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 4,400 (USA) - Peter Coyote ("A Walk to Remember"), Joel Gretsch ("Taken"), Jacqueline McKenzie ("Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood"), Michael Moriarty ("Law & Order"), Mahershalalhashbaz Ali ("Threat Matrix"), Laura Allen ("All My Children"), Kaj-Erik Eriksen ("Boston Public") and Chad Faust ("Smallville") have all joined the cast of the upcoming drama series, which begins production next week in Vancouver for a summer premiere date. USA has committed to six episodes of the Viacom Productions/American Zoetrope project, which centers on the return of 4,400 alien abductees to Earth. Yves Simoneau ("Night Visions") is set to direct the initial installment from a script by creator Scott Peters ("The Outer Limits") and executive producer Renee Echevarria ("Dark Angel"). Maira Suro ("Platinum") and Ira Steven Behr ("The Twilight Zone") are also on board as executive producers.
ALIAS (ABC) - Laurence Andries ("Boomtown," "Six Feet Under") has signed a one-year, seven-figure overall development deal with Touchstone Television. The pact, which has an option for a second year, calls for Andries to continue as a co-executive producer on "Alias" in addition too developing new projects for the studio.
BECK AND CALL (UPN) - Vanessa Williams ("Boomtown") has snagged one of the lead roles in the drama pilot, which revolves around the personal assistants and executives in the fashion world. She'll play Zoe, the editor of a fashion magazine in the project, which comes from Warner Bros. Television and Sherphard-Robin Productions. She joins the previously cast Christina Vidal ("10-8").
BLIND JUSTICE (ABC) - Rena Sofer ("Coupling"), Frank Grillo ("For the People") and Reno Wilson ("The Chronicle") have joined the cast of the drama pilot, which centers on a detective (Ron Eldard) who is reinstated after being blinded on the job. Sofer will play Christie, the wife of Eldard's character, while Grillo will play a detective who opposes the blind cop's return to the force and Wilson is set as one of the detective's new squad mates. "N.Y.P.D. Blue's" Steven Bochco, Matt Olmstead and Nicholas are all behind the project, which is set up at Paramount Network Television and Steven Bochco Productions.
COOKING LESSONS (CBS) - Elizabeth Lackey ("Just Cause"), Paula Marshall ("Hidden Hills") and Lindy Booth ("Dawn of the Dead") have joined the cast of the Warner Bros. Television/Tannenbaum Co. drama pilot, about a food columnist and her circle of friends. Lackey will play Olivia, the lead role, while Marshall will play Brett, Olivia's lawyer girlfriend, and Booth is set as Chloe, an assistant. The trio join the previously cast Constance Zimmer in the project, who plays Georgia, Olivia's best friend.
D.O.T.S. (NBC) - Stephen Dunham ("What I Like About You") is the first to join the cast of the comedy pilot, where he'll play a hunky meter reader. The NBC Studios/Pariah Television project revolves around a group of meter maids.
THE DANA & JULIA SHOW (WB) - Twin brothers Randy and Jason Sklar (ESPN Classic's "Cheap Seats") have joined the cast of the Frog's "Laverne & Shirley"-esque comedy pilot, which comes from Sony Pictures Television and Happy Madison Productions. The pair convinced executive producers Tom Brady, Doug Robinson, Adam Sandler and Jack Giarraputo to cast them in the dual roles of Nico the handymen, a part originally written for one person.
MILES TO GO (WB) - Gerald McRaney ("Major Dad") has joined the cast of the comedy pilot, which is based on executive producer Mark Burnett's experience as a military commando-turned-nanny. He'll play the nanny's (Philip Winchester) employer, the father of the family, in the Warner Bros. Television project.
PLAN B (ABC) - Steven Eckholdt ("My Big Fat Greek Life") is set as Matt, the high school crush of Caroline Rhea's character who comes back into her life, in the comedy pilot, which revolves around a single woman in her 30s (Rhea) who juggles romance, career and weight problems. Josh Sternin and Jeffrey Ventimilia ("That '70s Show") are behind the Universal Network Television project, which also stars Rocky Carroll, Kali Rocha, Sarah Shahi and Willie Garson.
THE PRACTICE/UNTITLED PRACTICE SPIN-OFF PROJECT (ABC) - In a follow-up to our story yesterday, various sources have confirmed the still-to-be-titled "The Practice" spin-off has already been given a blind 22-episode order, ensuring it a spot on the network's fall schedule. The commitment also isn't contingent on any actor joining the series, with offers reportedly out to James Spader and Rhona Mitra to topline the project. 20th Century Fox Television will distribute the spin-off as it was behind the parent series.
THE QUINTS (FOX) - Ryan Pinkston ("Punk'd") has joined the cast of the comedy pilot, which stars Andy Richter and Rebecca Creskoff as parents of quintuplets. Pinkston will play one of said children, joining the previously cast April Matson. 20th Century Fox Television and Imagine Television are behind the project, which comes from "Frasier's" Mark Reisman.
THE SHIELD (FX) - Just 2.8 million viewers tuned into the show's third season premiere on Tuesday, a surprising drop of 36% from its second season bow in January 2003 (4.4 million viewers) and 42% from its series debut back in March 2002 (4.8 million). "The Shield" was also off 38% among adults 18-49 from its opener last season (2.0 million vs 3.2 million). Nevertheless, the drama was the top draw among men 18-49 (2.0/6, 1.3 million) across all basic cable networks that night and remained on par with the show's average to date among all adults 18-49 (2.2 million). Overall, "The Shield" finished second among cable channels in the Tuesday, 10:00/9:00c hour, behind MTV's "The Real World" (4.2 million) but ahead of Bravo's "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" (2.3 million) and A&E's "Cold Case Files" (2.2 million). The premiere also got little help from its lead-in - a repeat of the recent "Planet of the Apes" remake - which drew a paltry 794,000 viewers.
SOMETHING THE LORD MADE (HBO) - The Alan Rickman/Mos Def-led telefilm, about the true story of a black lab technician and a white surgeon who created cardiac surgery in 1940s America, has been scheduled for Sunday, May 30 at 8:00/7:00c. Mary Stuart Masterson, Gabrielle Union, Kyra Sedgwick and Charles S. Dutton also star in the project, which was directed by Joseph Sargent ("Miss Evers' Boys") from a script by Peter Silverman.
STRIP SEARCH (HBO) - Sidney Lumet and Tom Fontana's telefilm for the pay channel has been scheduled for Saturday, April 24 at 8:00/7:00c. Here's how HBO describes the project, via its web site: "Acclaimed director Sidney Lumet and OZ creator Tom Fontana explore the nature of crime & punishment in post-9/11 America in this provocative new HBO Film. Weaving together a series of stories in which individuals are imprisoned and interrogated for what they are thinking, the film explores an important contemporary question--must security and safety come at the price of freedom?" Ellen Barkin, Glenn Close, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Rashida Jones, Patti LuPone and Oliver Platt are among the ensemble cast.
TWO KINGS (UPN, New!) - The netlet has given a last-minute pilot presentation order for a new drama about two high school kids from different backgrounds who bond in 1970s New York, just as the graffiti, break dancing and rap culture is born. Blueprint Entertainment and Edmonds Entertainment are behind the project, which was created by Seth Zvi Rosenfeld ("King of the Jungle"). Tracey Edmonds, Henry Bromell, Keri Selig, John Morayniss and Noreen Halpern will executive produce the pilot along with Rosenfeld, who will pen the pilot script.
UNTITLED GREEN RIVER KILLER PROJECT (ABC, New!) - The Alphabet has given a script commitment to producer Stan Brooks (of the upcoming telefilms "The Legend of Butch and Sundance" and "Dynasty") to develop a four-hour mini-series about the decades-long quest to capture Gary Leon Ridgway, Washington state's notorious Green River killer. John Pielmeier ("Hitler: The Rise of Evil" ) is on board to write the script to the project, which Brooks will executive produce via his Once Upon a Time Films. The mini-series will explore the case from the point of view of King County Sheriff Dave Reichert, who was a rookie detective when the string of murders first came to the attention of police. In total, Ridgway plead guilty to murdering 48 people last fall however investigators suspect he killed even more people. The case offers an interesting "Silence of the Lambs"-esque twist in that Reichert met with serial killer Ted Bundy who offered his help to track down Ridgway. ABC and Brooks are targeting the project for a possible 2005 premiere should it get greenlighted. The news marks the second "Green River Killer" project being developed for television as A&E announced in January its own plans to adapt the Ridgway murders (read the story).
UNTITLED HOWARD STERN/ROBERT SCHIMMEL PROJECT (WB) - The Frog has announced it has pushed back its untitled Howard Stern/Robert Schimmel comedy project to midseason 2005 consideration. The comedy is based on Schimmel's own experience of falling in love with his daughter's friend after winning his fight with cancer three years ago. Michigan J. Productions is behind the project, which is executive produced by Schimmel, Stern, Bob Myer and Lee Kernis.
UNTITLED JENNIFER LOPEZ PROJECT (New!) - Jennifer Lopez's Nuyorican Productions has signed a first-look development deal with Fox TV Studios and Regency Television. The pact calls for Lopez and Nuyorican partners Simon Fields and Julio Caro to create new television series for the studio. Fox TV Studios will also provide seed money to fund projects, both pre-existing and new, and overhead for Nuyorican's television operations. Currently in the hopper at Nuyorican is a talk show for Universal Domestic Television hosted by Lopez's sister, Lynda Lopez as well as a telenovela and the variety show "Le Grand Tralala" for Telemundo.
UNTITLED JESSICA SIMPSON PROJECT (ABC) - Johnathan McClain ("Happy Family") has been added to the cast of the Jessica Simpson-led comedy pilot. Aimee Garcia, Ali Hillis and Brad Rowe all star in the Touchstone Television/Ted Harbert Productions project, about a hard-working female producer of a primetime newsmagazine show whose world turns upside down when a pop culture icon (Simpson) signs on to do part-time work as an on-air reporter.
UNTITLED ONE ON ONE PROJECT (UPN) - Shannon Elizabeth ("American Pie") and Marques Houston ("You Got Served") are set to topline UPN's proposed spin-off of "One on One." The pair will appear on an upcoming episode of the Paramount Network Television/Greenblatt-Janollari series in which Flex Washington's (Flex Alexander) brother, Kevin Barnes (Houston), returns to Baltimore in hopes of taking over their father's barbershop, Phat Head, only to find out that Flex has already sold it to a major corporation. Elizabeth plays Tiffany, a spoiled heiress whose father owns the corporation which bought Phat Head, and is given an ultimatum by her father to run the barbershop and make it profitable in a year or lose her inheritance. "One on One's" Eunetta Boone and Bennie are set to oversee the spin-off should it go forward.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters