CBS feels ‘Viva’ fever

BBC redo pilot lands in U.S.

Hit BBC mystery-musical miniseries “Viva Blackpool” is bouncing across the Pond to CBS, which has given a seven-figure put pilot commitment to a U.S. version.

Hugh Jackman is set to appear as a guest in the pilot and is expected to exec produce the project along with partner John Palermo and their Seed Prods. shingle.

BBC and Sony Pictures TV will produce the U.S. version, along with CBS Paramount Network TV. Bob Lowry (“Huff”) is writing and exec producing (Daily Variety, Oct. 6). Peter Bowker, who created the U.K. original, is also set as an exec producer.

“Viva Blackpool” revolves around sleazy small-time casino owner Ripley Holden, who attempts to open a big-time resort in Las Vegas. The show uses song hits of the past and present to tell the story — which includes murder and mayhem, love and infidelity.

CBS landed “Blackpool” after an intense bidding process, with ABC also aggressively going after the project.

CBS Entertainment prexy Nina Tassler, who began her career in New York theater, said she’s been itching to develop a musical at the net.

“It’s something that we’ve been trying to do for I don’t know how many years, but we’ve never found the right confluence of events,” she said. “This one has all the right ingredients. There’s a strong narrative, and the characters are all integrated in that narrative. It’s pop music and there’s a mystery component to it.”

Separately, Jackman and Palermo had been searching for a way to produce a TV drama with a strong musical hook. Tassler sent the duo tapes of the U.K. “Blackpool” – and the two immediately expressed interest.

Jackman, who will next be seen in the feature “The Prestige,” signed a development deal (with Palermo and Seed) with CBS Paramount Network TV earlier this summer (Daily Variety, Aug. 11). Thesp is also in the November release “The Fountain” and is set to star next year opposite Nicole Kidman in Baz Luhrmann’s next feature.

The original U.K. “Viva Blackpool” scored a Peabody Award and a Golden Globe nomination.

(Josef Adalian contributed to this report.)

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