ABC Scares Up Bird Flu Movie

May sweeps will soon be upon us, and this year ABC will feature one of the ratings-grabbing month's most time-honored traditions: a ripped-from-the-headlines disaster thriller.

The network has scheduled a movie called "Fatal Contact: Bird Flu in America" for Tuesday, May 9. The "meticulously researched" two-hour film will tell the story of an avian flu outbreak in the United States, the people affected by it and those trying to stop it.

Joely Richardson ("Nip/Tuck") and Stacy Keach ("Prison Break") star. The cast also includes Ann Cusack ("The Brotherhood of Poland, N.H."), Scott Cohen ("Gilmore Girls"), Justina Machado ("Six Feet Under") and David Ramsey ("All of Us").

ABC has done little thus far to promote the film, which will air against "American Idol" and the CBS combination of "NCIS" and "The Unit."

Richardson plays a doctor from the Centers for Disease Control's Epidemic Intelligence Service who's summoned to China after a new strain of avian flu is discovered. The virus has mutated into a form that can pass between humans (which the current bird flu virus receiving scads of news coverage cannot).

Among those now carrying the virus are an American businessman returning from a trip to Hong Kong, who becomes Patient Zero in an outbreak on U.S. soil. Cusack will play the man's wife. Keach plays the secretary of Health and Human Services, charged with containing the outbreak.

Ron McGee ("Atomic Twister") wrote "Fatal Contact." It was directed by Richard Pearce, a TV and feature-film veteran whose credits include ABC's "South Pacific," "A Family Thing" and episodes of "Party of Five" and "Homicide."

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