John Wells, HBO make 'Shameless' play

Pay network adapting dramedy from British series

John Wells has teamed with HBO to develop an American version of the acclaimed British dramedy "Shameless."

The "ER" chief is adapting "Shameless" with the series' creator, top U.K. TV writer Paul Abbott. Warner Bros. TV and studio-based John Wells Prods. are producing.

Based on Abbott's childhood, the original "Shameless" chronicles a dysfunctional working-class clan led by an alcoholic patriarch. The Company Pictures/Channel 4 project, which has aired in the U.S. on BBC America and the Sundance Channel, was brought to JWP by the company's TV president Andrew Stearn.

It has been in the works at JWP for four years, with Woody Harrelson rumored for the lead at one point.

Wells and Abbott are Emmy winners, the former for "The West Wing" and "ER" and the latter for the BBC/HBO film "The Girl in the Cafe." Abbott also has won several BAFTA Awards, including one for "Shameless."

Wells is the second A-list WBTV producer to set up a project at HBO during the past few months. Jerry Bruckheimer and WBTV are behind the drama "Cocaine Cowboys," in development at the pay cable network.

HBO has several projects based on international formats, including the drama "In Treatment," an adaptation of an Israeli series, and the comedy pilot "Suburban Shootout," based on a British show.