CHICAGO (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:
ALIEN HUNTER (Sci Fi) - Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment will release the recent cable telefilm on DVD on October 28th. Presented in anamorphic widescreen, the single-disc set includes a surprisingly large assortment of extras including audio commentary with director Ron Krauss, a making-of and "Location Scout" featurettes, deleted scenes with optional commentary, storyboard comparisons, a still gallery and trailers. Retail for the release is $24.95.
BEAUTIFUL GIRL (ABC Family, New!) - Production is underway on a new romantic comedy for the cable channel toplined by "Hairspray" star Marissa Jaret Winokur. Fran Drescher and Mark Consuelos round out the cast of the project, about an overweight woman (Winokur) set on winning a local beauty pageant in order to snag the vacation prize for her honeymoon. Drescher plays Winokur's superficial mother with Consuelos as her fiance. Winokur, whose involvement is the result of a talent deal signed with Touchstone Television and ABC last year, will also perform two original songs within the competition written by former '80s pop idol Deborah Gibson. The telefilm is set to bow in October.
THE BLOCK (FOX, New!) - FOX is in final talks to import the Austrailian reality format, a cross between "Big Brother" and "Trading Spaces" in which four competing couples redecorate a block of four identically derelict apartments. "American Idol" producer FremantleMedia is behind the project. The series takes place over a three month period in which the couples move in and work on redecorating a different room each week. At the close of the apartments' rehab, each couple has their dwelling auctioned off, the profits of which they get to keep. The highest sale is given an additional $500,000 prize. The series was a huge hit in Austrailia as more than 53% of the country's viewers watched the finale last weekend. If FOX goes through with the pickup, the sale will mark the first time an Australian TV format has been imported to the U.S. It's not clear if the series' creators David Barbour and Julian Cress will be involved with the U.S. version of the show should it go forward.
D.C. SNIPER: 23 DAYS OF FEAR (USA) - The cable channel's take on the D.C. sniper is set to air in October. Look for a specific date in the coming weeks.
EMPIRE FALLS (HBO) - Dennis Farina ("In-Laws") and Robin Wright Penn have officially signed on to the upcoming telefilm at the pay channel. The pair join the previously cast Ed Harris, Paul Newman, Helen Hunt, Joanne Woodward and Philip Seymour Hoffman. "Empire" is based on Richard Russo's best-selling novel of the same name, a comedic look at blue-collar life in the depressed Maine mill town of Empire Falls. Fred Schepisi ("It Runs in the Family") is directing the film, expected to begin production this month from a script by Russo.
EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND (CBS) - Doris Roberts and Peter Boyle both returned to work on Tuesday, leaving Brad Garrett as the sole no-show on the set. Industry insiders say the news means the network and the show's producers are close to announcing restructured contracts for Roberts, Boyle and Patricia Heaton (and even possibly Garrett) in the coming week.
GAME OVER (UPN) - Lucy Liu has signed on to lend her voice to the animated comedy. She'll fill in for Marisa Tomei on the Carsey-Werner-Mandabach produced series as the matriarch of the video-game family. Tomei bowed out of the series due to scheduling conflicts according to the studio.
HOUSE WARS (A.K.A. DREAM HOUSE U.S.A.) (USA) - The cable channel has given a start date to the reality series: Monday, September 29 at 10:00/9:00c. Actress Kelly Packard will host the series, from producers Denise Cramsey ("Trading Spaces") and Ben Silverman ("The Restaurant"), in which four families are given the shell of a house and must transform it into the perfect home, room-by-room, in just 24 days.
THE RED TEAM (NBC, New!) - "Special Unit 2" creator Evan Katz has landed a premium script commitment at the Peacock and NBC Studios for a new action drama, described as the next "A-Team." Lorenzo di Bonaventura will executive produce the series with Katz, which revolves around a band of renegade military personnel who use government technology to help out the little guy. The script commitment includes a six-figure penalty if a pilot isn't produced. The show's title comes from the label given to "bad guys" in training exercises in the military (with the good guys known as "The Blue Team").
QUEER EYE FOR THE STRAIGHT GUY (Bravo) - The show's Fab Five continue to be a hot commoditity. In addition to the show's third rebroadcast on NBC (tonight at 10:00/9:00c), the Fab Five have signed on to guest star in the October 7 episode of NBC's "Good Morning, Miami." The episode, which will also feature guest stars Jillian Barberie and Tiffani Thiessen, sees the group playing themselves.
SKIN (FOX) - Laura Leighton ("Melrose Place") has signed on as a recurring character on the upcoming Jerry Bruckheimer-produced series. She'll play the campaign manager of Kevin Anderson's character. The news marks Leighton's first steady TV work since "Melrose," after which she took a hiatus from acting to get married and become a mother.
SPIKE & MIKE (Spike TV, New!) - The cable channel has greenlighted six episodes of the series, a compilation of the cartoon shorts showcased at the Spike & Mike Sick & Twisted Festival of Animation. The traveling underground tour is best known for showcasing the early versions of "South Park" and "Beavis and Butt-head." The order is expected to be ready for the fall where it will air as part of the network's "The Strip" animated block on Thursdays. So far only "No Neck Joe," from "Powerpuff Girls" creator Craig McCracken, has been mentioned as a frontrunner to make the compilation's cut. Spike TV plans to use the series as a development environment for new projects based on the shorts. The series however will not include fare from Spike & Mike's Festival of Classic Animation, a separate but equally successful festival with more mainstream fare.
STEALING CHRISTMAS (USA) - The telefilm has been tentatively scheduled for November air date.
T.H.E.M. (NBC) - The Peacock has ordered a second half-hour installment of the street magician showcase. The pair of specials, the title of which stands for "Totally Hidden Extreme Magicians," feature a troupe of 10-12 street performers (including Rico de la Vega and Chris Gongora) who, a la David Blaine, confound unwitting bystanders with mind-boggling illusions. NBC hopes to air the specials this fall as either two separate segments or a full hour. Ken Mok ("America's Next Top Model") directed both specials and is hoping to turn the project into a full-fledged series.
UNTITLED ROBERT KING PROJECT (ABC, New!) - Writer/producer Robert King ("Vertical Limit") has scored a premium script commitment with ABC and Touchstone Television for a new untitled cop drama. King will executive produce the project with Francie Calfo and write the pilot with his wife, Michelle. The Kings were behind two recent failed Alphabet pilots ("The Line" and last year's "The Good Life"). The new project revolves around a police force in a suburban community and looks at how crime is just as big of a problem in the 'burbs as it is in the city. The lead is a former New Jersey cop who thinks his new suburban gig will be a cakewalk but finds it's far more stressful than he could have imagined.
WHO WILL SHE CHOOSE? (FOX, New!) - Taking a cue from Bravo's "Boy Meets Boy," FOX has given a series order to new reality series in which a single, straight woman looks for love among a pool of single men on a Western-style dude ranch. The twist, like "Boy," is that some of the men are gay. If she ultimately chooses a straight mate, she wins a substantial cash prize (believed to be near $1 million) but if a gay man fools her, he gets the cash. Unlike "Boy" however, those involved with the series were aware of the twist at the start of production a few months ago. Interestingly enough, despite the twist being "out" so to speak, FOX has still kept a strict veil of secrecy around the series and has fueled speculation that it could just be a giant cover for the next installment of "Joe Millionaire," details of which have yet to surface. Nevertheless, "Joe" producer Rocket Science Productions isn't listed as one of the those working on the show. Jeremy Mills and Ciara Byrne of Lion Television are the executive producers. It's not clear when "Choose," the show's working title, will air.
THE WEST WING (NBC) - Warner Bros. Home Video will release the complete first season of the drama on DVD on November 18. Creator/executive producer Aaron Sorkin and executive producer Thomas Schlamme are set to provide audio commentary on five of the show's 22 episodes. Those episodes are "Pilot," "What Kind of Day Has It Been," "Take This Sabbath Day," "In Excelsis Deo" (also commenting is co-executive producer-director Alex Graves) and "Celestial Navigation" (with co-executive producer-director Chris Misiano). The four-disc set, priced at $59.98, also includes deleted scenes, a gag reel of outtakes and bloopers, behind-the-scenes footage, cast and crew interviews, making-of documentaries "The Primaries" and "The West Wing Inauguration" and outtakes from cast and producer interviews. Unlike its current broadcasts however, the first season will be released in full screen along with Dolby 2.0 audio. It's not clear if Warner Bros. will switch to widescreen for any future releases.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters