidante and business manager Bob Halley.
“I came up with the germ of an idea three years ago while on the road,” Halley said. “We have many laughs together, we work hard, and we enjoy ourselves. Elton was up for it, and we went from there.”
John and Halley brought in songwriter Bruce Roberts, who in turn connected the duo with his pal, “Desperate Housewives” exec producer Edelstein.
Completing the circle, Edelstein brought “Sex and the City” scribe Chupack into the mix to write the show. All five, who will serve as executive producers, have become fast friends in recent months.
“I think it will be one of the funniest things on TV in a while,” John told Daily Variety. “I like being a team player and being within this team. All five people are extremely funny — except Bruce Roberts.”
Quips aside, John said the show wouldn’t be based necessarily on himself but rather a mix of other “male divas” like Rod Stewart, Mick Jagger, Freddy Mercury and David Bowie.
“It’s not about me, but about everybody we’ve encountered over the past 30 years,” John said. “We’ve met every star and seen every misbehavior. And it’s about the people around the star, who have to put up with them. It’s an upmarket ‘Spinal Tap.’ ”
A full history is being developed for the rock star character — including music spanning the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s and today.
“We’ve created an entire back catalog,” Roberts said. “That’s one of the things I’m most excited about.”
John has already written a song for the project, “Him and Us,” which will appear on his upcoming CD “Peachtree Road” (out Tuesday).
Landing a project with John was a coup for Edelstein, who’s riding high on the success of “Desperate Housewives” and recently sealed a deal with Touchstone TV (Daily Variety, Sept. 30).
“Elton’s been very public about the craziness of his life,” Edelstein said. “There’s nothing like the world of rock ‘n’ roll. He’s got a hairdresser, valet and two straight SWAT bodyguards on staff. They’ve assembled their own wacky family. … Elton’s witty, relevant and has always been on the cutting edge in both his personal life and musically.”
Edelstein said he was also intrigued by the fact that there have been few TV series about the rock world. And by making the show single camera, the producers wanted to make sure it wasn’t developed as a sitcom.
” ‘Desperate Housewives’ has opened the door at ABC to do more provocative programming,” Edelstein said. “This is a real creative venture we’re undertaking.”
John, Edelstein and company originally approached ABC Entertainment prexy Steve McPherson with the project back when the webhead was still prexy of Touchstone TV.
“It’s a fresh point of view,” McPherson said Wednesday. “We’re excited to give it a life.”
New Touchstone TV prexy Mark Pedowitz said, “Viewers will get an unprecedented backstage pass into the world of rock n’ roll, with all of its extravagance and comedic drama.”Chupack, who’s also developing a project at HBO, admitted she hadn’t been looking to get back into the broadcast network game. But she said it was impossible to say no to Elton John.
“Being around Elton while he’s touring and being on the jet with him, you feel like you’re watching a TV show.”As a huge “Larry Sanders” fan, Chupack said the relationship between John and Halley reminded her of the give-and-take between that show’s Larry (Garry Shandling) and Artie (Rip Torn) characters. For now, though, Chupack said she’s still in the early stages of flushing out the show’s plotline.
Also, much as in “Larry Sanders,” Chupack is looking to weave her fictional characters into the real world — in this case, the music biz. That would also perhaps open up a guest stint for John himself.
It didn’t take long for John to warm up to Chupack.
John is in the midst of a three-year deal to perform his show “The Red Piano” 75 times at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. The musician, who collaborated on the Tony Award-winning musicals “The Lion King” and “Aida,” wrote the music (with Lee Hall) to the new London stage production of “Billy Elliot.” He also teamed with longtime writing partner Bernie Taupin to complete the score to the Broadway musical “Vampire Lestat.”
Besides “Peachtree Road,” John — who’s scheduled to receive one of this year’s Kennedy Center Honors — will also release the DVD box set “Dream Ticket” this month.
The untitled ABC project would rep John’s first foray into series TV, although Shaun Cassidy has looked to license John’s music for his own drama (Daily Variety, Oct. 9, 2003).
John, of course, continues to make headlines — such as his recent comments about Madonna — and even making it to the cover of last week’s Entertainment Weekly mag.
“Look at Elton’s choices over the years,” Edelstein said. “How many people manage to stay relevant and make great art for the span of time he has?”