ABC mines big names for pilots

Bruckheimer, McG, Gordon get network's nod; '80s project out at NBC

ABC is getting into the Jerry Bruckheimer crime drama business.

On Friday, the network greenlighted an untitled pilot from the producer, to be directed by frequent Bruckheimer collaborator Danny Cannon.

Friday was a big day for television's most prolific producers, with McG and Mark Gordon also landing pilot orders from ABC.

McG is behind the high school musical drama "Limelight," to be directed by David Semel, and Gordon executive produces the modern Romeo and Juliet tale "Empire State."

The Bruckheimer pilot, from Warner Bros. Television and Bruckheimer Television, was written by Mark Friedman. It revolves around a team of amateur detectives working on cases of unidentified victims.

Friedman, Bruckheimer and Cannon are executive producing with Jonathan Littman.

If the pilot goes to series, it would be Bruckheimer's first scripted show on ABC. The network's previous regime famously passed on "CSI," developed at ABC Studios (then Touchstone) under current ABC Entertainment chief Stephen McPherson.

At ABC, McPherson pursued Bruckheimer and bid on "Eleventh Hour," which landed at CBS.

Bruckheimer collaborated with ABC on the 2003 documentary series "Profiles From the Front Line."

"Limelight," written by K.J. Steinberg, is a soap featuring contemporary music and dance, centering on teachers and students at a New York performing arts school. The pilot, executive produced by McG, Steinberg, Semel and Leonard Goldberg, is based loosely on the experiences of hip-hop producer Pharrell Williams of the Neptunes fame. Peter Johnson is co-executive producing, with Williams serving as a consulting producer.

The project, from WBTV and McG's Wonderland, has been in the works for two years. It originally was set up at ABC in fall 2007 with writer David S. Rosenthal.

Another music-themed high school series, Ryan Murphy's "Glee," will launch in the spring on Fox.

Semel maintains a perfect pilot record, with every such project he has directed going to series.

Written by Michael Seitzman from a story by Seitzman and Jeff Reiner, "State" revolves around two families — one of blue-collar iron workers, the other of real estate tycoons — who collide in Manhattan over a romance. Seitzman, Gordon and Deborah Spera are executive producing.

In other pilot news, NBC's "Lost in the '80s," which recently tapped P.J. Hogan to direct and Billy Campbell to star, is not going forward. (partialdiff)