CHICAGO (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:
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3: THE DALE EARNHARDT STORY (ESPN) - Barry Pepper ("61*") is set to play the legendary NASCAR driver in the ESPN biopic, which is scheduled to begin production this summer in Charlotte and Atlanta for a December 2004 premiere date. The actor will also executive produce the project alongside Orly Adelson ("The Junction Boys") with Russell Mulcahy ("Skin") directing from a script by Robert Eisele ("Resurrection Blvd.").
THE AMAZING WESTERBERGS (CBS) - Kathleen Rose Perkins ("Without a Trace," "Miss Match") has joined the cast of the comedy pilot, which stars Chris O'Donnell and Jay Harrington as two brothers who were raised believing they were extraordinary. She'll play Kate in the Sony Pictures Television/CBS Productions comedy, from executive producers Jay Sherick and David Ronn ("Spin City").
BANZAI (FOX) - Comedy Central has snagged the rights to the short-lived FOX series and will begin airing the show Thursdays at 10:30/9:30c beginning next month. The deal includes the broadcast rights to all 10 produced installments (four of which never aired on FOX) as well as the option to produce new episodes. A paltry 4.77 million viewers on average tuned into the series during its six-week run on FOX last summer. Nevertheless, Comedy Central executives were reportedly impressed by its performance in several key male demographics: men 18-34 (1.1 million) and 2.6 among men 18-49 (1.6 million).
BEHIND THE CAMERA: THE UNAUTHORIZED STORY OF 'CHARLIE'S' ANGELS' (NBC) - The Peacock has rescheduled the telefilm, the second in its "Behind the Camera" franchise, for Monday, March 8 at 9:00/8:00c.
BLACKWATER (Sci Fi, New!) - The cable channel is developing a four-hour mini-series adaptation of Michael McDowell's six-book series, which follows one family through different generations and how they are impacted by the fact that their matriarch has supernatural powers. McDowell is best known as the screenwriter of such films as "Beetlejuice" and "The Nightmare Before Christmas." Scott Stewart, co-founder of the Orphanage, a San Francisco-based production company specializing in visual effects ("The Matrix," "Spy Kids 3-D"), has been tapped to adapt the books to the small screen, and will executive produce along with Orphanage head of production Amy Israel. The project is co-produced by Sony Pictures Television, Mandalay Television and the Orphanage.
BLUE ALOHA (FOX, New!) - Brent Forrester ("The Simpsons," "Undeclared") is behind a new animated comedy pilot presentation at the network, a family comedy set in Hawaii. The project is set up at Carsey-Werner-Mandabach ("That '70s Show," "Grounded for Life") and will be executive produced by the studio's Marcy Carsey, Tom Werner and Caryn Mandabach. The news marks FOX's fifth animated project in development as "Blue Aloha" joins Seth MacFarlane's "American Dad," a small screen version of the comic strip "The Boondocks" and untitled projects from Phil Hendrie and Jonathan Katz.
CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE (CBS) - Jean Smart ("In-Laws") is set to star opposite John Goodman in the comedy pilot, which centers on a family man who tries to keep the peace with his extended Chicago family. She'll play Goodman's wife in the Warner Bros. Television/CBS Prods./Tannenbaum Co. project, from executive producers Mitchel Katlin and Nat Bernstein ("Abby").
CODEBREAKERS: THE WEST POINT SCANDAL (ESPN) - ESPN's telefilm about the 1951 Army football team cribbing scandal now features the title "Codebreakers." The project, current in the early development stage, is based on a Sports Illustrated article by Frank DeFord.
DEARLY DEPARTED (A&E) - The cable channel will premiere the new reality series, about three sisters who run a funeral home, on Monday, April 19.
KEEN EDDIE (Bravo) - The cable channel will move its off-network run of the short-lived FOX series to Wednesdays at 10:00/9:00c beginning March 10. Before then, viewers can catch another previously unaired episode of the series ("Citizen Cecil") on Tuesday, March 2 at 9:00/8:00c. An additional previously unseen installment ("Who Wants to Be in a Club That Would Have Me as a Member?") has also been scheduled for after the move: Wednesday, March 24 at 10:00/9:00c. The two remaining yet-to-be aired episodes ("Keeping Up Appearances" and "Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite") are then set to unspool in April.
KEVIN HILL (UPN) - Patrick Breen ("Radio") has joined the cast of the drama pilot, which revolves around a thirtysomething playboy lawyer (Taye Diggs) who must raise his cousin's daughter. Breen will play George, the child's gay nanny in the project, which comes from Touchstone TV and Icon Productions and writer Jorge A. Reyes ("Resurrection Blvd.").
HOME & HARDWARE (NBC) - Al Madrigal ("The Ortegas") has been added the cast of the comedy pilot. He'll play the head of shipping and receiving at Home & Hardware, the company where Alyson Hannigan's character works. Matt Tarses ("Scrubs") and Bill Wrubel ("Will & Grace") are behind the NBC Studios pilot, which is set to be directed by David Schwimmer ("Friends").
HOT MOMMA (A.K.A. UNTITLED SUZANNE MARTIN PROJECT) (ABC) - Suzanne Martin's comedy pilot at ABC now features the title "Hot Momma." The Warner Bros. Television project, which is loosely based on her own life, deals with a free-spirited, New York-based wedding planner who leads a wilder lifestyle than her kid.
HUSTLE: THE PETE ROSE STORY (ESPN) - Production is set to begin on the biopic this spring for a Saturday, September 25 air date, at 9:00/8:00c. According to a network press release, "'Hustle' will be a depiction of events as they unfolded in the mid-to-late 1980s - the period of Rose�s gambling specifically documented by Major League Baseball�s Dowd Report." Screenwriter Christian Darren ("Count Three and Pray," "Six Bullets from Now") and Orly Adelson of Orly Adelson Productions ("The Junction Boys," "Playmakers") are behind the project, an ESPN Original Entertainment production.
THE MOUNTAIN (WB) - Oliver Hudson ("Dawson's Creek," "My Guide to Becoming a Rock Star") has snagged the lead role in the drama pilot, which centers on a 25-year-old (Hudson) who inherits his family's mountain resort when his grandfather dies. McG and Stephanie Savage ("The O.C.") are behind the project, which comes from McG's Warner Bros. Television-based Wonderland Sound and Vision Productions, to be directed by David Barrett ("Jake 2.0"). Hudson's involvement stems from a talent deal the actor signed with the Frog back in November (read the story).
MR. ED (FOX) - Marco Pennette ("Caroline in the City") is in final talks to take over as executive producer of the comedy pilot. He'll replace Drake Sather ("Ed") on the 20th Century Fox Television/Original Television project, which was originally developed by "Saturday Night Live's" Jack Handey. David Alan Basche and Sherilyn Fenn stars as the Posts in the new version with Sherman Hemsley as the voice of Mr. Ed.
MY BIG FAT OBNOXIOUS FIANCE (FOX) - FOX has opted to encore the show's final two episodes on Thursday, February 26 beginning at 8:00/7:00c in lieu of the previously scheduled network premiere of "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider."
QUEER AS FOLK (Showtime) - The fourth season of the network's original series has been slated to premiere on Sunday, April 18 at 10:00/9:00c.
RELATED BY FAMILY (FOX) - The comedy pilot, about a blended family and two very different teenagers forced to live under the same roof, has officially been retargeted for fall 2004 series consideration. Matthew Glave, Amy Yasbeck and Zachary Knighton are currently attached to star in the Paramount Network Television project, which comes from "Andy Richter Controls the Universe" creator Victor Fresco.
ROBBING THE CRADLE (A.K.A. UNTITLED JAMIE KENNEDY PROJECT) (WB) - The Frog has greenlighted production on the comedy pilot, about a 24-year-old who moves back home with his mom and her boyfriend, who also happens to be 24 years old. The project is loosely based on executive producers Jamie Kennedy ("The Jamie Kennedy Experiment") and David Garrett's real life experiences when they first came to Los Angeles and became part of a dysfunctional family. Kennedy and John Etting's newly launched production company, Wannabe Producers, is behind the project, along with Regency Television. Garrett and his writing partner Jason Ward are set to write the script.
SEX AND THE CITY (HBO) - 10.6 million viewers (21.8 household rating among HBO homes) tuned into the show's 45-minute swan song on Sunday, the largest audience ever for the pay channel's original series. The news marks the second largest viewership ever for an HBO series, behind only the fourth season premiere of "The Sopranos" (13.4 million viewers, 23.3 household rating among HBO homes). Among HBO households, the "Sex" finale beat every other series on TV that night, broadcast or cable, including ABC's "Super Millionaire" and NBC's "Law & Order: Criminal Intent." A one-hour "Sex" retrospective also fared well, pulling in 6.9 million viewers as did lead-out "Curb Your Enthusiasm," which snagged 5.1 million viewers.
SECOND TIME AROUND (UPN) - The netlet's commitment to the project, a comedy about a divorced couple (Boris Kodjoe, Nicole Ari Parker) who decide to take another crack at marriage, is actually a pilot presentation, not a full pilot as previously reported.
SHE'S TOO YOUNG (Lifetime) - 3.3 million viewers tuned into the February 16 premiere of cable channel's latest telefilm, which starred Marcia Gay Harden, Alexis Dziena ("Imaginary Heroes") and Mike Erwin ("Everwood").
SHUT UP AND LISTEN (CBS) - The Jason Alexander-led comedy pilot, about the life of Washington Post columnist and ESPN talking-head Tony Kornheiser, has been officially retargeted for fall 2004 series consideration.
SWEDEN, OHIO (FOX) - The comedy pilot, which revolves around a teenage boy whose life suddenly gets more interesting when a sexy foreign exchange student moves in with his family, actually has a cast-contingent production order. Greg Malins ("Friends," "Come to Papa") is behind the project, which is set up at Warner Bros. Television.
UNTITLED DANA GOODMAN/JULIA WOLOV PROJECT (WB) - The Frog has greenlighted the pilot, a "Laverne & Shirley"-esque comedy starring Dana Goodman and Julia Wolov. Tom Brady ("The Animal," "The Hot Chick") is behind the project, a co-production of Sony Pictures Television and Adam Sandler's Happy Madison Productions.
UNTITLED HOWARD STERN/ROBERT SCHIMMEL PROJECT (WB) - Robert Schimmel and Howard Stern's comedy pilot at the Frog has been given the go ahead to produce a pilot. The project, which comes from Michigan J. Productions, is based on Schimmel's own experience as a cancer survivor who marries a friend of his 25-year-old daughter.
UNTITLED JESSICA SIMPSON PROJECT (ABC) - Gil Junger ("Hope & Faith") has been tapped to direct the Touchstone Television/20th Century Fox Television/Ted Harbert Television pilot, a comedy which stars Simpson as a pop culture icon who signs on to do part-time work as an on-air reporter for a primetime newsmagazine.
UNTITLED MARSH MCCALL/JOEL STEIN PROJECT (ABC) - Pamela Fryman ("Happy Family") has signed on to direct the comedy pilot, which stars Colin Hanks as a young reporter who makes waves at a respected magazine. Joel Stein and Marsh McCall ("Just Shoot Me") are behind the project, which comes from the Warner Bros. Television-based Acme Productions.
UNTITLED METHOD MAN/RED MAN PROJECT (FOX) - Jeff Melman ("The Bernie Mac Show," "Malcolm in the Middle") is set to direct the Regency Television comedy pilot, which features the duo as rap stars who encounter sudden success and move into a big house in the mostly white New Jersey suburbs.
UNTITLED ROB LONG/DAN STALEY PROJECT (CBS) - The Eye has greenlighted production on the Paramount Network Television comedy pilot, a holdover from the network's previous development season. The project, from Rob Long and Dan Staley ("Cheers"), revolves around a young cop's widow who raises her kids with her mom and runs a bar frequented by cops.
UNTITLED SHONDA RHIMES PROJECT (ABC) - Jim Parriott ("Threat Matrix") has joined the drama pilot as an executive producer. He'll serve alongside Rhimes and Mark Gordon on the Touchstone Television project, which revolves around residents in a San Francisco surgical program.
WHISTLEBLOWER: THE BOB DELANEY STORY (ESPN) - The project, a biopic of NBA referee Bob Delaney, now features the title "Whistleblower." The telefilm, currently in development, tracks Delaney's work as an undercover agent infiltrating the mob.
W.H.O.T. (UPN) - "Living Single" creator Yvette Lee Bowser has been added as an executive producer on the Queen Latifah-produced comedy project, which hasn't yet been ordered to pilot. The comedy, from Latifah's Flavor Unit and HBO Independent Productions, tracks a young white woman who gets hired as the station manager for a hip-hop radio station.
THE WOOL CAP (A.K.A. GIGOT) (TNT) - Don Rickles, Ned Beatty, Catherine O'Hara and newcomer Keke Palmer have all joined the cast of the William H. Macy-led telefilm, a remake of the 1962 Jackie Gleason film "Gigot." Macy stars as a depressed mute who finds hope in the friendship of a 9-year-old orphan (Palmer). Rickles will play a tenant in Macy's building. Macy will produce and co-write the project along with partner Steven Schachter ("Door to Door"), who also will direct. David A. Rosemont and Frances Page are also on board to executive produce. "The Wool Cap," which comes from Rosemont Productions in association with Magna Global Entertainment and Viacom Productions, is the fifth installment in the TNT/Johnson & Johnson franchise.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters