One ‘Beautiful’ purchase

'People' part of ABC Family

ABC Family topper Paul Lee has put his first programming stamp on the cabler, greenlighting production on original drama “Beautiful People,” from Sony Pictures TV.

Cabler has ordered eight one-hour episodes that follow the coming-of-age trials of the Kerr women — a family of two sisters and their mother — as they transition from a small-town upbringing in New Mexico to life in New York City.

Michael Rauch, who is writing and exec producing the CBS pilot “Love Monkey,” penned the pilot and will exec produce with Paul Stupin (“Dawson’s Creek”).

Lee, who joined ABC Family last April, said the story of three women starting their lives anew should tap into the audiences who’ve been flocking to the net’s repeat episodes of “Gilmore Girls.” Exec pointed out that the offbeat off-net hour has been a strong performer for the cabler in key 18-34 and 18-49 demos since it began airing the show late last year.

In “Beautiful People,” the Kerr family has just been abandoned by their patriarch, who left for his secretary. So when one daughter, Sophie, wins a scholarship to a prestigious school in New York, the girls and their mother are more than ready to take off. But Sophie runs into some trouble at her new school, which she discovers is run by a popular crowd of wealthy kids known as the “beautiful people.”

Casting is under way with production slated to begin this spring. Net is targeting a summer premiere.

“Beautiful People” makes good on Lee’s intent to embrace the diversity and dysfunction of today’s families as he works to modernize ABC Family’s brand.

“When you’re picking shows, more than anything else, you want something that’s going to define the brand because it’s well told. And this is well told,” Lee said.

Show also reps the cabler’s major drama push for 2005. Lee is also at work on some scripted comedies, with plans to roll out one or two by year’s end. In consideration are pilots from Barry Wernick and Brad Grey (“East of Normal, West of Weird”); Carter Covington (“Just a Phase”); and Tollin/Robbins (“Door to the Throne”).

Two-hour backdoor pilot “Wildfire,” about a teenage girl who winds up working with a racehorse, will air as a telepic in spring.

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