CHICAGO (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:
Looking to keep track of all the various pilots and other projects in development? Be sure to check out our detailed production chart listings by clicking here.
BEHIND THE COUNTER WITH MUSSOLINI (FX, New!) - Brothers Joe and Anthony Russo ("Lucky") are developing a single-camera comedy series which tells the stories of the residents of a diverse area in the Bronx through the eyes of an Italian family that owns the local deli. The project is based on the award-winning one-man play of the same name by Marco Greco. The Russo brothers will write the script with Greco and Nick Santora ("The Guardian") and executive produce along with Joe Freis and Joe Rappa of Pelagius Films and Santora.
BLOW OUT (Bravo) - American Express, LensCrafters and Revlon have been announced as the primary sponsors of the upcoming reality series, which follows celebrity hairstylist Jonathan Antin as he works to open the Jonathan Salon: Beverly Hills. The trio will partner with "Blow Out's" producers MAGNA Global Entertainment and Reveille to finance the project, a la NBC's "The Restaurant." In return the series will "naturally and organically introduce sponsors into the television show through the beauty salon environment, the clientele and surrounding storylines," according to a company press release. "Blow Out," which has a six episode order, is set to bow in June on the cable channel.
DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES (ABC) - Andrea Bowen ("Strong Medicine") and Kyle Searles ("Malcolm in the Middle") are the latest to join the bulging cast of the drama pilot, a darkly humorous look at the secretive lives of four women (Eva Longoria, Teri Hatcher, Felicity Huffman and Marcia Cross) living in an Anytown, U.S.A., cul-de-sac. Bowen is set in the role of Jenna Meyer while Searles will star as John in the Touchstone Television project, which also stars Sheryl Lee, Mark Moses, Cody Kasch, Jamie Denton and Ricardo Chavira.
FEAR FACTOR (NBC) - Stations in the Acme, Clear Channel, Meredith and Viacom station groups as well as the Fox owned-and-operated stations have signed on for the series' off-network syndicated run, set to roll out this fall. The clearances mean "Fear" is a go on local stations covering 70% of the country. The pacts aren't exclusive however, as NBC Enterprises previously sold the cable rights to FX last month, in a four-year deal valued at $30 million (read the story). To differentiate the runs, FX and the local stations won't air the same episodes each day. FX nevertheless will get a head start airing the series, as its run begins this summer while the local stations will wait until the fall. NBCE's deal with the stations is straight barter as seven minutes of ad time will go to the station with the other seven going to the distributor.
THE FURST FAMILY (A.K.A. THE FIRST FAMILY) (ABC) - Marissa Jaret Winokur ("Beautiful Girl") has joined the cast of the Alphabet's take on the British series "The Royle Family," a topical comedy from the point of view of a blue-collar family. She'll play the 23-year-old daughter of said family who causes a stir as she gets ready to be married. Winokur's involvement is due to a talent holding deal the actress signed with ABC and Touchstone Television last season (read the story). Touchstone and Granada Television are behind the project, which comes from writer/producer Alan Zweibel ("Curb Your Enthusiasm").
HUFF (Showtime) - Scott Winant has been named the executive producer/showrunner of the series, which stars Hank Azaria as a psychiatrist suffering through a midlife crisis. Winant helmed the project's pilot episode, which has since been given a 13-episode order. He'll executive produce alongside Mike Newell, Cam Jones and creator Bob Lowry.
THE LONG WAY AROUND (Bravo, New!) - The cable channel has reportedly given a six-episode order for a new reality series which will track actor Ewan McGregor ("Big Fish") as he rides his motorcycle around the world with his best friend, actor Charley Boorman, son of director John Boorman. McGregor is an avid racer, owning several motorcycles and is also involved with a racing team in England. Bravo is expected to unveil the project, which is currently shooting McGregor's training for the trek, as part of its upfront presentation for the advertising community later this year. Production is expected to be completed in time for a fourth-quarter 2004 or first-quarter 2005 air date.
UNTITLED JASON HORWITCH PROJECT (NBC) - Kelli Williams ("The Practice") has joined the cast of the untitled medical mystery drama pilot, which also stars Neal McDonough, Christopher Gorham and Anna Belknap. Jason Horwitch ("The Pentagon Papers") is behind the project, a co-production of NBC Studios-based Landscape Entertainment and Paramount Network Television.
UNTITLED SECTION EIGHT PROJECT (HBO, New!) - The pay channel has committed to five half-hour episodes of a new improv comedy from George Clooney and Steven Soderbergh's production company, Section Eight ("K Street"). The project revolves around a trio of struggling actors - Krista Allen ("Anger Management"), Bryan Greenberg ("The Perfect Score") and Jennifer Hall ("Confessions of a Dangerous Mind") - trying to make it big in Hollywood. Clooney and Soderbergh have been actively working with HBO to develop a new project since the mutual ending of "K Street" last year (read the story). Clooney himself is on board to direct all five episodes, production of which is underway in Los Angeles.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters