CHICAGO (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:
$5.15/HR. (HBO) - William Lee Scott ("October Sky") and America Ferrera ("Real Women Have Curves") are set to topline the pay channel's comedy pilot from director Richard Linklater ("Slacker") which focuses on the colorful employees at Grammaw's Home Cookin, a chain restaurant. Scott will play a naive and idealistic graveyard-shift bus boy while Ferrera will play a young waitress and devout Christian in the project, which is currently filming in Linklater's home town of Austin, Texas. Also cast are Mitch Baker as the restaurant's devoted night manager, Missy Yager ("Boston Public") as a quick-witted waitress and Bill Wise as the assistant manager. Clark Middleton ("Bail Jumper") and Retta ("Slackers") are also among the ensemble however their roles are not known.
AMERICAN IDOL (FOX) - Original "Idol" Kelly Clarkson is set to compete in a world version of the reality series, titled not surprisingly "World Idol." FOX plans to air the two-hour special on Christmas Day (Thursday, December 25 at 8:00/7:00c) which will feature Clarkson facing off against the winners of the series from 11 different countries. The winner will then be announced during a one-hour results show on New Year's Day (Thursday, January 1 at 9:00/8:00c). Producers FremantleMedia and 19 Television haven't nailed down how the voting process will work as the logistics of including voters from across the globe not to mention a weighting system to factor in the population of each singer's home country are still up in the air. Also still be to determined are an international panel of judges (one from each country).
BUT I PLAYED ONE ON TV (Bravo) - The reality series, which saw real actors reprise the job that their character performed while on television, is apparently no longer in development as Bravo's latest press release (read the story) indicates it is not one of its active projects.
CIRQUE DU SOLEIL'S SOLSTROM (Bravo, New!) - The cable channel has given a greenlight to a new 13-part series about the famed troupe. Here's how Bravo describes the series (via press release): "This 13-part Cirque performance series encompasses classic Cirque du Soleil acts with amazing new performances. The story-driven variety series - produced by Cirque du Soleil - follows this year�s Emmy winning Bravo original series "Cirque du Soleil Fire Within.""
DREAM JOB (ESPN) - Casting is underway on the network's reality series, which chronicles the search for a new "Sportscenter" anchor. Additional details are available on the show's official web site. The series premieres Sunday, February 22 at 9:00/8:00c.
ELON GOLD (Bravo, New!) - The cable channel is developing a new late-night variety show hosted by actor/comedian Elon Gold ("In-Laws"). According to a network press release, "this innovative, celebrity-impression pilot is an A-List late night variety show - without the A-List. The cast will consist of a talented and versatile troupe of actors who will expertly, and amusingly, impersonate the stars and musical guests."
THE ENTOURAGE (HBO) - Adrian Grenier ("Drive Me Crazy") and Jeremy Piven ("Cupid") have signed on for the lead roles in actor Mark Wahlberg's long-in-the-works comedy pilot at HBO. The project centers on movie star Vince Chase (Grenier) and his closest circle. Piven will play Chase's agent, Ari Jacobs, while Wahlberg himself will make a cameo in the pilot. Also on board are Kevin Connelly and Jerry Ferrara as Chase's best buddies, Kevin Dillon as his older brother with Courtney Peldon ("Boston Public"), Arielle Kebbel ("Soul Plane") and Angela Patterson in still to be determined roles. Production is underway in Los Angeles on the pilot, which is executive produced by Wahlberg, Doug Ellin and Steve Tompkins ("The Bernie Mac Show").
FIVE DAYS TO MIDNIGHT (Sci Fi) - Director Michael Caton-Jones has bowed out of the mini-series due to personal reasons. Caton-Jones had just signed onto the project last week (read the story). Production however is expected to remain on schedule as filming in Vancouver is set to begin next month. A replacement for Caton-Jones should be announced in the next week or so.
FRASIER (NBC) - While it's been widely accepted that the show's current 11th season will be the series' last, star Kelsey Grammer hinted on both "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" and "The Late Late Show With Craig Kilborn" this week that it could return for a 12th go around. "If someone called and said, 'We really want you back for another year,' I'd probably figure out some way to make that happen," Grammer told Kilborn. "But that call hasn't come." NBC and producer Paramount Network Television previously secured the services of former "Frasier" writers/producers Christopher Lloyd and Joe Keenan for what it dubbed the show's final season (read the story) back in May. NBC topper Jeff Zucker however commented earlier this year to Daily Variety that "The door is still ajar, and you know what happened the last time I left the door ajar," referring to "Friends'" return for a 10th season despite word at the time that its ninth season would be its last.
GARY THE RAT (Spike TV) - The cable channel has scheduled final three produced episodes of the series: "Catch Me If You Can" (Tuesday, November 25 at 11:30/10:30c), "Divorce" (Tuesday, December 2 at 11:30/10:30c) and "A Good Execution Is..." (Thursday, December 11 at 11:30/10:30c).
HOUSEBUSTERS (Bravo) - The network has issued an official description of the series, currently in development at the cable channel: "Could changing your living space change your life? This pilot, produced by World of Wonder (creators and producers of the U.K. version) explores design and spiritual aspects of world cultures to investigate the secret forces at work inside the home -- and aspires to resolve the problems of the people who live there. A team of specialists in the areas of color therapy, Feng Shui, psychic phenomena and witchcraft and others are consulted to identify and solve the troubles of the home."
THE JOHN HENSON PROJECT (Spike TV, New!) - John Henson (E!'s "Talk Soup") is set to host and executive produce his own comedy vehicle at the cable channel. Titled simply, "The John Henson Project," the half-hour series, which premieres Sunday, January 11 at 10:00/9:00c, will feature a mix of desk-bound bits and taped segments ranging from "What Were They Thinking," which celebrates stupid acts committed by certain men, to "Can I Kick His Ass?" in which Henson will analyze how he could beat up select celebrities. Each of the show's 13 episodes will be taped in Burbank during the week prior to its premiere airdate. Henson says he plans to reunite with some writers from "Soup" on the new series, which if successful could spawn into a five night a week program.
NOTHING TO HIDE (Bravo, New!) - The cable channel is developing a new dating series, described via press release as follows: "Is there an art to finding Mr. Right? "Nothing to Hide" is a dating show with a cultural bent in which a single woman gets to choose a date from a line-up of men knowing only about their personal style and cultural interests. The pilot is being produced by Catherine Sheinman for Lion Television."
OBLIVIOUS (Spike TV) - The network plans to air a special two-episode preview of the game show's second season on Sunday, December 7 at 11:00/10:00c.
ONE OF THE GUYS (NBC, New!) - Writer/producers Josh Sternin and Jeff Ventimilia ("The Grubbs," "That '70s Show") have a script commitment at the Peacock for a new ensemble comedy that revolves around a woman who pals around with five guys. No other details, including the studio behind the project, are available.
PILOT SEASON (Bravo, New!) - The cable channel is developing a new reality series which will track the development of what it hopes is the next mega-hit comedy. Here's how the network describes the series, via press release: "Viewers become the programmer in this competitive reality format now in development. "Pilot Season" searches for the next mega-hit comedy such as "Friends" or "Seinfeld," and pulls back the curtain on how a sitcom idea survives the comic, frustrating creative twists and turns to make it to television. Bravo will broadcast the pilots - and wait to see which, if any, merit attention from a network for a series order or "re-piloting." The series is produced by Sean (NBC's "Will & Grace") Hayes' production company, Hazy Mills, in association with Shapiro Grodner."
PLAN B (ABC, New!) - Actress/comedian Caroline Rhea ("Sabrina, the Teenage Witch") is set to topline a new comedy project from Universal Network Television and writers Josh Sternin and Jeff Ventimilia ("The Grubbs," "That '70s Show"). Rhea will play a single, thirtysomething woman with career, weight and romance issues, a character which she says is loosely based on her own life. Surrounding Rhea's character will be her overbearing mom, a hot twentysomething assistant and a man for whom she has unrequited feelings. She also finds herself spilling her woes at weekly Weight Watchers meetings. ABC has committed to a script for the project, which Sternin and Ventimilia will executive produce.
PLAYMAKERS (ESPN) - The sports channel's first original series finished its inaugural season on Tuesday with its most watched episode to date as the nearly 2.0 million households tuned into the finale. Overall this season, "Playmakers" has averaged 2.2 million total viewers with more than 1 million of said viewership among ESPN's target demographic of men 18-49. ESPN executives maintain that no decision has been made about the future of the series despite rumblings the network will cancel the show over protests by NFL owners and the NFLPA (read the story).
READY, SET, VAN GOGH (Bravo) - The reality series, described as "Junkyard-Wars" meets "Iron-Chef" meets the arts, is apparently no longer in development as Bravo's latest press release (read the story) indicates it is not one of its active projects.
REWIND (Bravo) - The biography series, which tells a celebrity's life story in reverse order, is apparently no longer in development as Bravo's latest press release (read the story) indicates it is not one of its active projects.
SIGNIFICANT OTHERS (Bravo) - The network has issued an official description of the series, which has a six-episode order from the cable channel: "This six episode series is an off-the-cuff improvisational comedy about couples living their lives in and out of marriage therapy. It�s a hysterically honest look at marriage and the rewards - and spoils - that come from being in a committed relationship. The series features a talented ensemble of improvisational performers including Brian Palermo, Andrea Savage, and Andy Kindler ("King of Queens"). "Significant Others" is produced by NBC Studios. Executive producers are Peter Tortorici ("The Cosby Show," "Grace Under Fire") and commercial director Rob R. Thomas."
THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU (Bravo, New!) - The network has given a 13-episode order to a new relationship series. Bravo describes the show as "a 'feel good' reality show that takes a funny, intelligent look at the psychology of modern relationships. Each one-hour episode (13 total) features one couple given the chance to prove - once and for all - just who is the most irritating person to live with. Armed with personal video cameras, couples become documentarians as they seek to capture their partner�s foibles on film. "Things I Hate About You" gets to the heart of what makes relationships tick. The series is produced by Wall to Wall Television ("Frontier House," "Manor House")."
UNDEREXPOSED (Bravo) - The network has issued a new official description of the series, currently in development at the cable channel: "R.J. Cutler ("Freshman Diaries," "The War Room") will produce this previously-announced pilot for a reality filmmaking contest series. Developed and produced by Sean Hayes and producing partner Todd Milliner, "UnderExposed" features two promising young filmmakers who are chosen in each episode to compete against each other by shooting a four-minute film in their hometowns, using the same script and the same time and budget restrictions. A panel of expert judges screens the finished films and a winner is chosen to move on to the finals. UnderExposed will be executive-produced by Sean Hayes and Todd Milliner for their production banner HazyMills Productions. Cutler produced "Freshman Diaries," "American High," "The War Room" and "The Real Roseanne Show.""
UNTITLED CARSON DALY PROJECT (NBC, New!) - The late-night talk show host has landed a comedy project at the Peacock based on his days as a nighttime jock at Los Angeles' top-rated KROQ-FM. Daly and Jeb Brody, the head of development at Carson Daly Productions, will executive produce the comedy as part of the former's deal at NBC Studios. Feature writer Tom Brady ("The Hot Chick," "The Animal") is also on board as an executive producer. Daly likens the ensemble comedy to a 21st century "WKRP in Cincinnati" as it will follow the quirky employees of an urban radio station.
UNTITLED LONI LOVE PROJECT (New!) - Comic Loni Love has landed a development deal with HBO Independent Productions, the pay channel's production arm. Love recently came into the spotlight after winning the jury prize for standup at last year's HBO-sponsored U.S. Comedy Arts Festival. David Goldman and Judi Brown, Love's managers at Power Entertainment, will serve as executive producers on any project that results from the deal, mostly like a half-hour comedy based on her blunt, "tell it like it is" style.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters