CHICAGO (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:
CITY OF ANGELS/UNDER ONE ROOF (CBS) - TV One, the upcoming cable network targeting African-Americans, has purchased the rights to the short-lived CBS drama series "City of Angels" and "Under One Roof" from syndicator King World. Both shows will begin airing when the cable channel, a joint venture between Comcast Corp. and Radio One, launches in January. 24 episodes of "Angels," from prolific producer Steven Bochco, were produced over the course of two seasons on CBS while "Roof," which starred James Earl Jones, lasted just six episodes in 1995. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
DA ALI G SHOW (HBO) - The pay channel has ordered a second season of six episodes of the Emmy-nominated comedy series, which features British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen as he travels the U.S. interviewing real people in one of his three alter-egos. The series averaged 1.4 million viewers (926,000 in adults 18-49) for its initial six-week run on Friday nights. HBO executives however point to its improved 1.7 million viewer average (1.1 million in adults 18-49) during its encore telecasts on Sundays this past April as the reason for the renewal. The new season is expected to launch some time next year.
EISENHOWER: THUNDER IN JUNE (A&E, New!) - Tom Selleck has been tapped to star as General Dwight D. Eisenhower in a docudrama about the high-level military planning that led to the Allied invasion of Normandy and eventual victory over the Germans in World War II. Lionel Chetwynd ("D.C. 9/11: Time of Crisis") will write the script to the project, a joint production of A&E and Sony Pictures Television. He'll also co-executive produce along with Stephanie Germain. A&E executives hope to have the telefilm, which will feature an above-average $5 million budget, ready to air by the 60th anniversay or D-Day next June. The movie will not re-create expensive battle scenes however, as the producers have opted to use newsreel footage for most of the war action.
FAMILY BONDS (HBO, New!) - HBO is looking to turn an upcoming episode of its "America Undercover" documentary franchise into a full-blown series. That installment, titled "Family Bonds," follows the real-life exploits of Tom Evangelista, who runs a business in which he employs family members as bail bondsmen and bounty hunters in Queens, New York. No formal episode order for the show has been given however at the very least "Bonds" will air as an expanded edition of "Undercover" some time late next year.
THE JOE SCHMO SHOW (Spike TV) - The season finale of the reality series snagged 3.4 million viewers, more than double the show's previous high two weeks ago. That score was good enough to making it the network's most-watched program since rebranding itself as Spike TV. More importantly however "Joe" averaged 876,000 viewers (2.7 national rating/8 share) in Spike's target demographic of men 18-34, good enough for third place among all networks, broadcast and cable (behind only "24" on FOX and ABC's comedies). That's more than five times TNN's score in that demographic a year ago. An hourlong post-show interview also scored well, reaching 2.4 million overall viewers. Spike TV president Albie Hecht told Daily Variety he hasn't decided yet about a second season of the show, saying "We're definitely thinking about it. It certainly worked for us."
MUTANT X (Syndication) - Tribune Entertainment has filed a $100 million lawsuit against Marvel Enterprises for breach of contract over the sci-fi series. The lawsuit, filed in New York County, claims that Marvel encouraged Tribune to connect "Mutant X" to 20th Century Fox's hit theatrical movie "X-Men" in 2001. Industry insiders say the suit is in response to the millions of dollars reportedly lost by Tribune defending itself against 20th Century Fox's own lawsuit against Marvel and Tribune in 2001 over alleged similarities between "Mutant X" and its "X-Men" movie franchise and the loss of revenue because of said suit. Marvel also countersued Fox back then, saying "Mutant X" was not at all similar, as "Mutant X" featured different names, looks, personalities and backstories. Both suits were settled earlier this month for undisclosed considerations. Tribune however is now alleging Marvel lied about its contractual clauses with Fox over the use of the "X-Men" brand and is seeking damages. "Mutant X" has averaged a modest 2.2 rating this season in syndiction however Tribune says it has not realized any profit at all from the production and distribution of the series, which instead has lost millions of dollars.
THE PERFECT HUSBAND (USA, New!) - Dean Cain ("Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman") is set to portray accused murderer Scott Peterson in the network's upcoming telefilm about the murder of his wife Laci and their unborn child. "Husband" will tell Scott Peterson's story, beginning with the mysterious disappearance of the then eight-months-pregnant Laci on Christmas Eve last year up through his arrest in April as he traveled to Mexico. Filming is scheduled to begin early next month in San Diego. Also on board are Dee Wallace-Stone ("E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial") as Sharon Rocha, Laci's mother, Tim Quill ("N.Y.P.D. 2069") as Laci's brother Brent and David Denman ("The Singing Detective") as Tommy Vignatti, a close friend of both Laci and Scott. Emmy-winning director Roger Young ("Murder in Mississippi") will helm the project from a script by Dave Erickson ("Murder in Greenwich").
QUEER EYE FOR THE STRAIGHT GUY (Bravo) - The Fab Five - Carson Kressley, Thom Filicia, Ted Allen, Jai Rodriguez and Kyan Douglas - are reportedly close to signing new contracts to host the popular series. The pact is believed to bump the salaries for all five men from $3,000 per episode to at least $8,000 for each installment. All demanded equal pay for their work on the series much like the cast of "Friends," who despite each cast member being represented by different talent agencies, managers and lawyers still present a united front. In addition, the deal would also pay out additional cash for each replay of the Bravo series on NBC (something they currently are not paid for) as well as a guarantee that a certain number of episodes will be rebroadcast each year on the Peacock. In return NBC is set to gain approval rights to any endorsement deal that explicitly mentions the "Fab Five" nickname however each member is free to pursue individual deals without NBC oversight.
RESCUE ME (FX) - Daniel Sunjata ("Take Me Out") and Steven Pasquale ("Platinum") have joined the cast of network's drama pilot from "The Job" team of Denis Leary, Jim Serpico and Peter Tolan. Pasquale will play Sean Murphy, a handsome but naive young firefighter, in the project about a group of New York firefighters living in a post-Sept. 11 world. Sunjata's role is not known while Leary will play the lead in the series. Production on the pilot is set to begin on January 6. Leary, Serpico and Tolan are the executive producers in association with Sony Pictures Television.
THE SUNDAY STEW (MTV) - MTV's new two-hour block of originals got off to a strong start on Sunday. At 9:00/8:00c, the second season of "Punk'd" opened to a stellar 3.56 million viewers, its most-watched episode to date. In addition, the premiere averaged a 2.8 national rating/7 share in persons 12-34, behind only ABC's "Alias" (3.4/9) and NBC's "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" (3.1/9) in the key demographic, and among teens, its 3.6/11 led the 9:00/8:00c half-hour. Newcomer "Viva La Bam" followed at 9:30/8:30c with 2.5 million viewers and a 2.3 rating in among persons 12-34. At 10:00/9:00c, "Wildboyz" notched 2.1 million viewers and a 2.0 rating in the key demographic. "One Bad Trip" rounded out the night at 10:30/9:30c with 2.0 million viewers for its premiere, including a 1.7 rating among persons 12-34. Such scores put all four of MTV's "Sunday Stew" series in the top 10 of all basic cable series among persons 12-34 last week. Also reaching the top 10: the season finale of "Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica" and new episodes of "The Real World" and "The Real World/Road Rules Challenge."
THIEF (FX, New!) - The cable channel has ordered a new drama pilot from producer Norman Morrill ("Early Edition," "Promised Land," "The Visitor") revolving around the world of heists. Pariah, Regency Television and Fox TV Studios are behind the project, each episode of which encapsulates a single day in the time leading up to the robbery of a national institution. The story will track three men connected to the heist, each faced with his own moral dilemma: the thief who's just become a father figure, the cop who's after him but has a shady past of his own, and a terminally ill member of the Chinese mob who is after the thief for reasons of his own. Vivian Cannon and Gavin Polone are the executive producers for Pariah on the project, which is currently casting.
UNTITLED BILLY CAMPBELL PROJECT (FOX, New!) - The former "Once & Again" star has inked a talent holding deal with the network to topline a drama project targeted for fall 2004. It's not clear if FOX will build a project from scratch for Campbell or if they will place him in an existing series in development.
UNTITLED MACAULAY CULKIN PROJECT (NBC, New!) - The "Home Alone" star has signed a talent holding/development deal with the Peacock to develop several comedy projects for the actor with an eye toward a fall 2004 premiere date. Culkin has already met with "Late Night" host Conan O'Brien about the possibility of working together on a project however nothing has been formalized between the two. Culkin guested last season on NBC's "Will & Grace."
UNTITLED PAUL SCHEURING PROJECT (FOX, New!) - Feature writer Paul Scheuring ("A Man Apart") is set to team with Neal Moritz and Marty Adelstein's 20th Century Fox Television-based Original Television to develop a new drama series for the network. The project will follow a man's attempt to break his older brother, a wrongly convicted man on death row, out of prison. If picked up, the entire season would track the three weeks leading up to the breakout as well as an external conspiracy that's committed to seeing the execution through, with the actual event taking place at the end of the season. Mortiz, Adelstein and Original's Dawn Parouse will executive produce the project, which has a script commitment at the network.
UNTITLED ROB REINER PROJECT (NBC, New!) - Rob Reiner has landed a put pilot commitment at the Peacock for a new scripted comedy that will also feature improv elements similar to those used in his classic film "This Is Spinal Tap." Reiner will team with writers Dan and Sue Paige ("Once and Again") on the project, which comes from Universal Network Television. The Paiges will create, write and executive produce the pilot, with Reiner on board to direct and executive produce along with production partner Alan Greisman. The comedy focuses on a newlywed couple, both of whom are shrinks, who end up moving in with the husband's family, comprised of more psychiatrists and other eclectic characters. The pact marks Reiner's first major TV project since he executive produced the short-lived 1991 CBS comedy "Morton & Hayes" as well as Universal's seventh put pilot commitment for the 2004-05 season (others include "The Office" and "Transylvania" at NBC, "Fault Line" at ABC, and untitled projects from David Shore and Steve Koren at FOX). Put pilots include hefty penalties attached to their production deals should they not go forward to series.
UNTITLED CAPLAN/GRAHAM/RASMUSSEN PROJECT (ABC, New!) - Former "Drew Carey Show" writers/producers Clay Graham, Bruce Rasmussen and Dave Caplan are set to re-team on a new comedy about a divorced family for the network. The trio will create, write and executive produce the comedy, which has a premium script commitment, for Touchstone Television. The untitled project will feature a couple with three kids who've been divorced for about a year but still live just a few blocks from each other.
WITHOUT A TRACE (CBS) - TNT has emerged as the winner of the cable rights to the popular CBS series, which comes from Warner Bros. Television, beating out rivals USA and Lifetime. The network will pay $1.35 million per episode for the drama, the most it has ever paid for an off-network series, including its highly-watched repeats of "Law & Order." The news marks the third largest pact for an off-network drama series in cable history, falling short of only "C.S.I." ($1.6 million per episode from TNN/Spike TV) and "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" ($1.55 million per episode from USA). Like Spike's deal for "C.S.I.," the pact includes a one episode a week play beginning in fall 2004 leading up to its five-a-week run in fall 2006. TNT however reportedly plans run "Trace" repeats from 7 to 11 p.m. on one or two nights at that point rather than stripping them across five nights a week. Warner Bros.' only restriction is the show can't run directly against the CBS' network play.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters