Belushi opts for ‘Security’ over ‘Good’

After pulling out of one ABC series built around him, Jim Belushi has committed to co-star in “Total Security,” the Steven Bochco-created drama for ABC. Belushi will star with James Remar (“48 HRS.”) in the series, which will begin airing this fall with a 13-episode commitment.

That’s the same episode guarantee Belushi had gotten from ABC on “It’s Good To Be King,” a sitcom created for him by Chuck Lorre. The actor was to play a bar owner in his native Chicago, but bailed out, saying the direction of the show wasn’t working for him.

“Total Security” is based on a story by Bochco, David Milch, Charles Eglee and Therese Rebeck, with Rebeck writing the pilot. The series is one of two being developed by Bochco, who also has “Brooklyn South” at CBS.

Remar plays the by-the-book owner of a high-tech security firm. Belushi is his former classmate at the police academy who wants to join his firm, though Remar wants nothing to do with him.

Belushi turned down several other pilot scripts from the networks before agreeing to share the spotlight. Belushi’s also waiting to hear from Universal whether he’ll be singing the blues with Dan Aykroyd and John Goodman in “Blues Brothers 2000.” The sequel to the film that starred his brother was scripted by Aykroyd and director John Landis. His reps at ICM and Brillstein-Grey couldn’t be reached for comment.

GREENFIELD’S GREENER PASTURE: The chances for a screen version of “The People’s Choice” has turned from dark horse to favorite. The novel by ABC “Nightline” correspondent Jeff Greenfield was originally set up at Savoy Pictures, but is now at Universal, to be developed at Parkway Prods. as a possible vehicle for director Penny Marshall.

In taking over the deal, Universal and Marshall get a completed script by Kathy Rabin. The book is a satire of D.C. politics. After the Republican President-elect dies in a rodeo photo opportunity gone awry, the country revolts at his Dan Quayle-like running mate. Electoral college members, led by a female bank office manager, refuse to vote for him, leading to a swirl of lobbying and deal-making. The project, described as “Mrs. Smith Goes to Washington,” was brokered by Sterling Lord’s Jody Hotchkiss.

ABRAHAMS IRE: Forgive director Jim Abrahams if he wonders whether the Epilepsy Foundation of America might be a touch schizophrenic.

Abrahams directed Meryl Streep in the recently aired ABC telepic “First Do No Harm,” the story of an epileptic boy whose seizures are cured by an obscure high-fat diet shunned by specialists.

The telepic closely parallels the ordeal Abrahams endured with his son, who took strong drugs and had brain surgery before Abrahams and wife stumbled onto the diet. He’s gotten 47,000 requests for the ketogenic diet, but a bad case of indigestion from the mixed reaction by the Epilepsy Foundation.

In a Wall Street Journal feature about the telepic, the Epilepsy Foundation and CEO Paulette Maehara took a dim view of the diet, maintaining it is a “little-studied therapy that’s hard to administer and doesn’t work for lots of patients.” Days later, Abrahams got a foundation fundraising letter, signed by Maehara, asking for donations and using the diet as a pitch tool, praising it as “like a miracle,” and “the key to life for some children with epilepsy who’ve lost all hope.”

Said Abrahams: “First, they criticize a movie they’d never seen while at the same time using it to raise funds to do alleged research.”

A foundation spokesman said the Journal article didn’t properly reflect the org’s stance on the diet, which the Epilepsy Foundation includes in its literature. The main organization’s fear was that adults would switch to the diet. “A diet so high in fats and cholesterol won’t work the same way for adults as it does for kids,” said the spokesman — a comment this columnist can vouch for.

FULL SERVICE: Though Troy Duffy signed with William Morris agents Ramses IsHak and Jim Crabbe to write scripts and direct, it’s clear he’s capable of providing a soundtrack as well.

Duffy met with Paramount’s Michelle Manning to show her “The Boondock Saints,” a script he wrote and wouldn’t sell because he plans to direct it.

He pitched her two other idea and she bought them both on the spot, for a combined sum of mid-against-high-six figures. While Morris’s indie division is mobilizing the financing for Duffy’s directing debut — about Irish twin brothers who become vigilantes — Duffy told his new agents he and his brother have a rock band called the Brood.

Morris music agent Joel Roman listened to their tape, and has just signed the band.

NO BAT-DEAL FOR STERN: Though a Gotham tabloid pronounced that’s it all but a done deal for Howard Stern to play the villainous Scarecrow in the fifth “Batman,” the film’s director, Joel Schumacher, denied it.

“Private Parts” star Stern presided over perhaps the biggest movie premiere ever to hit Gotham, but he won’t be taking over Gotham City. “All of us in the ‘Batman’ family wish those in the Howard Stern family great success with their film careers, but we do not plan to collaborate at this point,” Schumacher said.

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