LOS ANGELES (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.
ALIAS (ABC) - Jeff Melvoin ("Line of Fire") has been named an executive producer/showrunner on the series. He'll take over for John Eisendrath, who's moving on to develop new projects for the show's studio Touchstone Television, should the series return for a fourth season this fall. Eisendrath however will still be involved in the early planning for the new season and is expected to work on creator J.J. Abrams' other projects in consideration for the 2004-05 season ("Lost," "The Catch"). Melvoin's attachment is the result of a two-year, seven-figure overall development deal he signed with Touchstone Television back in February (read the story).
EMPIRE (ABC) - The Alphabet is reportedly close to trimming its eight-episode order for the $30 million limited series to just six installments or even scrapping the project entirely. Various sources indicate several developments have derailed the show's production, including budget issues as the result of a switch in the exchange rate and the departure of the production designer, line producer and first assistant director and a last-minute recruitment of Tony Jonas as an executive producer. The series, which comes from Storyline Entertainment and Touchstone Television, has been shooting since mid-April. Neither Storyline nor Touchstone has commented on the developments.
JACK & BOBBY/THE MOUNTAIN (WB) - The Frog is said to be close to giving series orders to both drama pilots for the 2004-05 season. "The Mountain's" production team - Shaun Cassidy, McG, Stephanie Savage and David Barrett - apparently have been mapping out the first 12 episodes beyond the pilot in the last week, a solid indicator the WB is moving forward with the series. Warner Bros. Television and McG's Wonderland Sound and Vision are behind the project, which stars Oliver Hudson as a twentysomething who returns home to run his late grandfather's mountain resort. As for "Jack & Bobby," the Warner Bros. Television/Shoe Money Productions/Berlanti-Liddell Productions project has long been considered a strong contender to make the schedule. The series tracks two brothers, one of whom is set to be elected president of the United States in 2040. The WB is no stranger to giving early fall orders, having picked up both "Felicity" and "Everwood" several weeks before its upfront presentation to the advertising community.
LAW & ORDER (NBC) - Dennis Farina ("Buddy Faro") is in talks to come aboard the flagship "Law & Order" series, where he'll fill in for the exiting Jerry Orbach. In addition, the Peacock is said to be close to a blockbuster multi-year (two to five years), billion-dollar renewal deal with Universal Network Television for the entire franchise. Said agreement would also pave the way for the fourth edition of the series, "Trial by Jury." NBC reportedly wants to have a deal ready to announce at its upfront presentation on May 17. Said pact would replace the current contracts for both "Law & Order" and "Law & Order: Criminal Intent," each of which is still under contract through the 2004-05 season.
MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL (ABC) - Michele Tafoya has been tapped to replace Lisa Guerrero as the show's sideline reporter beginning next season. Guerrero exits after just one season on the job. Tafoya currently serves as a courtside reporter for ABC Sports' coverage of the NBA.
PLAY FOR A BILLION (ABC) - The Alphabet will take over for the Frog as the home for Pepsi's "Play for a Billion" campaign this summer. The campaign, which will run under the banner "Summer of a Billion Laughs" on the network, will be used during the broadcasts of ABC's comedies from June 21 to July 26. In addition, Damon Wayans will replace Drew Carey as host of the actual live giveaway special, which is currently scheduled to air on Sunday, September 12 at 8:00/7:00c. Michael Davies and his Diplomatic Productions however will remain as the producers of the special, in which randomly chosen sweepstakes and promotion winners will compete for a chance at $1 billion. 4.3 million viewers tuned into last year's special, which saw West Virginia teacher Richard Bay take home a cool $1 million.
RIDING THE BUS WITH MY SISTER (CBS, New!) - Rosie O'Donnell is set to star and executive produce a new telefilm at the Eye based on the book of the same name by Rachel Simon. The project, which comes from the Sanitsky Co., chronicles Simon's relationship with her mentally retarded sister Beth (O'Donnell) who after the death of their father, soon discovers that her disabled sister has found truths in a sense of family and friendship through filling her days riding city buses.
UNTITLED STEVEN BOCHCO/CHRIS GEROLMO PROJECT (FX, New!) - Steven Bochco ("N.Y.P.D. Blue") and feature writer Chris Gerolmo ("Mississippi Burning") are set to team for a new drama series at the cable channel about the lives of contemporary military men and women both on and off the battlefield. FX has given a script commitment to the project, marking Bochco's first series deal with a basic cable network. In addition, storylines will also concern the soldiers' friends and loved ones.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters