CHICAGO (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:
AMERICAN IDOL (FOX) - FOX will air a one-hour Christmas special of the series, featuring Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard, Clay Aiken and several other stars from the first two seasons of the show, on Tuesday, November 25 at 8:00/7:00c. The special is timed not only with the final Tuesday of the November sweeps period but also the impending CD release "American Idol: The Great Holiday Classics." While the special will be filled with previous contestants, host Ryan Seacrest and the show's three judges won't be a part of the festivities.
BECKER (CBS) - Jorge Garcia ("Spin City," "Curb Your Enthusiasm") has joined the cast of the veteran comedy. He'll play Hector Lopez, "a long lost buddy of Jake's (Alex D�sert), who will now be hanging out with the gang at the diner while looking for employment" according to a network press release. It's not clear when Garcia's first episode will air.
JOE GREEN AND EUGENE (ABC, New!) - The Alphabet network has given a pilot commitment to a new drama from the "Keen Eddie" team of writer Joel Wyman, director Simon West, producer Warren Littlefield, actor Mark Valley and distributor Paramount Network Television. The project, targeted for fall 2004, will feature Valley as a Los Angeles private dick whose life is "encumbered by the arrival of his inept brother from Philadelphia," Wyman told Daily Variety, likening the series to "'Keen Eddie' on steroids." Wyman ("The Mexican") will write the pilot, with West ("Lara Croft Tomb Raider") directing and the duo executive producing with Littlefield and West's production partner Jib Polhemus. The news marks Wyman and Littlefield's second project for next year's development slate as the pair are also re-teaming for NBC's "Repo Cohen." West is also busy, partnering with Sarah Thorp for a teen cop drama at the WB.
THE MIDDLEMAN (ABC, New!) - Oscar-winning writer Chris McQuarrie ("The Usual Suspects") has landed a premium script commitment at ABC for a new drama about a man who straddles the line between good and evil. The project, which has a substantial penalty attached should it not go to pilot, is described a 21st century take on "The Equalizer" in which the lead is viewed as a crook by the cops and a cop by the crooks. McQuarrie and wife Heather will executive produce the series with Oscar-nominated producer Matthew Gross for Touchstone Television.
THE SOPRANOS (HBO) - The pay channel is reportedly close to signing executive producer Terence Winter to a three-year overall development deal. Should it go forward, the pact would call for Winter to stay on the mob drama for its final two seasons while also developing new drama and comedy projects for the channel.
THREAT MATRIX (ABC) - ABC is hoping to boost the profile of the struggling Thursday drama with repeats of the series Mondays at 8:00/7:00c beginning tonight. "Matrix" will displace regular time slot holder "Primetime Monday" for two weeks. The ABC News special "Fat Like Me," hosted by Meredith Vieira, is then slated to take over the slot on October 27. "Primetime" then will return in November. "The producers of 'Threat Matrix' are delivering in every respect, but have one of the most competitive time periods on television. We are determined to get the show the audience it deserves," said Susan Lyne, president, ABC Entertainment in a press release announcing the news. "Pairing 'Threat Matrix' with 'Monday Night Football' will expose the series to an entirely new audience and help bring new viewers to the show on Thursday night."
UNTITLED ALYSON HANNIGAN PROJECT (NBC, New!) - Former "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" star Alyson Hannigan has signed a talent holding deal with the Peacock to develop a comedy series for the actress. Several networks were reportedly courting Hannigan, who made no secret of her desire to topline a sitcom during interviews to promote the August release of "American Wedding." If the right project doesn't come together by the early part of pilot casting season next spring, Hannigan will be free to jump to a non-NBC project for fall 2004.
UNTITLED MICHAEL BAY/SHANE SALERNO PROJECT (ABC, New!) - Feature director Michael Bay is set to re-team with "Armageddon" screenwriter Shane Salerno ("U.C.: Undercover") for a new crime drama for Touchstone Television. The duo will executive produce the project with Salerno writing and Bay directing, should the latter's schedule permit. The series, a sort of a 21st century "Untouchables," will focus on an ultra-moral U.S. attorney who aims to take down a ruthless crime boss he's known since both were kids. The story however will not be a week-to-week mob saga, but rather feature close-ended stories. The news marks Bay's first foray into the television business.
UNTITLED JACKIE GUERRA/FREDDY SOTO PROJECT (CBS, New!) - Latin comedians Jackie Guerra (WB's "First Time Out") and Freddy Soto (UPN's "Freddy") have signed a one-year development deal with the Eye to star in a sibling comedy created by the duo. The project, targeted for fall 2004, will star Guerra as an outspoken, socially conscious woman and Soto as her happy-go-lucky brother. She and Soto are meeting with writers to discuss ways to turn their idea into a sitcom.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters