Oscar-nommed helmer Taylor Hackford is teaming with producer Jerry Bruckheimer for the Warner Bros. TV pilot “E-Ring,” which is now expected to be toplined by former “Law & Order” star Benjamin Bratt.
In another major helmer coup, ABC has lined up Mick Jackson –fresh off the success of CBS drama hit “Numbers” — to direct the Touchstone drama pilot “In Justice.”
There was also buzz late Tuesday that TV helming titan James Burrows will reunite with Max Mutchnick and David Kohan for their NBC comedy “Four Kings,” while Anthony and Joe Russo (“Arrested Development”) are being eyed to direct the J.J. Abrams-produced ABC pilot “What About Brian?” according to insiders.
Pilot season kicked into overdrive Tuesday, with several other significant developments:
- NBC ordered up several laffer pilots — including entries starring “Saturday Night Live” regular Tina Fey and ex-“Beverly Hills, 90210” star Tori Spelling as well as buzzworthy comedy from scribe Emily Kapnek.
- The WB also squeezed in one more drama pilot, ordering up a project from Shawn Levy.
- ABC picked up a pair of comedies — including one starring ex-“Saturday Night Live” regular Chris Kattan.
On the helmer front, the Warner Bros./Bruckheimer TV-produced “E-Ring” rapidly seems to be assembling a dream team of talent.
Helmer a big plus
Bratt’s deal is still in negotiations, but the addition of Hackford — who helped guide Jamie Foxx to numerous accolades for “Ray” — would seem one more reason for a pact to be inked. Thesp will next be seen in the indie pic “Thumbsucker,” which recently drew attention at Sundance.
“E-Ring” scribe David McKenna and Bruckheimer both know Hackford, and McKenna actually approached the helmer with his script in order to see if he was interested.
Bruckheimer said the character-driven nature of “E-Ring” made Hackford a perfect fit.
“He’s such a good storyteller, and he’s a master of performance and casting,” Bruckheimer told Daily Variety. “He’s the full package.”
McKenna and Ken Robinson created “E-Ring,” which will be exec produced by McKenna, Bruckheimer and Jonathan Littman.
Littman said the Pentagon-based show is “about life inside the most impenetrable building in Washington and what really goes on during wartime.”
“This is the action arm of the Pentagon,” Bruckheimer added. “These are the guys who have to take risks on actionable (events).”
As for Jackson, deal to helm “In Justice” stems from a holding pact ABC made with the helmer last year. Jackson, whose credits range from “The Bodyguard” to “Live From Baghdad,” has snagged three DGA awards during his career.
His pilot credits include “The Practice,” “The Handler” and “That’s Life.”
NBC laffer binge
Meanwhile, Peacock’s comedy binge included greenlighting the untitled sitcom starring Fey, who’ll shoot her pilot in the summer after “Saturday Night Live” wraps for the year.
Fey will play the head writer of a variety show — not unlike her duties on “SNL” — who has to manage her relationships with the show’s volatile star and executive producer. Half-hour comes from “SNL” leader Lorne Michaels’ Broadway Video TV Prod., as well as NBC Universal TV Studios.
Fey will exec produce with Michaels as well as with Broadway’s Joann Alfano and 3 Arts’ David Miner.
Also from NUTS and Broadway Video, NBC has picked up an untitled laffer from “SNL” scribe Paula Pell. Cast-contingent sitcom follows an obese woman who turns thin and struggles in her relationships with her still-large family and friends.
Pell, Alfano and Michaels will exec produce.
The Tori Spelling project stars the former “90210” cast member in a sitcom loosely based on her own real-life, pre-marriage experiences as a Hollywood celeb and a member of the Spelling clan (Daily Variety, Oct. 19).
Mike Chessler and Chris Alberghini will exec produce the pilot, while Spelling will co-exec produce.
Peacock pickups also include an untitled entry from Kapnek, who created the Nickelodeon series “As Told by Ginger.”
Cast-contingent project revolves around a character who decides to fend for himself — with the help of a life coach — after working all of his life in the family hot dog stand.
Laffer comes from 20th Century Fox TV and Adelstein/Parouse Prods.; Marty Adelstein and Dawn Parouse will exec produce, while Kapnek will write and co-exec produce.
Levy pours ‘Pepper’
Beyond NBC, the latest WB drama pilot order, “Pepper Dennis,” comes from upcoming “Pink Panther” helmer Levy and scribes Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts.
A cast-contingent pilot presentation, “Pepper Dennis” revolves around a Chicago-based TV reporter who juggles her career, love and family lives. Twentieth Century Fox TV is behind the project.
Berg, Harberts and Levy will exec produce “Pepper Dennis”; Levy’s also onboard to direct. Trio teamed up last year for the Fox pilot “One Big Happy,” which narrowly missed receiving a pickup. Levy’s other credits include “Cheaper by the Dozen” and “Big Fat Liar,” while Berg and Harberts worked on “Roswell,” “Wonderfalls” and the feature “Valentine.”
Over at the Alphabet, the Kattan project stars the “SNL” expat as a consumer reporter on a fledgling cable news channel. Mike McCullers (“Austin Powers in Goldmember”) will write and exec produce, along with Don Woodard and Tom Maxwell (“Just Shoot Me”).
Twentieth Century Fox, where Kattan is in the midst of a talent deal (Daily Variety, Aug. 5), will produce, along with 3 Arts, which manages the thesp. 3 Arts’ Michael Rotenberg, Steve Tann and David Miner also will exec produce.
Additionally at ABC, net picked up an untitled sitcom (known in some circles as “Play Mates”) that follows the lives of three quirky couples whose lives intersected after they met in a baby preparation class.
Mark Torgrove and Paul Kaplan (“George Lopez”) will exec produce the Warner Bros. TV laffer.
Meanwhile, in casting news, Jason Lee (“Almost Famous”) has landed the lead role in NBC’s “My Name Is Earl.” Lee’s casting lifts the contingency on the pilot, which is now a firm go.
Also, helmer Stephen Hopkins (“24,” “The Life and Death of Peter Sellers”) will direct the NBC pilot “A World of Trouble.”