Nellie Andreeva

EXCLUSIVE: Following her memorable run on Dancing With the Stars last spring, Kirstie Alley is returning to ABC as the star of a new comedy project. I’ve learned that ABC is finalizing the deals for a pilot order to The Manzanis, a multi-camera family comedy written by sitcom veterans Marco Pennette and Dave Flebotte, with Alley attached to star. ABC Studios and studio-based Brillstein Entertainment are producing. The sitcom is described as a new take on Roseanne, and stars Alley as a very opinionated wife/mother who, along with her family, the Manzanis, moves to repressed country-club town. Pennette and Flebotte are executive producing with Brillstein’s new TV president JoAnn Alfano. Also expected to executive produce are Aaron Kaplan (Good Christian Belles) and Alley’s manager Jason Weinberg.

The Manzanis was originally developed two years ago at Brillstein under then-TV president Peter Traugott. It was a contender again this past season but ultimately didn’t go to pilot. Then about a month ago, UTA, which represents the project, approached ABC topper Paul Lee, who was open to picking up the comedy if Alley would come onboard to star. Pennette did a rewrite on the script to have the main character better reflect Alley’s voice, and the script was given to the actress, also a UTA client, who just recently read it and liked it.

Alley is red-hot coming off Dancing With the Stars, where she was the breakout star and audience favorite with an improbable run to second place despite some slips and falls, her well-documented struggle with weight and her age, 60. At ABC, the former Cheers and Veronica’s Closet star joins another former sitcom star, Tim Allen, who also is making a comeback with a new multi-camera family comedy series, Last Man Standing. Pennette and Flebotte are based at ABC/ABC Studios; for the past few years, they have worked as top-level writer-producers on ABC’s dramedy Desperate Housewives. Meanwhile, Alley’s Cheers co-star Ted Danson is now headlining CBS’ veteran crime drama CSI.

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