Brit TV vets enjoying a spot of Sony Pictures TV

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Sony Pictures TV is expanding its roster of A-list British talent.

The studio has inked a one-year, first-look deal with Red Planet Pictures, the company of Tony Jordan, creator of BBC's "Hustle" and co-creator of BBC's "Life on Mars."

Additionally, SPT has signed a sizable blind-script pact with "Foyle's War" creator Anthony Horowitz to develop a one-hour project with studio-based producer Darren Star.

SPT's existing first-look deal with BBC Worldwide Prods. yielded two pilots this past development season: ABC's comedy "The Thick of It" and CBS' drama "Viva Laughlin"; the latter was picked up to series.

The British influence was stronger then ever this year with nine U.K. formats making it to pilot.

British TV veteran Jordan, who was head writer on the BBC's long-running half-hour drama "EastEnders," said he had flirted with the idea of coming to U.S. television for a while, but his busy U.K. schedule never allowed him to act on it. After launching Red Planet last year, he said he felt that "now is a really good time."

Jordan built Red Planet as a format generator. The company has held brainstorming sessions with U.K. writers that led to the creation of several projects, including "Mars" and "Holby Blue."

"We were three writers locked up for three days," Jordan said. " 'Life on Mars' came from one drunken evening."

Jordan plans to implement the idea in his deal with SPT, bringing U.K. writers to the U.S. as well as working with American writers.

"My dream is to mix the two -- lock up two U.K. and two American writers in a room, swallow the key, then come back and see what comes out in two days," he said.

Jordan's only previous involvement in U.S. television was in 2004, when "American Idol" creator Simon Fuller brought him in to develop a half-hour blue-collar family drama for Fox in the vein of "EastEnders."

Jordan continues to believe strongly in the 30-minute family-drama format, which is popular worldwide, and hopes to try it again in the U.S. under the deal with SPT.

While his background mostly is in drama, Jordan said he also is open to comedy and would love to mix up the two genres.

In his search for the right partner in the U.S., Jordan met with several companies before teaming with Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht, SPT's co-presidents of programming and production.

"They just got it," Jordan said.

Jordan, whose "Mars" is being adapted by David E. Kelley as a pilot for ABC, is repped by WMA and his U.K. agent Bill McLean.

Horowitz, who created the BBC's mystery crime drama "Midsomer Murders" and worked on ITV's "Poirot," also had thought about crossing the pond for a while.

"Most of the best ideas on television are coming out of America, and if you're passionate about television, that's the place to be," he said.

The first thing he set out to do was to find a partner in the U.S., and he found it in the creator of one of his favorite shows, "Sex and the City."

"If you want to go into American television, and you're an outsider like me, you'd be mad to do it on own," he said. "I was looking for someone with great experience and talent, and Darren Star has that in spades."

Horowitz describes the project he is working on with Star as "an American-based police show with lighter-touch elements and an European angle." It draws on Horowitz's years of experience in the murder-mystery genre.

"I'm a big fan of Anthony's many shows on British television and look forward bringing his voice to an American audience," Star said.

Horowitz is repped by WMA, U.K. agent Anthony Jones of PFD and attorney George Davis.
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