CHICAGO (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:
THE APPRENTICE (NBC) - Chrysler has been named an exclusive sponsor of the upcoming series, which launches this Thursday at 8:30/7:30c. The package includes not only ads in each episode, promotional spot mentions, a Web site presence but also a major product placement as the automaker is worked into one of the final tasks given to the shows' competitors. In addition, a new Chrysler will be given to the show's winner, as will a viewer as part of a sweepstakes contest.
BIG LOVE (HBO, New!) - The pay channel is reportedly close to greenlighting a new drama pilot from Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman's Playtone Productions ("Band of Brothers"). Will Schaffer ("In the Gloaming") and Mark V. Olsen wrote the script to the project, which revolves around a polygamist and his relationship with his three wives. The duo would executive produce the project along with Hanks and Goetzman should it go forward. HBO is waiting for a final budget from the producers as well as a director to be named before proceeding with the green light.
BLOW OUT (Bravo, New!) - Bravo has committed to six episodes of the project, a new reality series that tracks the opening of a Beverly Hills salon by star stylist Jonathan Antin. Not surprisingly, "The Restaurant's" Ben Silverman is behind the project, who will executive produce alongside Arnold Shapiro and Allison Grodner ("Big Brother") with Mark Koops, H.T. Owens and Rob Lee serving as co-executive producers. Ad giant Magna Global Entertainment is also on board as a partner on the series, which comes from Silverman's Universal-based Reveille. Like "The Restaurant," advertisers will cover virtually the entire cost of producing the series in exchange for heavy product placement. The series will track Antin, whose clientele includes Madonna, Kirsten Dunst and Alicia Silverstone, as he works to finance and establish the Jonathan Salon: Beverly Hills. The producers also plan to feature the stories of its customers, adding a makeover-style element to the show.
C.S.I. (CBS) - The Eye is hoping to squash the time slot premiere of NBC's "The Apprentice" as the network has scheduled a special first-run episode of "C.S.I." for Wednesday, January 14 at 8:00/7:00c. The news means the first two installments of the NBC series will face off against fresh episodes of the top-rated CBS drama.
THE CLEANER (NBC, New!) - Lions Gate Television and Vertikal Entertainment are developing an offbeat mystery drama at the Peacock from writers Lee Goldberg and William Rabkin ("1-800-MISSING," "Monk"). Stefani Deoul and Craig Cegielski will executive produce the project along with Vertikal's Marla Ginsburg.
CLUBHOUSE (CBS, New!) - The Eye handed out its first pilot order for fall 2004 consideration this week as the network has committed to a new drama from executive producers Mel Gibson and Aaron Spelling. The project tracks the life of Pete Young, a 16-year-old who lands a dream gig as a bat boy for the New York Yankees. Writer Daniel Cerone ("Charmed") is shepherding the project, which is based on Matt McGough's upcoming book about his experience as a bat boy in the early 1990s. Cerone will executive produce along with Gibson, Spelling, Bruce Davey and E. Duke Vincent. McGough will also serve as a producer on the project, which comes from Gibson's Icon Productions and Spelling's Spelling Television.
COUNTDOWN (ABC, New!) - "Boomtown" creator Graham Yost is developing an action drama at the Alphabet, based on an idea by Michael Harbert. Marla Ginsburg's Touchstone Television-based Vertikal Entertainment is behind the project, additional details of which were not available.
CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (HBO) - The fourth season of the comedy series opened to a disappointing 3.3 million viewers on Sunday, where it lost 48% of its lead-in, "Sex and the City" (6.4 million). "Curb" was also off 40% from its third season opener back in September 2002 (5.5 million).
HARDWARE (ABC, New!) - Marla Ginsburg's Touchstone Television-based Vertikal Entertainment is looking to import the U.K. series, which was created by Simon Nye. David Litt ("King of Queens") is working on a script for the U.S. version of the comedy, with Nye having ongoing creative input.
JOHN ADAMS (HBO, New!) - Playtone partners Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman are developing a mini-series set during the American Revolutionary War. Kirk Ellis is supervising the adaptation of the David McCullough's about the subject, which will be the basis of the project.
THE PACIFIC (A.K.A. UNTITLED WWII PACIFIC THEATRE PROJECT) (HBO) - Bruce McKenna has been named the lead writer on the mini-series, a pseudo-sequel to "Band of Brothers," currently in the development stage at the pay channel.
PIECES OF DANIEL (NBC, New!) - "The Pretender's" Steven Mitchell and Craig Van Sickle are developing a new drama at the Peacock from NBC Studios and Marla Ginsburg's Vertikal Entertainment. No additional details were available.
POKER DOGS (New!) - Vince Van Patten, co-host of Travel Channel's "World Poker Tour," has pacted with LMNO Productions ("Boot Camp") to develop and host a new series that would bring together professional poker players in an elimination-style competition series to compete for a big grand-prize pot. The company is currently shopping the project to both the broadcast and cable networks. LMNO topper Eric Schotz is expected to executive produce the series, should it go forward.
PSYCHOS (FX, New!) - A U.S. version of the popular British drama is in the works at the cable channel from Marla Ginsburg's Vertikal Entertainment and the U.K.'s Kudos. Dan Therriault ("Witness Protection") is writing the U.S. version of the series, which revolves around a psychiatrist working in a psychiatric ward who is himself on lithium. David Wolstencroft created the British original.
SEX AND THE CITY (HBO) - 6.4 million viewers tuned into Sunday's premiere of the final batch of episodes of the comedy, down 12% from its season opener back in June (7.3 million).
STILL LIFE (FOX) - A source close to the series has confirmed that the show's midseason order of seven episodes has completed filming on location in Vancouver, British Columbia.
THE ULTIMATE CHALLENGE (Syndication, New!) - Orlando-based Television Syndication Co. is looking to import the series, known as "It's a Knockout" in the United Kingdom and "Intervilles" in France, to the U.S. The company has struck a deal with France's Upside Television and Mistral Production to pitch the concept to local stations across the country at this year's NATPE conference later this month. The show features contestants taking part in wacky challenges, such as real bull fights and bungee stunts.
UNTITLED JONATHAN PENNER/STACY TITLE PROJECT (ABC, New!) - The Alphabet is developing an untitled detective drama from writers Stacy Title and Jonathan Penner. No other details were released about the project, which comes from Marla Ginsburg's Touchstone Television-based Vertikal Entertainment.
UNTITLED MATT TARSES/BILL WRUBEL PROJECT (NBC, New!) - The Peacock has greenlit production on a new comedy pilot from writers Matt Tarses ("Scrubs") and Bill Wrubel ("Will & Grace"). The untitled project revolves around the relationship between two siblings, a workaholic ex-dork older sister and her slacker brother, both single, who haven't spoken in 18 months. NBC Studios is behind the comedy which will be executive produced by the duo, along with Jamie Tarses (the former's sister) and Karey Burke. The producers reportedly are close to landing Alyson Hannigan ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer"), who signed a talent deal with the Peacock in October (read the story), for the female lead.
UNTITLED PAT CIRILLO PROJECT (ABC, New!) - Feature writer Pat Cirillo ("Tears of the Sun") is developing a one-hour drama at the network. Marla Ginsburg's Touchstone Television-based Vertikal Entertainment is behind the project, additional details of which were not available.
UNTITLED SUZANNE MARTIN PROJECT (ABC) - The Alphabet has given the producers the go ahead to produce a pilot for the project, an untitled comedy about a hip single mom working as a wedding planner and her more conservative teenage daughter. Sitcom veteran Andy Ackerman will direct the pilot, which comes from Warner Bros. Television, and will executive produce along with creator Suzanne Martin ("Frasier," "Maybe It's Me"). The news marks ABC's first comedy pilot order for fall 2004 consideration. The network had previously ordered a script for the project back in September (read the story).
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters