LOS ANGELES (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:
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AMERICAN CANDIDATE (Showtime) - Montel Williams has signed on to host the upcoming reality series, which attempts to select a candidate for president of the United States. The ten-part series, which comes from executive producers R.J. Cutler ("American High"), Jay Roach ("Meet the Parents") and Tom Lassally ("Stay"), premieres Sunday, August 1 at 9:00/8:00c.
BALDERDASH (PAX) - Comedian Elayne Boosler has been named the host of the upcoming game show, which features the "outrageous showcase of comedic talents as a panel of three celebrity comedians presents two competing contestants with a series of sidesplitting bluff answers to a variety of questions from the game's original categories including words, movies, people, famous epitaphs and looney laws," according to a network press release. "Balderdash," which comes from The Hatchery, premieres Monday, July 12 at 8:30/7:30c.
BLOW OUT (Bravo) - Just 645,000 viewers (0.65 household rating) turned into the show's launch on Tuesday, down from the debuts of recent Tuesday, 9:00/8:00c time slot holders "Showbiz Moms & Dads" (1.0 million, 1.02 household rating on 4/13/04) and "Significant Others" (703,000 viewers, 0.66 household rating on 3/9/04). Among Bravo's target demographic of adults 25-54, "Blow Out" snagged 452,000 viewers, up from its lead-in of 316,000 viewers. Nevertheless, lead-out "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" nearly tripled "Blow Out's" audience, pulling in 1.85 million viewers (1.78 household rating) and 1.3 million among adults 25-54.
THE DEAD WILL TELL (CBS) - Jonathan LaPaglia ("The District") and Kathleen Quinlan ("Perfect Romance") have both signed on to the upcoming telefilm, a supernatural thriller inspired by readings of psychic James Van Praagh. Anne Heche also stars in the project, which tracks Heche's character as she starts to have visions of a beautiful young woman shortly after her fiance (LaPaglia) gives her an antique engagement ring. Quinlan is set as the fiance's mother.
THE DEAD ZONE (USA) - 2.64 million viewers (1.76 household rating) tuned into the series' third season opener on Sunday, including a 1.1 rating/3 share among adults 18-49. Said numbers were on par with "Zone's" July average from last season (2.6 million).
ER (NBC) - Alex Kingston, who plays surgeon Elizabeth Corday, will not be returning to the veteran drama this fall, according to an interview with the actress in the BBC's Radio Times listings magazine. "Apparently I, according to the producers, the writers, am part of the old fogeys who are no longer interesting," she told the magazine. "Does it mean that I am the geriatric being pushed out because she is too old?" Kingston also went on to note, "I am sure there must have been some financial feeling behind the decision not to renew my contract." It's understood the actress was paid $150,000 per episode last season. Neither NBC nor Warner Bros. Television has commented on Kingston's statements.
THE FIFTH WHEEL (Syndication) - NBC Universal Domestic Television Distribution has opted not to move forward with a fourth season of syndicated dating series. No official reason was given however industry insiders have noted the company has had trouble clearing the show in New York and Los Angeles for the fall despite solid ratings. "I was very surprised and disappointed and upset," executive producer David Garfinkle told Daily Variety. "We did think it was going to come back, and I still don't understand why (it's not). But it's the new administration and their decision, so I have to respect that and move forward."
HUFF (Showtime) - Annie Potts ("Any Day Now"), Robert Forster ("Karen Sisco") and Bob Saget ("Full House") have each signed to appear in multi-episode arcs on the drama series, about a psychiatrist (Hank Azaria) having a midlife crisis. No details about which characters the trio will play were released.
JOEY (NBC) - Ashley Scott, who plays Joey's (Matt LeBlanc) attractive-but-married neighbor in the upcoming "Friends" spin-off, has exited the series. Various sources have indicated the show's producers, Shana Goldberg-Meehan and Scott Silveri, want to redevelop her character after audience testing showed she was the least popular character on the show. Casting is already underway for a replacement and the scenes involving her character will be reshot for the pilot.
THE LAST RIDE (USA) - A solid but unspectacular 2.01 million viewers watched the debut of the telefilm last Wednesday, including a 0.7 rating/2 share among adults 18-49.
LIFE AS WE KNOW IT (ABC) - Executive producers Gabe Sachs and Jeff Judah have signed a two-year, seven-figure overall deal at Touchstone Television. The pact calls for the duo to remain on board "Life," which debuts this fall as well as the Jennifer Love Hewitt comedy pilot "In the Game" should the project get a midseason order. In addition, the pair is expected to serve as consultants on several other Touchstone projects.
METLDOWN (FX) - The telefilm's premiere on Sunday pulled down 2.32 million viewers and a 0.9 rating/3 share among adults 18-49. Both scores were down significantly from FX's previous original "Redemption," which averaged 4.0 million viewers and a 1.9/5 among adults 18-49 for its April premiere.
RENO 911 (Comedy Central) - Nearly 2.0 million viewers tuned into the show's second season premiere on Wednesday, well on par with its July opener last summer (2.1 million). The half-hour also fared particularly well among men 18-34 (1.8 rating/6 share), men 18-49 (1.2/4) and adults 18-49 overall (1.0/3).
ROCK STAR (New!) - Reality titan Mark Burnett has pulled back the curtains on his latest project, a new reality series in which contestants compete for the chance to sing in an established rock band and go on a world tour. 1980s mainstay INXS has already signed on to be first band to participate in the project, which undoubtedly will be the focus of a major bidding war by the broadcast networks. The group has been without a lead singer since late last year - original lead singer Michael Hutchence committed suicide in 1997 while Terence Trent D'Arby did only one gig with the group in 1999 and Jon Stevens was lead singer from 2000 until recently. David Goffin ("American Idol") is also on board to executive produce the project, after serving as a supervising producer on the FOX series for the past three seasons. As with all his reality projects, Burnett will executive produce alongside his producing partner Conrad Riggs. While the exact details on how the show will work are unknown, it's understood there won't be a significant public voting element (a la "Idol") but rather something more along the lines of "The Apprentice" in which the band will influence the outcome (a la Donald Trump). Burnett also reportedly has made it a point to keep the series focused on rock music in order to distance itself from the pop stylings of "Idol" and its imitators.
THE SOPRANOS (HBO) - The mob drama capped its fifth season to the tune of a whopping 11.0 million viewers. Nevertheless, said number was actually down from the show's fourth season closer in December 2002 (12.5 million). On the flip side, among HBO homes the finale was actually up comparatively (21.7/30 over 21.3/29 in 2002). Overall, Sunday's finale topped the series finale of "Sex and the City" from February (10.6 million) and ranked number two for the week among all primetime programming (broadcast or cable) among adults 18-49 (5.8/15), adults 25-54 (6.5/15) and adults 18-34 (4.9/14). Lead-out "Deadwood" couldn't take full advantage however, as the penultimate episode of the show's first season pulled in 4.3 million viewers.
THE SUBURBAN YOU (HBO, New!) - Mark Falanga's upcoming book of the same name is set to be the basis of a half-hour comedy at the pay channel. Brad Grey Television has signed on to develop the project, a humorous look at a family's adjustment after it moves from the city to the suburbs, told through the point of view of the father. Falanga, who will be a producer on the project along with David Kuhn, is a vice president of the Merchandise Mart in Chicago. Brad Grey Television's Susan Fitzgerald will also serve as an executive producer on "You," which is set to be released in September from Broadway Books.
WALKER, TEXAS RANGER (Hallmark) - The cable channel has forked over $30 million to Sony Pictures Television to land the non-exclusive cable rights to the one time CBS mainstay. The network plans to debut it's off-network run of the series weeknights at 6:00/5:00c and 7:00/6:00c beginning on October. It's also no doubt expected "Walker" will be paired with "J.A.G." at 8:00/7:00c when the network's cable run of that series kicks off, also this fall. In addition, Hallmark has also inked a repurposing deal with Paramount Network Television to encore each episode of "J.A.G." within a few days of its original CBS broadcast. In total Hallmark will pay about $200,000 per episode for "J.A.G." and $150,000 per episode for "Walker."
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters