CHICAGO (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:
THE 13TH FLOOR (FX, New!) - Frank Spotnitz ("The X-Files"), novelist Brad Meltzer, and D.C. insider Steve "Scoop" Cohen have all banded together for a new drama project at the cable channel. The series, which is being developed internally by the network, centers on a lawyer who serves as an advocate for dead people who believe they've been wrongly condemned to hell. No studio has been attached yet to the project.
2003 MTV VIDEO MUSIC AWARDS (MTV) - Thursday's telecast averaged 10.71 million viewers for its three hour broadcast, down 10% from last year's numbers (11.95 million). Nevertheless, it was the fourth largest audience in its 10-year history and the second largest cable draw this year (second only to TNT's NBA All-Star Game in February with 10.83 million viewers). Overall the awards show was Thursday's top program among adults 18-49 (5.5/17), adults 18-34 (7.6/26) and teens (8.3/31) across all networks, broadcast and cable. It also hit an all-time high among women 18-49 (6.5/19) and tied its record in women 18-34 (9.2/28). It wasn't as lucky in the male demos as the broadcast was down 25% from last year among men 18-34 (5.9/23).
ALIAS (ABC) - Spike TV and FX have reportedly emerged as the frontrunners for the off-network rights to the series. Buena Vista Television Distribution is targeting the launch for fall 2005.
AVERAGE JOE (NBC) - Based on NBC's schedule for the rest of the month, the Peacock won't be launching the Kathy Griffin-hosted reality series this summer. More than likely you can look for it come midseason or next summer.
D.C. SNIPER: 23 DAYS OF FEAR (USA) - The cable network's take on last year's D.C. sniper attacks is set to air Friday, October 17 at 9:00/8:00c.
EMPIRE FALLS (HBO) - William Fichtner, Oscar winner Estelle Parsons, Trevor Morgan and Danielle Panabaker are the latest to sign onto the all-star cast of the upcoming telefilm. Already on board are Ed Harris, Paul Newman, Helen Hunt, Joanne Woodward, Robin Wright Penn, Dennis Farina and Philip Seymour Hoffman. The project, based on Richard Russo's best-selling novel of the same name, is set to go into production later this month for a 2004 air date.
HUFF (Showtime) - Blythe Danner ("Presidio Med") and Andy Comeau ("One Hour Photo") have signed onto the two-hour drama pilot at the pay channel. The Sony Pictures Television-produced project centers on Craig Huffstodt (Hank Azaria), a psychiatrist suffering from a midlife crisis. Comeau will play Huffstodt's brother with Danner's expected to play his mother. Bob Lowry wrote the script to the pilot and will executive produce with Mike Newell and Cam Jones. Scott Winant ("Dead Like Me") in on board to direct with production set to begin early next month in Vancouver.
JACK & BOBBY (WB) - The Frog's drama project from Thomas Schlamme ("The West Wing") is apparently still in the works for a possible midseason bow. Steve Cohen and Brad Meltzer wrote the pilot script, about a pair of brothers destined to become political leaders. It's not clear if the project has been given a greenlight to produce a pilot as no cast has been attached.
I.Q. (CBS, New!) - The Eye has given a premium script commitment to a new drama from producer Frank Spotnitz ("The X-Files") and Sony Pictures Television. Described as something of a throwback to "Columbo," Spotnitz told Daily Variety the series features "a great puzzle mystery with a strong central character." Specific details however are being kept under wraps by the network and the producers. Spotnitz spent last season on the failed CBS drama "Robbery Homicide Division."
OBLIVIOUS (Spike TV) - The hidden-camera game show has had its second season premiere pushed back indefinitely. Originally scheduled for Tuesday, September 9 at 10:00/9:00c the series has been shelved for the time being. No specific reason was given. In its place Spike will run encores of "The Joe Schmo Show."
PARADISE HOTEL (FOX) - The reality series will wrap its summer run with a two-hour finale on Wednesday, October 1 at 8:00/7:00c. According to the network's press release, quite a few more twists are in store in the coming weeks as the ousted participants will return to play judge and jury, determining which couple will win the grand prize.
SPECIAL OPS (CBS, New!) - Former film executive Lorenzo di Bonaventura is set to team with writer Jason Horwitch (FX's "The Pentagon Papers") on a new drama series for the Eye. The project centers on a team of Special Operations soldiers who take on missions abroad as well as within the United States. CBS Productions is on board to produce the series, which has received a premium script commitment from the network. Di Bonaventura, whose film production company Di Bonaventura Pictures is based at corporate sibling Paramount Pictures, and Horwitch are executive producing.
THE SURVIVORS CLUB (CBS, New!) - The Eye has greenlighted a new telefilm based on Lisa Gardner's best-selling suspense novel of the same name. Roma Downey ("Touched by an Angel") is attached to star in the drama, from Bender-Brown Productions and Jaffe/Braunstein Films, which revolves around three women raped by the same man (one of which is played by Downey) who band together in the "Survivors Club" to try to help police track the rapist down. Then, on the opening day of the rapist's trial, he is assassinated by a sniper, and the three women suddenly find themselves going from being rape victims to becoming murder suspects.
THAT '70S SHOW (FOX) - Topher Grace has re-upped with the series through the 2004-05 season. The news keeps the entire cast intact through its seventh season. Grace will reportedly earn $250,000 per episode for the 2004-05 season, on par with co-star Ashton Kutcher's payday. While FOX hasn't formally renewed the show for a seventh go around, barring a nosedive in the ratings this season, it's considered a lock to return.
WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE (Syndication) - The syndicated series has been picked up by several ABC owned-and-operated stations: New York (WABC), Philadelphia (WPVI), San Francisco (KGO), and Raleigh, N.C. (WTVD), plus the network's Boston affiliate (Hearst Argyle-owned WCVB). The five stations are set to fill the void left by the CBS stations in four of the those cities (all save Raleigh) that dropped the show for its upcoming season. "Millionaire" will take over for half-hour soap "Port Charles" in those markets as ABC has canceled the show as of mid-September.
"Millionaire" was the second-highest-rated new show last season, behind only breakout hit "Dr. Phil." So far this season, "Millionaire" has averaged a 3.0 rating, up 25% since its debut. Among syndicated gameshows, "Millionaire" is a distant third behind the long-running hits "Wheel of Fortune" (8.8 rating) and "Jeopardy!" (7.0 rating). The pickups mean "Millionaire" is still cleared in more than 90% of the country.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters