CHICAGO (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:
DOMESTIC GODDESS (ABC Family) - Production is expected to be delayed on Roseanne Barr's upcoming project for the cable channel. The comedian plans to undergo a hysterectomy operation next week which will likely delay shooting for several weeks. It's too early to tell however if the show will not be ready by its planned September 20 launch date. The news comes as the network has asked for several changes to the show, most notably a request to broaden the focus of the series. The project, which has a 13 episode order, was originally envisioned to be a cooking show with celebrity guests but ABC Family executives are now asking producers to play up the talk show aspects of the show as opposed to the cooking ones.
ER (NBC) - Actor Noah Wyle has signed on for the drama's 11th season, keeping the lone original cast member with the series through May 2005. The new pact also calls for the actor to direct two episodes during said season. The news is somewhat of a surprise as the actor recently asked for a reduced workload for the upcoming season, as he'll only appear in about 16 of the show's 22 episodes. Such a request lead many to believe he would exit the series at season's end when his current contract expires. As for the 2004-05 season, Wyle's set to appear in all 22 episodes.
ESPN ORIGINAL MOVIES (ESPN, New!) - The network's original movie guru Orly Adelson ("The Junction Boys") is looking to executive produce a biopic on Dale Earnhardt, the champion race-car driver who died in 2001 during a crash at the Daytona 500. The prolific producer recently pacted with ESPN to produce a biopic on disgraced baseball legend Pete Rose, written by Christian Darren. Also in the works at the network is a Gerald W. Abrams-produced movie about Roger Bannister's breaking of the four-minute mile in the early 1950s.
HE GOT GAME (ESPN, New!) - Spike Lee is negotiations with the sports channel to develop a series version of his 1998 feature, which starred Denzel Washington. Lee is expected the direct the pilot should the project, which is still in the early stages of development, go forward. ESPN is looking to expand its scripted presence in the next year and is searching for a companion series for its upcoming football drama "Playmakers." In addition to Lee, ESPN is in talks with Tollin-Robbins Productions to develop a comedy with a sports hook along the lines of the company's "Arli$$."
JAMES PATTERSON MOVIES (NBC, New!) - The Peacock and NBC Studios have signed a mid-seven-figure deal with author James Patterson to turn three more of his novels into telefilms for the network. First up is a sequel to Patterson's "1st to Die," which bowed to strong numbers in February. Titled "2nd Chance," the project reunites the San Francisco-set "Women's Murder Club" as they investigate a bizarre shooting in a city church. So far none of the "1st" cast members have signed on to the sequel, which is expected to air during the 2004-05 season. The pact includes Patterson's third "Women's Murder Club" adaptation, "3rd Degree," which is set to be released in stores later this year. It follows the group as they investigate terrorist attacks that sweep the city. Finally, there's "The Beach House," which revolves around a law student whose brother mysteriously drowns in the Hamptons while working for the retreat's wealthy inhabitants. NBC hopes to have "3rd Degree" or "Beach House" ready for the 2005-06 season with the other airing the season after that.
JUDAS (ABC) - The long-completed telefilm (previously known as "Judas & Jesus") may finally see an air date come April 2004 according to Quinn Taylor, ABC's senior VP of Movies and Mini-Series. The project, which finished production back in June 2001, was the final work of the late Father Ellwood "Bud" Kieser, founder of the Humanitas Prize and Paulist Productions. Johnathon Schaech stars as the title character with Jonathan Scarfe as Jesus, Tim Matheson as Pilate and Philip Dunbar as King Herod. Tom Fontana ("Oz") wrote and produced the telefilm with Charles Robert Carner directing. It's not clear why the telefilm has been delayed for so long however it's believed that like Mel Gibson's upcoming feature "The Passion," there was a concern about the movie coming off as anti-Semitic. "Judas" however reportedly has the thumbs up from several religious leaders and groups including Michael Downey, Cardinal Mahoney's official theologian, the Society of Biblical Scholars and Rabbi David Baron of Temple Shalom for the Arts (who was a "non-writing" technical adviser for the film).
THE RESTAURANT (NBC) - Bravo will rebroadcast the Peacock's reality series beginning Tuesday, September 16 with back-to-back episodes at 8:00/7:00c. It's not clear if the remaining four episodes will air every Tuesday or on subsequent days that week.
N.Y.P.D. BLUE (ABC) - ABC will decide by March 2004 whether or not the long-running cop drama will return for a 12th season.
SAVING JESSICA LYNCH (NBC) - Nicholas Guilak, Crystle Lightning and Nina Kaze have joined the cast of the upcoming NBC telefilm. Guilak ("Homeland Security") will play Mohammed Odeh Al-Rehaief, the Iraqi lawyer who alerted U.S. military officials to Jessica Lynch's whereabouts. Lightning will play 23-year-old Pfc. Lori Piestewa, Lynch's roommate and best friend, who was with Lynch when their convoy was ambushed in March and later died of injuries suffered in the attack. Kaze will play a doctor at the hospital in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah, where Lynch was held until her dramatic April 1 rescue.
UNTITLED JOHN GOODMAN PROJECT (CBS, New!) - The Eye has given a pilot commitment to a new comedy series from writer-producers Mitchel Katlin and Nat Bernstein ("Abby") starring the "Roseanne" actor. Specifics about the project are still being decided. CBS has been actively pursuing Goodman for some time and reportedly offered him the lead in the network's comedy pilot based on the life of sportswriter-columnist Tony Kornheiser this past development season. Goodman last worked for the Eye in a small role on the short-lived drama "Now & Again."
UNTITLED STEVEN BOCHCO PROJECT (ABC, New!) - While his "Marriage" at HBO has broken up, the prolific producer is working with writers Matt Olmstead and Nicholas Wootton on a new cop drama for the Alphabet network. Bochco recently paired with the duo for the failed FOX pilot "N.Y.P.D. 2069." Details about the new project, which is in the early stages of development, remain to be announced however Bochco insisted to Daily Variety, "it ain't like any cop show you've ever seen before."
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters