CHICAGO (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:
DR. VEGAS (CBS, New!) - Writer/director John Herzfeld ("15 Minutes") and producers Lawrence Bender ("Kill Bill Vol. 1") and Kevin Brown ("Roswell") are teaming to develop a new drama series for Warner Bros. Television loosely inspired by "Dr. Fink," the longtime house doctor for Caesars Palace. The series will revolve around a young, unconventional doctor who lives and works in an old-school, Palms-like hotel-casino. Herzfeld will write and executive produce the project, which has a premium script commitment at CBS, along with Bender and Brown through their Bender-Brown Productions banner and Mark Sennett ("K Street"). Fink himself, a friend of Sennett's, will serve as a consultant on the series which will tell quirky, often light-hearted stories about the doctor's experiences on staff at the casino.
THE GREAT AMERICAN SPELL-OFF (New!) - Producer Phil Gurin ("The Weakest Link") is currently shopping a new reality series in which adults from across the country will compete in a national spelling bee. The project is believed to have been fueled by the success of the recent documentary "Spellbound," which followed a handful of kids as they made their way from classroom and town contests to the National Spelling Bee. Like "Spellbound" each episode plans to delve into the background and story behind the participants leading up to the actual competition. If the project takes off, Gurin hopes to also produce a celebrity edition of the series.
THE JOHN WALSH SHOW/THE SHARON OSBOURNE SHOW (Syndication) - Roger Friedman of Fox News is reporting that both syndicated series are heading toward cancellation. "Osbourne" recently laid 20 staffers on Friday leading many to believe the show itself is in trouble. When asked for comment, his source at the show said, "Why don't you call NBC and ask them when they're firing everyone from 'The John Walsh Show'? It's being cancelled next week." A spokeman for NBC Enterprises, "Walsh's" distributor, however said, "There are just rumors. It hasn't been announced officially. You know rumors."
THE LINE-UP (FOX, New!) - Warner Bros.-based producers Lawrence Bender and Kevin Brown are developing a new one-hour cop drama at the network. Thomas Hines is writing the project, additional details of which were not available.
NAKED HOTEL (ABC) - John Corbett ("Lucky," "Sex and the City"), Michael Rispoli ("10-8"), Jenny Wade (MTV's "Undressed") and Sara Ramirez ("Baseball Wives") have joined the cast of the network's midseason drama pilot which revolves around the interactions among guests and hotel staffers at a luxury hotel in the Bahamas. Corbett will play the hotel's manager in the pilot, which comes from Armyan Bernstein ("The Hurricane") and Warner Bros. Television, while Rispoli has been cast as the chief of security, Wade as the assistant manager, and Ramirez as a housekeeper. ABC had originally developed the series for fall 2003 consideration but pushed it back to midseason in March.
THE REAL WORLD (MTV) - The San Diege Police Department is investigating a woman's allegations that she was raped in the oceanfront home where the MTV series is currently filming its latest season. The 22-year-old woman is not a cast member of the television show nor is her alleged aggressor a part of the cast or crew. Local police served a search warrant on the house last week and seized footage taped for the show along with bedding, towels and couch cushions. "The woman told investigators she went to a downtown nightclub Nov. 14, where she met a man who was an acquaintance of one of the 'Real World' cast members," the Associated Press said in a story about the news. "The woman told police she consumed a drink offered by the man and then blacked out. When she awoke the next morning, the woman said, she was fully clothed on a bed in a guest bedroom in the 'Real World.' The woman had pain in her genital area, and a medical examination performed the next day revealed cuts, according to court documents. Police said a person whose name was not released said he found the woman lying naked on the bathroom floor, dressed her and moved her to a living room couch. With the help of a female cast member, the person moved the alleged victim to the guest bedroom." Neither the police nor production company Bunim-Murray Productions would comment on the content of the videotapes seized by police however the network and production company said they were cooperating fully. No arrests in the case have been made. The show however remains in production and is scheduled to premiere the new season in January.
RICOCHET (FOX, New!) - FOX has greenlighted production on a new cop drama pilot from executive producers Rene Echevarria ("Star Trek: The Next Generation") and Jeff Kline ("That Was Then"). The Touchstone Television project, which is being considered for the network's fall 2004 schedule, takes a "Memento"-like backward approach to storytelling as the series starts out with the climax, with the rest of the show retracing the steps that led to said moment. The move is seen as another step in FOX's plan to move toward year-round programming development and production. The network plans to go forward with nine to 11 drama pilots this season all of which are likely to be greenlit by the end of the year.
SURVIVOR (CBS) - Casting is underway on a ninth installment of the series as CBS.com has begun taking applications for contestants. The deadline for submission is January 27 however the network is also holding open casting calls at various CBS owned-and-operated stations across the country.
THAT '70S SHOW (FOX) - Brooke Shields ("Suddenly Susan") has signed on to guest star in a three-episode arc on the veteran comedy. She'll play the long-lost mother to Mila Kunis' character who suddenly returns to town, having left her daughter years earlier. Shields' episodes are expected to air after shortly after the February sweeps period.
THIRD WATCH (NBC) - Nick Turturro ("N.Y.P.D. Blue") is currently shooting a four-episode arc on the series. He's set to play Alie Nardo, the son of a mob boss on the drama. His episodes will likely air early next year.
UNTITLED JON TENNEY PROJECT (WB, New!) - Jon Tenney, who recently toplined the network's failed comedy pilot "Sixteen to Life," has inked a talent holding deal with the Frog to star in a series project targeted for fall 2004.
UNTITLED MARISA COUGHLAND PROJECT (WB, New!) - Marisa Coughland ("Wasteland") is set to star in a new half-hour comedy from writer Jay Kogen currently in development at the Frog. Lawrence Bender and Kevin Brown are the executive producers of the Warner Bros. Television project, details of which were not available.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters