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Spelling vets land pilots

Garth, Thorne-Smith, Cortese and Leonard return to TV this fall

Three grads of the Aaron Spelling TV Starmaking Academy have landed lead roles in fall 2001 pilots: Ex- “Beverly Hills, 90210” resident Jennie Garth and former “Melrose Place” regulars Courtney Thorne-Smith and Dan Cortese.

Meanwhile, Josh Leonard (“The Blair Witch Project”) has joined the cast of helmer/scribe John Herzfeld’s CBS drama pilot “Destiny.”

Garth is in final negotiations to star in the title role of NBC’s “Spy Girl,” an hourlong drama about a 25-year-old Ivy League grad who ends up working as a private eye. Skein, based on a true story, is from Warner Bros. Television and Bel Air Entertainment; exec producers are Ed Redlich, Becky Hartman and Steve Reuther.

Thesp played Kelly Taylor on “90210” for the sudser’s entire run. Deal was brokered by Garth’s manager, Randy James.

Thorne-Smith, meanwhile, has landed the role of Jim Belushi’s wife in the latter’s upcoming ABC comedy pilot from Touchstone Television. Skein is from exec producers Tracy Newman, Jonathan Stark and Suzanne Bukinik.

Following her departure from “Melrose” after five seasons as Alison Parker, Thorne-Smith became an original member of the ensemble cast of Fox’s “Ally McBeal.” Her character was written off the series at the end of last season.

As for Cortese, he’s set to play the male lead in “Ball & Chain,” a half-hour 20th Century Fox /Regency TV laffer for Fox Broadcasting Co. based on the comic book by Scott Lobdell and exec produced by Howard Gordon, Molly Newman and Todd Holland.

Cortese will star as a San Francisco architect/superhero who’s on the brink of a divorce from his wife. Their superpowers are only effective if they’re still married.

While best known for his role on the NBC laffer “Veronica’s Closet,” Cortese spent the 1995-’96 season playing Jess Hanson on “Melrose.” His first big gig was as pitchman for Burger King.

Meanwhile, Leonard, one of the three stars of the original “Blair Witch,” is the first actor signed to “Destiny’s” ensemble roster. The Big Ticket Television project unfolds in real time and follows different characters whose lives somehow interconnect. Herzfeld (“15 Minutes”) will write and exec produce the project.

Leonard’s other credits include “Men of Honor,” “In the Weeds” and “Deuces Wild.”

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