CHICAGO (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:
THE CASINO (FOX, New!) - The network has pacted with reality guru Mark Burnett ("Survivor," "The Restaurant") to produce 13 episodes of a new reality series that will focus on the pending relaunch of Las Vegas' famed downtown Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino. Pre-production is already underway on the project, which is expected to air during the summer of 2004. Much like NBC's "The Restaurant," "The Casino" will follow the drama involved with relaunching the casino through the eyes of new owners Thomas Breitling and Timothy Poster as well as the Nugget's 3,000 pit bosses, security guards, cocktail waitresses, entertainers and other employees. Breitling and Poster are best known for selling web startup Travelscape to Expedia in 2000. Burnett will executive produce the series along with production partner Conrad Riggs, Jamie Bruce ("The Restaurant"), Insomnia Entertainment's Trent Othick and Poster and Breitling's rep Rob Lieberman. In addition, the show is being filmed in High Definition format in association with Panasonic Broadcast & Television Systems Company. The news marks FOX's first HDTV-filmed project to date. The show itself is also contingent on the acquisition of the Golden Nugget properties by Poster and Breitling, who are still finalizing terms.
CHASING FREEDOM (Court TV) - The network's latest original telefilm, which stars Juliette Lewis, will premiere Monday, January 19 at 8:00/7:00c.
CLASS ACTIONS (Lifetime, New!) - Diane Venora ("Heat") and Tangi Miller ("Felicity") are set to topline a new drama pilot at the cable channel about a hotshot Manhattan lawyer (Venora) who quits the rat race and moves to a small town with her teenage daughter to work as a professor. Miller would play a law student under the professor's tutelage. Deborah Joy LeVine ("The Division") is behind the project, which is set to begin production in Vancouver shortly. No other details were available.
THE COVEN (Lifetime) - Illeana Douglas ("Point of Origin"), Paula Devicq ("Party of Five") and Nia Peeples ("Meet the Changs") have signed on for the lead roles in the cable channel's drama pilot about a group of monder-day witches. Charlie Craig ("Peacemakers") and Gale Anne Hurd ("Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines") are the executive prouducers of the project, which is set to begin shooting in Toronto shortly.
DOING IT (ABC) - The Alphabet has given a production green light to the Touchstone Television drama pilot, which comes from executive producers Gabe Sachs and Jeff Judah ("Freaks and Geeks," "Just Shoot Me"). In addition, newcomers Sean Faris (MTV's "Undressed"), Chris Lowell and Jon Foster ("Danny") have been cast in the lead roles in the project, which is based on Melvin Burgess' controversial U.K. novel of the same name. Stu Bloomberg and Francie Calfo are also on board as executive producers of the pilot, which is likened to a cross between "My So-Called Life" and "American Pie."
ED (NBC) - Lea Thompson ("Caroline in the City") has signed on to appear in a three-episode arc on the dramedy. She'll play the ex-wife of Tom Cavanagh's character, the philandering woman he left in the series' pilot to return to his hometown of Stuckeyville. According to a network press release her character "comes back to discuss a business proposition -- just as Ed is planning for his new marriage to Carol (Julie Bowen), his true lifelong love."
LOADED (New!) - Peter Horton, Nick Thiel and Mark Gordon are developing a dark comedy at Imagine Television about what would happen if a white trash-style family suddenly won the lottery. Horton is writing the proejct along with Thiel ("The Associate"), additional details of which were not available.
THE MENTALIST (NBC, New!) - Gerry McCambridge will be the focus of a new one-hour special on the Peacock, which will follow the mental whiz as he walks the streets of New York and performs in front of a Los Angeles audience, demonstrating his uncanny ability to read people's actions and determine their innermost thoughts. Triage Entertainment is behind the project which will also feature McCambridge walking into a New York firehouse and toying with the company's firefighters as well as a stage demonstration with "American Dreams" star Brittany Snow.
ON AIR WITH RYAN SEACREST (Syndication) - The "American Idol" host's syndicated talk show will kick off on Monday, January 12 on local stations across the country.
THE PARENT TRAP (ABC, New!) - Touchstone Television and Tollin/Robbins Productions are looking to turn the popular Disney movie into a half-hour comedy at ABC. Don Beck ("Eight Simple Rules") is on board to write and executive produce the project, which has a script commitment at the network, along with Tollin/Robbins' Mike Tollin, Brian Robbins and Joe Davola. The small screen version will differ from its two big screen predecessors in that it will focus on two divorced parents who must raise two identical twins as well as use an actual set of identical twins for the roles. Hayley Mills and Lindsay Lohan played both roles in their respective 1961 and 1998 versions.
PLATONICALLY INCORRECT (ABC) - ABC has officially passed on the comedy pilot which recently shot a second episode in the hopes of securing a series order. Tom Everett Scott ("Philly") and A.J. Langer ("My So-Called Life") starred in the comedy, which revolved around two best friends of the opposite sex who work together as co-hosts of a "Trading Spaces"-type cable access show but have kept things strictly platonic. Gabe Sachs and Jeff Judah ("Freaks and Geeks," "Just Shoot Me") were the duo behind the project, which was being considered for the network's midseason schedule.
SUMMERLAND (WB) - Writer Remi Aubuchon ("The Lyon's Den") has been named showrunner of the upcoming WB series. He'll executive produce the Spelling Television drama along with Stephen Tolkin, who created the series, Aaron Spelling, E. Duke Vincent and Brad Isaacs. Lori Loughlin stars in the drama, which revolves around a single woman in Southern California who suddenly inherits three kids when her sister and brother-in-law are killed.
TODD TV (FX) - T-Mobile will be the lead sponsor for the cable network's upcoming "interactive reality" series. The pact is described along the lines of that between "American Idol" and AT&T Wireless, which allowed users to text message their votes on the show. "Todd TV," which premieres January 21 at 10:00/9:00c, features a 30-year-old who relinquishes control of every facet of his life -- from his job to his girlfriend -- to viewers, who can vote from computer or phone.
ULTIMATE FILM FANATIC (IFC, New!) - IFC has committed to an eight-episode series in which the nation's biggest film buffs compete to be the "Ultimate Film Fanatic." Mindless Entertainment ("The Surreal Life") is behind the project, which is set to premiere in July. Players will compete in three areas: movie trivia, a debate over films that they love or hate and an "obsession war" in which competitors will be judged by their personal film memorabilia collections. Each episode will feature a competition in one of seven cities -- New York, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Philadelphia, Denver, Detroit and Atlanta, with the finalists competing in the show's finale. The winner earns a hosting gig at the network as well as control of IFC's airwaves for one night. Mindless Entertainment's Mark Cronin and James Rowley co-created and will executive produce the series, which will be hosted by Film Threat's Chris Gore.
UNTITLED DANA GOODMAN/JULIA WOLOV PROJECT (WB, New!) - Adam Sandler's Happy Madison Productions is developing an untitled buddy comedy at the Frog featuring Chicago-based comics Dana Goodman and Julia Wolov. The company likens the project to a modern-day "Laverne & Shirley" set in Chicago with an "Absolutely Fabulous" sensibility to it. Tom Brady ("The Animal," "The Hot Chick") has already written a script to the project and will executive produce along with Sandler and his production partner Jack Giarraputo.
UNTITLED HAMMER PROJECT (WB) - The life of rapper-cum-minister Hammer ("The Surreal Life") will be the focus of a new comedy from writer Devon Shepard ("All About the Andersons," "Cedric the Entertainer Presents") at the Frog. Hammer himself will star in the project as MC Flagrant, a hip-hop star who originated the "bling-bling" lifestyle but now must adjust to a more normal life raising his family and serving as a minister. The project is a result of a blind script deal Hammer signed with the WB last winter. Renegade 83, which produced "Surreal Life," is on board to produce the project, as is Warner Bros. Television. Renegade's Maira Suro, David Garfinkle and Jay Renfroe will also serve as executive producers on the project.
UNTITLED INFIDELITY PROJECT (Showtime, New!) - Actor/director Peter Horton ("The Shield," "Line of Fire") is spearheading a new limited-run series at the pay channel about infidelity. The project will start with strangers riding the same elevator, and will then follow each character (who, coincidentally, are all caught up in affairs) as they go their separate ways. Horton will write and direct one of the three storylines in which a woman who's been married 20 years, has children, but then has an affair with another man. Rodrigo Garcia ("Six Feet Under") and Charles Dutton ("Against the Ropes") will direct the other two storylines which will be written by Douglas Carter Beane ("To Wong Foo"), Jill and Karen Sprecher ("Clockwatchers") and Eric Byler ("Charlotte Sometimes"). Horton will executive produce the project along with Mark Gordon.
UNTITLED JONATHAN KATZ PROJECT (FOX) - Lisa Kudrow ("Friends") will lend her voice to Jonathan Katz and Tom Snyder's ("Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist") untitled animated comedy pilot presentation at FOX. She'll play the mother of a family whose life is disrupted when their uncle moves in with them.
UNTITLED PETER HORTON PROJECT (ABC, New!) - Touchstone Television is developing a new journalism-centric drama at the network that looks at what would happen if a Jim Lehrer-style journalist is suddenly forced to partner with a Bill O'Reilly-style personality. Peter Horton is behind the project while Rod Lurie ("Line of Fire") is in talks to come aboard as an executive producer.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters