ABC collars ‘Cole’ comedy

Russos on the case of gumshoe laffer

Producer Sean Bailey has enlisted helmers Joe and Anthony Russo for “Cole Tracer, PI,” a comedic detective drama to be penned by feature scribe David Collard (“Out of Time”).

Basic conceit of the show: An actor famous for playing a private dick on a popular TV series decides to become a real detective after his show gets axed. He enlists the technical adviser from the show to serve as his sidekick.

Touchstone Television, which has multiyear overall deals with Bailey and the Russo brothers, is set to produce for ABC. Bailey, the Russos and Collard will serve as exec producers.

Deal for the project is still in final negotiations.

Bailey said in some ways “Cole Tracer” will serve as an antidote to the slew of serious-minded crime procedurals such as “CSI” on the air.

“The landscape is so dark. This is a fun show,” Bailey said. “It’s almost ‘Magnum’-esque.”

Lead of the show will be a George Clooney-like thesp named Ben Martin who possesses what Bailey calls “a roguish charm.” At the start of the pilot, all goes well for Martin, who’s about to start the fourth season of his show and has just snagged a major raise.

Everything comes crashing down, however, when the president of the network that airs the fictional “Cole Tracer” throws a news conference to cancel the show — and blames the axing on Martin’s salary demands.

Blacklisted by Hollywood, thesp is forced to rent out his new Malibu manse and move into the guest house. After more than one fan confuses him with his TV alter ego, and some even offer to pay him for his gumshoe services, Martin decides to play detective for real.

Relationship with his technical adviser-turned-partner will be “like oil and water,” Bailey said, adding that the mysteries solved by the main character won’t be too dark or serious.

“The way we get into (the show) is a little subversive,” Bailey said.

Earlier this summer, Bailey set up the Touchstone/ABC project “Resistance,” which Ben Affleck is writing (Daily Variety, Aug. 15). That project and “Cole” will be produced under the LivePlanet banner.

On the feature side, Bailey’s producing credits include “Matchstick Men” and “The Core.”

Russos, repped by UTA, are four-for-four in snagging series orders for pilots they direct. In the past four years, they’ve landed greenlights for FX laffer “Lucky,” Fox’s “Arrested Development,” NBC’s “LAX” and “Brian.” They won an Emmy for “Arrested.”

Collard wrote the screenplay for the upcoming Disney pic “Annapolis,” from helmer Justin Lin (“Better Luck Tomorrow”).

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