CHICAGO (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:
Looking to keep track of all the various pilots and other projects in development? Be sure to check out our detailed production chart listings by clicking here.
THE ANNA NICOLE SHOW (E!) - The cable channel has officially pulled the plug on the series after two seasons, however the show will live on as a series of occasional specials much like Comedy Central's "Insomniac." The first, entitled "Anna Nicole Bares All," is set to debut on Sunday, February 22 and follows Smith as she prepares for her first runway job in years for New York's Fashion Week. E! executives stress the cancellation had little to do with the show's ratings - despite being down 51% from its first season, "Anna Nicole" was still drawing a network best 710,000 viewers among adults 18-49 on average - but rather for creative reasons. "The show, creatively, was not where we wanted it to be," Mark Sonnenberg, E!'s executive VP of entertainment, told Daily Variety. "Based on the ratings alone, the answer would have been yes (to a third season). We just think a series of specials is a better way to present Anna." No official plans have been made for a second special although Sonnenberg expected them to roll out on a quarterly basis.
BLIND JUSTICE (ABC, New!) - Ron Eldard ("ER") will topline a new drama pilot at the Alphabet about a blind detective. Writer/producers Matt Olmstead and Nicholas Wooton are behind the project, which comes from Paramount Network Television and Steven Bochco Productions. The pilot is being targeted for a midseason 2004-05 debut.
DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES (ABC) - Eva Longoria ("L.A. Dragnet") has landed a lead role in the drama pilot, a darkly humorous look at the secretive lives of four women living in a cul-de-sac. Longoria will play one of the women, an unhappily married former runway model. Said unhappiness drives her to become involved with their 16-year-old gardener.
FEAR FACTOR (NBC) - FX has scored the cable rights to the Peacock's popular reality franchise. The cable channel has pacted with distributor NBC Enterprises for a four-year deal that licenses the show's first three seasons to FX beginning this summer, with the option to pick up subsequent seasons. FX beat out competing bids from fellow cable stations TBS, Spike and Game Show Network. The news marks the second major off-network sale of the Endemol USA-produced series. NBCE is also offering the show to local stations across the country beginning this fall (read the story). FX is expected to air "Fear" weekdays in a to be determined time slot. It's believed FX will pay between $250,000-$300,000 per episode in license fees, with the overall deal being valued at $25-30 million.
THE MOUNTAIN (WB, New!) - The Frog has committed to a new drama pilot from Warner Bros. Television and McG's Wonderland Sound and Vision. The project centers on a 25-year-old who inherits his family's mountain resort when his grandfather dies. Stephanie Savage ("The O.C.") wrote the script to the pilot and will executive produce along with McG and David Barrett ("Jake 2.0"), the latter of whom is attached to direct.
MY 11:30 (NBC) - Veteran director James Burrows ("Will & Grace") has signed on to helm the Paul Reiser-produced comedy pilot, which remains greenlighted on a cast-contingent basis.
NEVER IN MY WILDEST (NBC) - Some additional details have emerged about the romantic comedy, which has a cast-contingent pilot commitment from the Peacock. Howard Klein, Darryl Frank and Justin Falvey are attached as executive producers of the project, which was created by writer/producer Carol Leifer ("Seinfeld") and comes from NBC Studios and DreamWorks Television.
ON THE COVER/SPEED DATING (PAX) - Production has begun on two new reality series for the fledgling network, both of which are expected to bow in March. The news comes on the heels of PAX's hiring of Rob Word as senior VP of program development and production last week. Word reportedly wants to ramp up PAX's long dormant original series production. "I know for me, I'm tired of watching the 'Diagnosis Murder' reruns at 10 p.m.," Word told Daily Variety. Word hopes to add four new scripted dramas and four new reality series to the broadcast network's schedule by next fall. "Speed Dating," which comes from En Pea Productions, follows eight men and eight women as they spend a few minutes getting to know each other at L.A.'s Argyle Hotel while "On the Cover," which was originally developed at NBC, is a game show that features contestants answering questions about artists and personalities pictured on the covers of various publishing and recorded media. Both pick-ups mark PAX's first new original programs since scrapping their new series development last season. PAX obviously has paid the price for said decision as with its repeat and infomercial heavy schedule, viewership is down 18.33% this season (980,000 viewers vs. 1.2 million on average last season). Word is expected to meet with studios and indie producers in the coming weeks.
THE SECRET SERVICE (ABC) - Sarah Wayne Callies ("Tarzan") has landed the lead role in the drama pilot, which comes from "Alias" executive producers Alex Kurtzman-Counter and Roberto Orci. Callies will play Laura, a young woman who struggles to balance her marriage with the demands and dangers of her career in the Secret Service. Francie Calfo is also on board to executive produce the project, which is set up at Touchstone Television.
UNTITLED R. LEE FLEMING PROJECT (NBC, New!) - The Peacock has given a cast-contingent greenlight to a new comedy pilot from writer R. Lee Fleming Jr. ("She's All That") and producers Karey Burke and Jamie Tarses. The project revolves around a 33-year-old guy who decides to go back to college after his wife leaves him for his best friend. Touchstone Television and Burke and Tarses' NBC Studios-based Untitled are behind the project. Fleming (also of "Friends") will write and executive produce along with Burke and Tarses.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters