CHICAGO (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:
CELEBRITY SPELLING BEE (FOX, New!) - The network has greenlighted production on a two-hour special that will feature, as you might have guessed, celebrities competing in a spelling bee for their favorite charities. Brad Lachman ("World's Funniest") is the executive producer of the special, not to be confused with Phil Gurin's "The Great American Spell-Off," which is currently being shopped around to the networks. Casting is underway on the project which FOX executives hope to have ready to air by early 2004.
COUCH CANYON (FOX, New!) - FOX has bought a drama script from Universal Network Television about a group of young therapists in Beverly Hills, California. No additional details were available.
THE DINNER PARTY (FOX, New!) - Lisa Kudrow ("Friends") will executive produce a new drama project at the network from writer Sandy Isaac. FOX has committed to a pilot script to the Warner Bros. Television-based project, which revolves around a Manhattan dinner party that takes place over the course of 24 episodes. Kudrow's producing partner Dan Bucatinsky will also executive produce through the duo's Is or Isn't Entertainment banner.
THE DOORMAN (HBO, New!) - The pay channel has given a script commitment to a new comedy project from brothers John and Nick Turturro. Nick ("N.Y.P.D. Blue," "Third Watch") will star in the half-hour comedy, which is loosely based on his real-life experience as a doorman in New York City, while John will direct.
DRAGON STORM (Sci Fi) - Sci Fi has scheduled the telefilm, which stars Maxwell Caulfield, John Rhys-Davies and Angel Borris, to air Saturday, January 24 at 9:00/8:00c.
FUTURAMA (FOX) - 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment will release the third volume of the animated comedy on DVD on March 9. The four-disc set includes all 22 episodes from the show's third production cycle, episodes of which appeared in the third, fourth and fifth "broadcast" seasons all in 4:3 full screen transfers and Dolby 2.0 surround. Extras include audio commentary on each episode from the cast and crew, 17 deleted scenes, three easter eggs, storyboard images from the episode "Parasites Lost," alternate animation commentary for the episode "Roswell that Ends Well," still gallery/character art, the animatic from the episode "Anthology of Interest II," international clips, and nine 3D models sequences. The suggested retail price will be $49.95.
THE INSIDER (Syndication) - The "Entertainment Tonight" spin-off has been cleared in 80% of the country, most of which (61%) will air the series in the 7:00/6:00c hour beginning in fall 2004. Of those stations carrying both "ET" and "Insider," 71% will pair both series together. Paramount is expected to rake in close to $1 million per week for the series making it profitable from the start of its run.
MAKING THE BAND 2 (MTV) - The show's upcoming third season will be its last according to a report on MTV.com. The new season will feature the "new" band as they move into P Diddy's house.
NATIONAL LAMPOON'S GREEK GAMES (GSN, New!) - The Game Show Network will partner with the National Lampoon Network to produce a two-hour special that will pit fraternities and sororities against each other in a slew of absurd sports. Network executives are targeting a July or August air date for the special to coincide with the 2004 Olympics in Athens. Scheduled "events" include the pita bread discus toss, the Souvlaki high hurdles and Greek olive oil wrestling.
THE SIMPLE LIFE (FOX) - 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment will release the complete first season of the reality series on DVD on January 20, shortly after the show wraps its seven-episode run on FOX. The single-disc, double-sided disc includes all seven episodes of the series plus five outtakes: "Paris and Nicole Pack For The Trip," "The Taxidermist Job," "Shopping at Buffalo Bill's Store," "Can Opener," and "The Vet." The episodes will be presented in 4:3 full screen and English Stereo sound with a suggested retail price of $19.98.
STEALING (FOX, New!) - Writers David Simkins ("Freakylinks") and Jeff King have landed a script commitment from FOX for a new drama that follows the inner workings of an "Ocean's Eleven"-type heist planned over an entire season. 20th Century Fox Television is behind the project, additional details of which were not available.
UNTITLED AISHA TYLER PROJECT (CBS, New!) - Aisha Tyler will team with her recent "Friends" co-star Lisa Kudrow for a new workplace comedy at the Eye. Kudrow will executive produce the project with Tyler attached to star. Bill Martin and Mike Schiff ("Grounded for Life") will write the pilot, which is described as being along the lines of a 21st century "Mary Tyler Moore Show."
UNTITLED BYER/HANCOCK PROJECT (ABC, New!) - Melissa Byer and Treena Hancock have snagged a script commitment at the Alphabet network for a new drama that tracks the season-long pursuit of a serial killer by an F.B.I. agent. Robert Nathan is attached to executive produce the project, which comes from Universal Network Television.
UNTITLED JUSTIN LIN PROJECT (WB, New!) - Writer/director Justin Lin ("Better Luck Tomorrow") is set to team with uber-producer Aaron Spelling for a new drama at the Frog described as a multicultural take on the college experience. Lin will write and executive produce the Spelling Television project, which has a script commitment from the WB.
UNTITLED MICK FOLEY PROJECT (CBS, New!) - The former WWE star, best known as "Mankind," is reportedly close to being the centerpiece of a new action-adventure drama at the Eye from writer Teddy Tenenbaum ("The Demonologist"). Should it go forward Foley would play a detective in the Tampa Police Department who's just as ruthless as the criminals he hunts down. Fellow WWEers Vince and Linda McMahon as well as Joel Simon and Jed Blaugrund are also attached to the project, described as a 21st century take on "The Rockford Files," which comes from CBS Productions. It's not clear if the entire project is contingent on Foley landing the role or if producers will seek a different actor should his upcoming read for CBS brass not go well.
UNTITLED RICKI LAKE PROJECT (CBS) - Jennifer Crittenden ("Everybody Loves Raymond," "Seinfeld") has signed on to write Ricki Lake's untitled comedy pilot at the network. Crittenden will also executive produce the project, a workplace comedy starring Lake as a human interest reporter. Paramount Network Television, where Crittenden is based, is also on board to produce.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters