The Most-Wanted Talent for TV Pilots

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Don Johnson, Ellen Barkin and Tim Allen are among the veteran primetime names circling new shows.

The annual mating dance has begun to lure brand-name stars to help TV pilots break out from the pack. Who’s hot this season? Don Johnson is one candidate to star as a lothario hairdresser in the Michael Patrick King drama Mann’s World at NBC, and Ellen Barkin is also a possibility for that show. ABC is pursuing Tim Allen to make a return to TV in the sitcom Last Days of Man (though he’s not making it easy). CBS believes Rob Riggle, late of The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, would be right for any number of regular-guy sitcoms that have been ordered. ABC is eyeing Ryan Phillippe for the title role in its period crime procedural Poe, and Bill Paxton is the net’s choice for a lead role on the Shonda Rhimes pilot (aka The Fixer); Rhimes also is looking at Jill Scott and Kerry Washington for her pilot. NBC wants Minnie Driver for the comedy Free Agents and Maria Bello for Prime Suspect, while The O.C.’s Rachel Bilson might reunite with its executive producer Josh Schwartz for his Hart of Dixie pilot at the CW. NBC wants to get back in business with Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip star Amanda Peet for Bent, and Fox is in negotiations with Zooey Deschanel to star in the untitled Liz Meriwether comedy (aka Chicks and Dicks). The season’s most in-demand actress might be Christina Applegate, who has already passed on ABC’s Other People’s Kids and is now considering the network’s Good Christian Bitches.