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Sci Fi to ‘House’ haunted drama

Tagline takes on tube

Tagline Television, one of the producers of USA Network’s recently renewed “Psych,” is partnering with reality guru Mark Burnett on a spooky drama for the Sci Fi Channel.

“Avery House,” about a New York family that moves into a haunted home, is one of a dozen projects in various stages of development at Tagline under prexy Kelly Kulchak.

Other slate highlights include a TV take on French indie feature “L’Auberge espagnole”; a potentially innovative half-hour about the world of online dating; a collaboration with thesp Ron Livingston (“Standoff”); and a drama based on the past-lives regression therapy of Dr. Brian Weiss.

The 2½-year-old company, a unit of talent/lit management shingle Thruline Entertainment, has cast a wide net for the 2006-07 development season, selling projects to ABC, CBS, Fox, the CW, TBS and Sci Fi.

The bulk of Tagline’s development remains in the comedy arena, a genre with which Kulchak — the former laffer chief at Fox — is more familiar. But several of the shingle’s big development plays also venture into the drama world.

“Our mindset going forward was: Let’s not do anything that we don’t believe can break out in a big way,” Thruline partner Ron West said. “And Kelly has been great at identifying those. This is not an environment that’s friendly to middling shows.”

Tagline also recently helped broker CBS’ Allison Janney/Chuck Lorre/Lee Aronsohn comedy set up at Warner Bros. TV.

Kulchak said Tagline’s success with “Psych” only reinforced “our belief that the traditional template of cable being a producer’s second choice is wrong.”

“When we set out to put together a slate for 2006-07, we were careful to balance our energies between broadcast and cable,” she added.

Broad number of homes for Tagline projects speaks to the shingle’s decision to stay indie rather than ink an overall deal with a studio.

“While that might make sense at some point, at the moment we enjoy the freedom of being independent,” Thruline partner Willie Mercer said. “The more vertically integrated the business becomes, the more we value our ability to set up projects wherever they have the greatest opportunity to thrive.”

Added West: “There’s virtually no way to operate from the vantage point of a studio deal and have TV shows set up at as wide a range of networks.”

The “Avery House” project — written by Emmy winner Dava Savel (“Ellen”) — was named one of the 10 best unproduced drama scripts by Written By magazine. The drama, also produced by NBC U TV Studio, had been in development limbo but scored a Sci Fi order after Burnett became attached.

Burnett is already in business with Sci Fi on “Devil’s Advocate,” a one-hour drama he’s producing for the cabler with DreamWorks Television (Daily Variety, July 14).

Then there’s “L’Auberge espagnole” (Spanish Apartment), which “Frasier” alums Dan Cohen and F.J. Pratt are adapting for the small screen.

Helmer Cedric Klapisch’s original pic — which Fox Searchlight released in the States in 2003 after it became a sleeper hit in France — starred Audrey Tautou and revolved around a group of culturally diverse Europeans who end up spending a summer together in a Barcelona flat. It spawned a sequel of sorts, “Russian Dolls.”

TV version — which is about to be shopped to networks — will focus on six culturally diverse aspiring chefs living together and attending a culinary institute in the U.S.

“It’s a fantastic movie, the idea that the director wanted to do this movie about internationalism and everyone being forced to live together,” Kulchak said. “I love doing that for America. The hardest part in doing this as an hour was finding (a premise) — so we put it in a cooking school.”

Over at CBS, “Many Lives, Many Masters” is based on Weiss’ book of the same name, in which patients explore their past lives to solve current problems. Mark Kruger (“Revelations”) is writing the script; CBS Paramount Network TV produces.

“It’s an incredibly spiritual book,” Kulchak said. “But there’s also a scientist feel to it. It’s not a hoax; it’s this man’s true experiences. And we have access to 8,000 case studies. It’s an exciting new concept.”

CBS Par is also behind “Rules for Roommates,” from Livingston and Pete Goldfinger (“Date My Mother”). Single-cam laffer, set up at the CW, is based on Livingston and Goldfinger’s crazy antics as former Chicago roomies.

Meanwhile, Matt Harawitz (“Blue Collar TV”) is behind “The Ones,” which Kulchak described as “Love, American Style” meets online dating. Project, set up at ABC through 20th Century Fox TV, follows five New Yorkers who interact via online chatrooms.

The online dating world is a “character itself,” Kulchak said. “I really respect ABC for taking a shot with this.”

Another comedy set to go out to nets is inspired by thesp Blair Underwood’s experience growing up on an Army base. “Army Brats,” to be written by Andrew Orenstein (“Everybody Hates Chris”), would be produced by Underwood (who may also appear on camera).

Tagline also has an untitled comedy/drama from Mark Perry (“What About Brian) and Jeff Kline (“That Was Then”) at Fox through 20th Century Fox TV and relationship comedy “The Ex-Girlfriends Club,” from Lori Gottlieb (“Significant Others”) and Maggie Bandur (“Malcolm in the Middle”) at TBS.

“I feel that networks are trusting (producers) to go more outside the box,” Kulchak said of Tagline’s development roster, “to not do the standard fare, to do something that will interest the audience.”

Mercer, West and J.B. Roberts are partners in Thruline, which was founded in 2003. Tagline Pictures was launched the next summer.