[05/10/04 - 12:00 AM]
Development Update: May 6-10
By The Futon Critic Staff (TFC)

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.

THE ADVENTURES OF SEINFELD & SUPERMAN (NBC, New!) - The Peacock has carved out 10 minutes of its Thursday, May 20 schedule (starting at approximately 8:42/7:42c) to broadcast a special composed Jerry Seinfeld's current American Express web series. The special will include a mix of original and previously web-only footage. No other details were given.

AMERICAN MELTDOWN (FX) - The cable channel has slated the original movie for Sunday, June 6 at 8:00/7:00c. Leslie Hope ("Line of Fire"), Bruce Greenwood ("Thirteen Days"), Arnold Vosloo ("The Mummy") and James Remar ("Sex and the City") all star in the project, which centers on a present-day nuclear plant disaster and its aftermath. Jeremiah S. Chechik ("Diabolique") directed from script by Larry and Pal Barber ("The Director") with Craig Anderson and Beth Grossbard executive producing via Craig Anderson Productions in association with Fox TV Studios.

THE ASSISTANT (MTV) - MTV has given the project, in which contestants compete in a series of wacky challenges for a gig at a Hollywood production company, a series order of eight half-hour episodes. Andy Dick hosts the series, production of which was actually completed last week in Los Angeles. Adam Cohen, Cara Tapper and Joanna Vernetti all executive produced the series, which launches this summer, alongside Dick.

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (Sci Fi) - Sam Witwer has booked a recurring role on the series, which launches early next year. He'll play an unapologetically subversive Battlestar pilot in the project.

BOY MEETS BOY (Bravo) - NBC Enterprises and New Video will release the show's complete first season on DVD come May 25. The set will include all six episodes of the series, as well as "an unprecedented three hours of bonus programming and never-before-seen extras sure to entice and intrigue. Included are audition tapes for cast members; deleted scenes; new footage and expanded scenes too hot for TV; never broadcast on-camera exit interviews; expanded elimination deliberation footage, "Where are they now" updates penned by the cast members themselves; and biographies," according to a company press release. The DVD, which retails for $39.95, will be available in stores and at shopnbc.com.

C.S.I.: NEW YORK (CBS) - Terry Kinney ("Oz") has scored a recurring role on the upcoming "C.S.I." spin-off as a district attorney. His first appearance, like most of the "New York" cast, will be on the May 17 backdoor pilot episode of "C.S.I.: Miami."

CRIMES OF FASHION (ABC Family) - Megan Fox ("The Help") and Dominic Chianese ("The Sopranos") have joined the cast of the telefilm, toplined by Kaley Cuoco ("Eight Simple Rules"). Here's how ABC Family's press materials describe the project, which is targeted for a July premiere date: "CRIMES OF FASHION follows Brooke (Cuoco), a plain but creative and hard-working student at the top fashion school in the nation, who has come a long way from her tough childhood spent going from one foster home to another as an orphan. She has always dreamed of becoming a fashion designer, and is thrilled to finally be on her way. But, when the grandfather she never knew about passes away, her life is suddenly turned upside down. Not only has he left her his estate, but he's left her in charge of the family business, as mob boss to one of the top crime syndicates that has been trying to go legit. If that isn�t enough, the handsome new student she�s falling for is actually an undercover FBI agent aiming to get dirt on her to bring down the family empire. CRIMES OF FASHION will be directed by Stuart Gillard ("Going To The Mat," "Full Court Miracle") and is written by David Mickel. Sheri Singer ("Right On Track," "Jackie, Ethel, Joan: The Women of Camelot") will serve as executive producer and Kevin Lafferty ("Cadet Kelly") as producer."

FEAR FACTOR (FX) - The cable channel has moved up the launch of the show's off-network run to weeknights at 7:00/6:00c beginning Monday, June 28.

FRIENDS (NBC) - 52.25 million viewers on average tuned into the show's 66-minute finale on Thursday, with a peak of nearly 56 million for the closing minutes. That makes the "Friends" finale the fourth most-watched series closer in television history, behind only "M*A*S*H" in 1983 (106.0 million), "Cheers" in 1993 (80.4 million) and "Seinfeld" in 1998. The broadcast also marked the most-watched entertainment program on any network since the finale of the original "Survivor" on CBS in August 2000 (51.7 million). More importantly, the show attracted 54% of adults under 50 watching television at the time, an amazing feat by today's standards. Overall for the night, NBC averaged a 18.7 rating/45 share in adults 18-49 and 39.6 million viewers overall, the best non-sports results for any network since the aforementioned "Survivor" finale nearly four years ago.

THE GEORGE LOPEZ SHOW (ABC) - Emiliano Diez has been upped to series regular on the comedy, which is expected to return for a fourth season this fall. He'll reprise his role of role as Vic Palmero, the father of Constance Marie's character.

GILMORE GIRLS (WB) - Jared Padalecki is set to return in his recurring role of Dean Forester when the series returns for its fifth season this fall.

THE HIGH LIFE (NBC) - The Peacock has opted not to move forward with the project, a rural-to-riches reality show that would have followed an Appalachian family's adjustments to a ritzy lifestyle in Beverly Hills, according to the Associated Press (read the story). NBC spokeswoman Shannon Jacobs reportedly cited "creative reasons" as the basis for the network's decision to not order the pilot to series, not the outcry among residents of Appalachia, who saw it as an affront to the region. "I'm glad NBC quickly came to its senses and decided this ill-conceived concept wasn't going to become a part of 'Must See TV,'" U.S. Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky., said in reaction to the news. "Let's hope all the other networks are paying attention and get the message loud and clear."

IN SEARCH OF THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY (VH1) - Shirley Jones, David Cassidy and Danny Bonaduce are on board to help cast the reality series, which has a seven episode order from the cable channel. The trio will hold open casting calls in Orlando, New York, Minneapolis and Los Angeles in mid-July to find actors to portray the lead roles of Shirley, Keith, Laurie and Danny in a potential all-new "Partridge Family" series. Interested parties can visit VH1's casting page for additional information. Jeff Margolis Productions is behind the project in association with Sony Pictures Television.

LIVE LIKE A STAR (Syndication, New!) - Wheeler/Sussman and 20th Century Fox Television are set to launch a new half-hour series that brings aspects of celebrity lives to everyday people. The project will kick off in June as part of a regional launch modeled along the lines of fellow 20th series "Ambush Makeover," which debuted in a slow rollout last summer and will launch nationally in the fall. Each episode of "Star" tracks two people who "get the surprise of their lives, Hollywood style," according to company executives. Said "surprise" ranges from getting a hip living room based on a hit sitcom, to becoming the head chef for a day at a Hollywood hot spot, to having a celebrity event planner help organize the wedding proposal of one's dreams. To make room for the series and other projects in the works, 20th may wind up pulling the plug on current shows "Ex-treme Dating" and/or "Classmates" despite previous indications both series would return for the 2004-05 season. The fates of each will apparently be firmly determined after the May sweeps period. As for "Star," celebrity party planners Colin Cowie, a best-selling author that has worked with celebrities that include Jerry Seinfeld and Hugh Hefner, and Laura Bailey, who's been used by Billy Crystal and Paula Abdul, are currently attached to the project, as are "shopper to the stars" Lash Fary, celebrity chef Gerry Garvin, interior designers Stuart Gilchrist and Leslie Sachs, trainer Gregory Joujon-Roche, and stylists Jennifer Rade and Roshumba.

LOVE RULES (ABC Family) - The cable channel has scheduled its latest romantic comedy for Sunday, June 6 at 8:00/7:00c. Here's how ABC Family describes the project in its press materials: "When Kelly (Maggie Lawson) and Michael (Joseph Lawrence) decide to get married, they want to have an off-beat wedding without all the traditional glitz. But when their friends and Kelly's mother (Marilu Henner) introduce them to the rules of engagement, all bets are off."

THE NANNY DIARIES (New!) - Dana Klein ("Friends") has pacted with Miramax Television to help bring Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus' bestselling novel "The Nanny Diaries" to the small screen. Klein will create and executive produce the half-hour project, a feature version of which is also in development at the studio. Miramax chief Harvey Weinstein will also executive produce the series, which will make the rounds at the broadcast networks later this year at which time they're expected to take on a producing partner. "Diaries" tells the story of a 21-year old college student who's impulsively hired to care for the neglected 4-year-old son of a pampered Park Avenue wife and her near-absentee husband.

ON THE COVER (PAX) - The fledgling network has scheduled the game show to premiere Monday, May 17 at 8:00/7:00c. Here's how PAX describes the series, which will run Monday through Thursday at said time: "Mark L. Walberg ("House Rules" and "Temptation Island") hosts this fast-paced and funny half-hour game show that tests contestants� and viewers� pop culture smarts with questions inspired by the covers of the nation�s most popular magazines, best-selling CD�s and DVD�s and even hilarious faux magazines that can only be found on the "On the Cover" newsstand! Inspired by the celebrities and events of the 70s, 80s, 90s and today, "On the Cover" appeals to entertainment savvy viewers of all ages. "On The Cover" competitors square off in three rounds with the highest scoring contestant advancing to the final "Grand Prize Round" where he or she attempts to correctly answer four questions in exchange for four word clues that make up the "mystery cover." If the contestant solves the puzzle, he or she wins the game and the coveted grand prize that also touts a pop culture theme."

OUR FATHERS (Showtime) - Brian Dennehy ("The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone") is set to star opposite Christopher Plummer in the pay channel's upcoming telefilm about about the sexual abuse scandal within the U.S. Roman Catholic Church. He'll play Father Domenic "Spags" Spagnolia, a popular, straight-talking, salty-tongued Boston priest who speaks out against the archdiocese when the scandal breaks however quickly finds himself on the defensive when he is outed by a former gay lover and a story emerges that he sexually assaulted a young boy. Production is set to begin next month on the project with Dan Curtis directing from a script by Thomas Michael Donnelly, based on the novel of the same name by David France.

PERFECT ROMANCE (Lifetime) - The cable channel has scheduled the telefilm for Monday, June 7 at 8:00/7:00c. Kathleen Quinlan ("Apollo 13") stars as a single mom who's bent on finding the perfect match for her daughter via the internet but winds up finding her own.

POP ROCKS! (A.K.A. HEAD RUSH) (ABC Family) - Gary Cole ("Office Space," "Win a Date With Tad Hamilton," "The Brady Bunch Movie") and Sherilyn Fenn ("Twin Peaks," "Rude Awakening") have signed on to topline the upcoming telefilm at the cable channel. Here's how the network's press materials describe the project, which is expected to air in September: "POP ROCKS! focuses on Jerry Harden (Gary Cole), a respectable banker and family man in his 40�s, who is about to be haunted by his deepest, darkest secret�he was the lead singer of the biggest heavy metal band of the 80�s, Rock Toxin. At the height of their success, Jerry fell in love with Allison (Sherilyn Fenn) and sharply cut his ties to the band without looking back. Now Jerry is offered the chance to reunite with the band for one final concert and a substantial paycheck that would allow him to send his son to a private school so he'll stop hanging out with his bad influence, "garage band friends." Jerry convinces himself he can rehearse and perform the concert without ever revealing his former identity to his family and friends. Let the deception begin. Directed by Ron Lagomarsino ("The Brotherhood of Poland, New Hampshire") and teleplay by William Ryan and Dan Berendsen. Patricia Clifford ("The Elizabeth Smart Story") serves as executive producer with Jackie George ("Full Court Miracle") as producer."

PROVIDENCE (Lifetime) - Lifetime has purchased the off-network run of the former NBC drama to begin airing weeknights at 8:00/7:00c starting Tuesday, May 11. No financial details were released about the deal. "Providence" last appeared off-network on the former Fox Family Channel (now ABC Family) back in September 2000.

SALEM'S LOT (TNT) - TNT has slated the four-hour mini-series for Sunday, June 20 and Monday, June 21, both at 8:00/7:00c. Here's how the network's official web site describes the project: "A dark terror has come to the picture-perfect town of Jerusalem's Lot, and it's up to a writer with a haunted past to uncover the horror that has taken over the town in SALEM'S LOT, an Original dramatic miniseries event for Turner Network Television (TNT). Rob Lowe (Lyon's Den, The West Wing), Andre Braugher (Homicide: Life on the Street), Donald Sutherland (The Italian Job), Samantha Mathis (TNT's THE MISTS OF AVALON), Rutger Hauer (Confessions of a Dangerous Mind), and James Cromwell (Babe) star in this gripping two-part, four-hour thriller. Shot on location in Melbourne, Australia, SALEM'S LOT will premiere on TNT Sunday, June 20 at 8 p.m. (ET/PT) and conclude Monday, June 21 at 8 p.m (ET/PT). SALEM'S LOT, adapted from the best-selling novel by horror master Stephen King, is a Mark M Wolper Production in association with Warner Bros. Television, with Mark M Wolper (TNT's THE MISTS OF AVALON, The Thornbirds) executive-producing for The Wolper Organization and Jeffrey Hayes (On the Beach, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea) executive-producing for Coote/Hayes Productions. Mikael Salomon (Band of Brothers) directs from a script by Peter Filardi (Flatliners, The Craft). The movie also features atmospheric cinematography by Director of Photography Ben Nott, a.c.s. (Code Red), and music by Christopher Gordon (Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World), showcasing the vocal talents of Dead Can Dance's Lisa Gerrard (Gladiator, Whale Rider). On the surface, Jerusalem's Lot (affectionately referred to as Salem's Lot by the natives) appears to be a picture-perfect small town, right out of a Norman Rockwell painting. But there is something evil festering in this Maine hamlet, and it seems to be emanating from the ominous Marsten House. Ben Mears (Lowe) returns to Salem's Lot to wrestle with the demons of his past by writing a book about the town and its inhabitants. As a child, Ben had a horrifying experience in the house that left him emotionally scarred. But Ben soon discovers that he is not the only newcomer to town. An antique dealer named Richard Straker (Sutherland) has also arrived to open up a new shop with his silent partner, Kurt Barlow (Hauer). Before long, strange things begin to happen. A series of mysterious deaths and disappearances eventually lead Ben, waitress Susan Norton (Mathis), high school teacher Matt Burke (Braugher) and Father Donald Callahan (Cromwell) on a quest to uncover the terrifying truth. What they find challenges their notions about the nature of evil, as horrors both human and inhuman threaten to destroy the town's way of life. Written in 1973 by Stephen King, Salem's Lot was published by Doubleday in 1975."

SAY WHEN (CBS, New!) - Joe Mantegna ("Joan of Arcadia") will topline a new telefilm at the Eye based on Elizabeth Berg's ("Open House") novel of the same name. The project, which is targeted for the holiday season, centers on Frank Griffin (Mantegna), a routine-loving family man whose seemingly perfect suburban life is shattered when Ellen, his wife of 10 years, announces she's having an affair and wants a divorce. Frank nevertheless refuses to move out and stays on as Ellen's roommate, struggling to hold on to his normal life as a father of an 8-year-old daughter while repairing his relationship with Ellen, not to mention trying dating and landing a gig as a part-time Santa Claus at the local mall. The Sanitsky Co. and writer Joyce Eliason are behind the small screen adaptation.

SIX FEET UNDER (HBO) - Lauren Birkell ("The Woods") is the latest actress to snag a recurring role on the HBO drama, which returns for a fourth season on June 13. She will play an art student at the school attended by Lauren Ambrose's character.

SOUL FOOD (Showtime) - The pay channel has announced beginning June 2, one week after the show's final episode, all five seasons of the series will be rebroadcast from the beginning every Wednesday at 9:00/8:00c and 10:00/9:00c. This special scheduling will last 37 weeks in which all 74 episodes of the series will be encored, all the way through Wednesday, February 9, 2005. The "Soul Food" schedule breaks down as follows: Season 1 (20 episodes, June 2-August 4), Season 2 (20 episodes, August 11-October 13), Season 3 (10 episodes, October 20-November 17), Season 4 (10 episodes, November 24-December 22) and Season 5 (14 episodes, December 29-February 9, 2005).

SUBURBAN MADNESS (CBS) - Elizabeth Pena ("Resurrection Blvd.") is set to play Clara Harris in the Eye's docudrama about the Texas woman convicted last year of murdering her philandering husband by running over him several times with her Mercedes-Benz. Sela Ward also stars in the project, which is told from the perspective of her character, private investigator Bobbi Bacha, who was hired by Harris to spy on her husband and ended up capturing the July 2002 murder on tape. Production on the Sony Pictures TV/Storyline Entertainment telefilm is set to begin on Friday in Toronto with Robert Dornhelm directing and Storyline's Craig Zadan and Neil Meron serving as executive producers.

THE TONY DANZA SHOW (Syndication) - John Redmann ("The Wayne Brady Show") has signed on to executive produce the upcoming Buena Vista Domestic Television talk show, which has been cleared on local stations covering 85% of the country. Redmann, a five-time Emmy winner for his work on "Brady" and "The Rosie O'Donnell Show," hopes to bring his pedigree of running light, celebrity-driven talk/variety shows to the project.

UNTITLED DONALD TODD PROJECT (New!) - Writer/producer Donald Todd has inked a one-year development deal with Touchstone Television. The pact calls for Todd to develop original drama and comedy projects for the studio. Todd currently is behind the Touchstone pilot "Doing It" at ABC, which the Alphabet has committed to six additional scripts beyond the pilot. Last development season, Todd worked on the Touchstone/NBC Studios comedy pilot "Once Around the Park," starring Heather Locklear, at the Peacock.

UNTITLED JOSH SCHWARTZ PROJECT (FOX, New!) - "The O.C." creator Josh Schwartz is reportedly close to signing a deal to develop a companion series for the popular FOX drama. The project, which won't be a spin-off of "The O.C.," will nevertheless see the young writer reteam with current production partners McG, Stephanie Savage, Bob De Laurentiis and Warner Bros. Television. Schwartz is expected to write the pilot and executive produce the new series, however he will not showrun the project. FOX will no doubt make a substantial commitment to the project, with a possible January premiere date in mind.

UNTITLED MOLLY SHANNON PROJECT (FOX, New!) - Molly Shannon will follow in the footsteps of her former "Cracking Up" co-star Christopher McDonald as the actress has signed a one-year, seven-figure talent holding deal with the network and 20th Century Fox Television-based Brad Grey Television. The pact calls for the network and studio to develop a new comedy project for Shannon to star in and produce.

UNTITLED TANNER '88 SEQUEL (Sundance) - Pulitzer Prize winning satirist Garry Trudeau, Oscar-nominated filmmaker Robert Altman and actors Cynthia Nixon, Michael Murphy, Matt Malloy and Pamela Reed are all set to reunite for a three-part sequel to the cult-classic HBO mini-series "Tanner '88." The new project, set to premiere in three half-hour parts on Tuesday nights beginning in October 2004, will begin production next month with Altman directing from a script by Trudeau. The news comes shortly after the original mini-series' well-received rebroadcast on the Sundance Channel. Matthew Seig and Wren Arthur of Sandcastle 5 Productions will produce the sequel alongside executive producers Altman and Trudeau as well as Sundance's Adam Pincus. The sequel will focus on Jack Tanner�s (Murphy) daughter Alex (Nixon), "now a documentary filmmaker seeking funding for a film about what it takes to run for the highest political office and the toll it takes on those who lose. As in the original "Tanner �88", the approach of the series blurs the boundary between the factual and the dramatic and features Tanner interacting with real candidates from the present day as well as those from the recent past," according to a network press release. Production will wrap in July at the 2004 Democratic convention in Boston.

WHAT THE BLANK (FOX, New!) - Actor Fred Willard ("Best In Show") and "American Idol" producer FremantleMedia have partnered for a new take on the classic 1970s "Match Game" format. A pilot for the project was taped on Saturday in Los Angeles in which like the original, a panel of six celebrities would offer a mix of silly and straightforward answers to host Willard's questions as contestants tried to guess what said celebrities were thinking. The winning contestant then goes on to a bonus round in they have to guess how audience members had filled in a blank when posed a particular question, a concept which served as the basis of the popular "Family Feud" format. FOX is said to be mulling a summer or fall series order for the project.

Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters

  [may 2004]  

· OZ (HBO)

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