Parties push for project to bow in 2005

There’s something funny about David E. Kelley’s plans for “Practice” star Camryn Manheim.

Kelley and former “Frasier” showrunner Dan O’Shannon are talking to Manheim and ABC about a half-hour comedy that would have Manheim reprising her “Practice” role of attorney Ellenor Frutt.

No deals are yet in place, but all parties involved are actively pursuing a way to make the project happen, most likely for midseason 2005.

Skein — which would rep Kelley’s most significant foray into half-hour comedy — would have Ellenor returning home and interacting with her sisters.

Other details are being kept under wraps, though ABC Entertainment prexy Susan Lyne alluded to a potential Kelley comedy at a pre-upfront meeting with advertisers last week.

ABC has already given a series order to David E. Kelley Prods. and 20th Century Fox TV for an hourlong legal project featuring current “Practice” stars James Spader and Rhona Mitra. Net is also high on a wedding planner dramedy from Kelley and Jason Katims.

“The Practice” will end its run on ABC in May.

One potential stumbling block for the project: figuring out production credits for the show.

Kelley and his studio are based at 20th. O’Shannon, who first brought the idea to Kelley, has an overall deal with Paramount Network Television. If 20th, Kelley and Par can’t figure out the right financial formula for the skein, the entire deal could fall apart, insiders warned.

While characters from half-hour comedies have spun off into dramas — “Lou Grant,” “Trapper John, M.D.” — it’s rare for a drama character to land in a sitcom.

Kelley experimented with a 30-minute version of “Ally McBeal,” but his most significant half-hour experience was working on Steven Bochco’s “Doogie Howser.”

O’Shannon is currently a consulting producer on “Frasier.” Past credits include “Cheers,” “Newhart” and “Suddenly Susan.”

Reps for ABC, Kelley, 20th and Par declined comment.

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