LOS ANGELES (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:
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THE AMAZING RACE (CBS) - Evan Weinstein, an Emmy-winning producer on the series, has signed a one-year overall deal with CBS. The pact calls for him to remain with "Race" through its sixth season, which is currently scheduled to premiere on Saturday nights on CBS this fall. Weinstein has been with "Race" since its launch in 2001, having since risen to supervising producer on the series. Financial details about the deal were not released.
BIG BROTHER (CBS) - The Eye is set to launch "House Calls: The Big Brother Talk Show," a daily half-hour online broadcast as part of the show's fifth season. The show, which will be hosted by KLSX's Gretchen Massey and former "Big Brother 3" contestant Marcellas Reynolds, will broadcast live from CBS Television City in Los Angeles Monday through Friday at 1 p.m. eastern time. The show will feature commentary on both the TV show and the various web streams as well as have the hosts take calls and answer e-mails from viewers. Producers, evicted houseguests and past players are also expected to make appearances. The news marks the next step in the evolution of "Big Brother's" online push. Last season more than 120,000 people paid to have access to the 24/7 streaming web feeds of the houseguests. "House Calls" however is understood to be free to all visitors to the CBS web site and will air commercial-free until a sponsor is found. It's not clear however if or when archives of the broadcast will be posted.
C.S.I. (CBS) - Naren Shankar, a co-executive producer on the veteran drama, has inked a new multi-year, seven-figure overall deal with CBS, Alliance Atlantis and Jerry Bruckheimer Television that is expected to keep the writer/producer at the series through May 2007. Shankar, who also has a Ph.D. from Cornell University in applied physics, will continue to serve as an executive producer alongside Carol Mendelsohn, Jerry Bruckheimer, Anthony Zuiker, Ann Donahue, Jonathan Littman, Danny Cannon, Cynthia Chvatal and William Petersen.
CHANNEL 101 (FX, New!) - Actors Jack Black and Jeff Davis have scored a pilot presentation order from the nework for a new one-hour series that will give a handful of amateurs one week to create a five-minute pilot using their own materials. The project is a spin-off of Black's monthly showcase at Hollywood venue Cinespace. The pair are expected to have an on-camera role for the TV series, providing colorful commentary with the show's creative team. Each week the viewing audience votes for their favorite "pilot," with the winner going onto the next week and given funds to produce a "second episode." That new installment would then go against the fresh pilots being offered in the next episode. Ultimately, the idea is to stay "on" as long as possible without getting the hook. Black will serve as an executive producer on the project alongside Dan Harmon, Rob Schrab and Kanpai Pictures' Jay Karas and Andee Kuroda ("The Osbournes Family Christmas Special"). Black, Harmon and Schrab last worked on the cult-classic FOX pilot "Heat Vision and Jack."
CHARMED (WB) - "Newlyweds'" star Nick Lachey is set to join the cast of the veteran Frog drama this season for a six-episode arc. He'll play the ghost writer for witch Phoebe Halliwell's (Alyssa Milano) advice column when she goes on a sabbatical and ends up romantically involved with her.
DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES (ABC) - Brenda Strong ("Everwood"), Steven Culp ("Star Trek: Enterprise") and Jesse Metcalfe ("Passions") are the latest to join the ensemble cast of ABC's upcoming drama series. All three will replace current or previously exited actors. Strong takes over for Sheryl Lee as Mary Alice Scott, the dead friend of said housewives who narrates the series and will make guest appearances in flashbacks. Meanwhile, Culp will replace Michael Reilly Burke as Rex VanDeKamp while Metcalfe will take over for Kyle Searles' role of John the gardner.
DREW CAREY'S GREEN SCREEN SHOW (WB) - Emmy-winning producer Robert Morton has signed on as an executive producer of the forthcoming improv/animated series. He'll serve alongside Carey and animation head Ron Diamond on the project, which airs Thursdays at 8:30/7:30c beginning this fall.
KOJAK (USA) - The long thought dead drama revival is back on track as Michael Watkins ("Five Days to Midnight") has been tapped to direct the telefilm, the first in a potential franchise starring Ving Rhames. Production is set to begin this month in Canada on the project, with Watkins directing from a script by Tony Piccirillo ("The 24th Day"). Tom Thayer (A&E's "The Great Gatsby") will executive produce the telefilm, which comes from Playa Inc., along with Rhames.
NIP/TUCK (FX) - Week two of the popular cable drama scored 3.2 million viewers, down 15.79% from its second season premiere last week (3.8 million). The broadcast nevertheless continues to impress in adults 18-49, of which more than two-thirds of the show's audience comprises. Said installment beat out a special "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" episode (2.0 million viewers) in which the Fab Five made over another gay man for the first time.
ON AIR WITH RYAN SEACREST (Syndication) - The freshman talk show is on track for a second season as distributor 20th Century Fox Television has reportedly picked up Seacrest's option for a second year. It's important to note however that the deal pertains only to Seacrest, not the show itself. A firm renewal or cancellation is expected by early August. The news comes one week after reports that a handful of lower-level staffers exited the series.
THE REAL WORLD (MTV) - 3.8 million viewers tuned into the San Diego installment's season finale on Tuesday. Overall, the 14th season averaged 3.9 million viewers making it the most-watched season of the show to date.
RESCUE ME (FX) - Miller Brewing Co. has reached an integrated sponsorship deal with the network which will allow the series to debut on July 21 commercial-free. Fellow FX series "Nip/Tuck" also launched this season commercial-free thanks to a deal with XM Satellite Radio. Miller's deal with FX includes brand integration, a customized introduction and "thank you" messages featuring the series cast not to mention Miller being branding on printed, digital and televised promotional materials for the series.
SEARCHING FOR DAVID'S HEART (ABC Family, New!) - Danielle Panabaker ("Stuck in the Suburbs"), Ricky Ullman ("Phil of the Future") and Jeffrey Nordling ("Providence") are set to topline a new telefilm at the cable channel about a 16-year-old who, after a tough year following her older brother's death, attempts to meet the recipient of his heart. Production is set to begin this month in New Orleans with Paul Hoen ("Tru Confessions") directing from a script by Karen Leigh Hopkins and Alan Marc Levy. Stefanie Epstein and Joel Rice will executive produce the project, which in turn is based on the book of the same by New York Times bestselling authors Cherie Bennett and Jeff Gottesfeld.
SCRUBS (NBC) - Heather Graham ("Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me") is set to join the cast of the comedy when it returns for a fourth season this fall. She'll play "an attending shrink who comes in and (exposes) everyone's flaws and all their bullshit," according to an interview with the show's creator/executive producer Bill Lawrence on TV Guide.com. "The character's a real catalyst to mess things up for everybody." It's not clear however how many episodes Graham will appear in. NBC and Touchstone Television however have yet to confirm the news.
TANNER '04 (Sundance) - Robert Redford, Mario Cuomo, Madeleine Albright, Martin Scorsese, Harry Belafonte, Rev. Al Sharpton, Carl Bernstein, Al Franken and Ron Reagan are among the many faces set to appear in Robert Altman's three-part follow up to the HBO mini-series "Tanner '88." The director also hopes to feature Bill Clinton, Al Gore and John Kerry when the DNC kicks off in Boston July 26-29. The sequel tracks Tanner's (Michael Murphy) re-entry into the political fray. Pamela Reed and Cynthia Nixon also star. Production is set to begin July 12 in New York for an October premiere date.
TWO AND A HALF MEN (CBS) - Pamela Fryman ("Just Shoot Me," "Happy Family") has been tapped as the show's primary director when it returns for a second season this fall. She'll helm the bulk of the installments this season.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters