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.
AIRLINE (A&E) - 1.7 million viewers tuned into the show's one-hour second season premiere on Monday, its best numbers to date. Among the network's target demographic of adults 25-54, "Airline" managed a solid 1.1 million viewers. A marathon of the show's first season lead into the premiere, averaging 535,000 in said demographic. Among adults 18-49, the premiere scored a 0.8 rating/2 share.
BEVERLY HILLS, 90210/MELROSE PLACE (FOX) - SoapNet has purchased the cable rights from Spelling Television/Paramount Domestic Television to both long running FOX soaps in a four-year deal valued at about $9 million. "Melrose," which ran for seven seasons, will begin stripping weekdays at 6:00/5:00c beginning Monday, September 13 while "90210," which ran for 10 seasons, will join the cable channel's weekday schedule in early 2005. Both series are also slated for additional runs as part of the network's Saturday night "Dysfunctional Family Block" lineup, which currently includes "Dallas" and "Knot's Landing." "Melrose" had been running on cable's E! and Style channels since 1996 while "90210" has been broadcast on FX since 1998. Neither were heavy performers for either channel.
BLOW OUT (Bravo) - The reality series continues to build momentum, as its fourth episode drew a series high 855,000 viewers on June 29.
BOSTON PUBLIC (FOX) - WE: Women's Entertainment has snatched up the exclusive cable rights to the former FOX drama as part of a four-year deal. The pact with 20th Century Fox Television includes all 81 episodes of "Public," including the two episodes that never aired on FOX. WE's run will begin this fall in a yet-to-be-announced time period. 20th had been looking to sell the series to local TV stations for simultaneous play on the weekends (read the story), however it now appears the distributor has abandoned said efforts.
CELEBRITY POKER SHOWDOWN (Bravo) - 1.15 million viewers (1.16 household rating) watched the finale to the show's second six-week tournament, which saw "ER's" Maura Tierney take down the top prize. Among adults 25-54, the two-hour broadcast averaged 746,000 viewers, up more than 51% from last week's numbers (492,000). "Poker" saw similar increases among adults 18-49 (721,000 vs. 511,000), making the installment the most-watched episode of its second season in all key demographics.
THE CELL (Showtime) - Oded Fehr ("Presidio Med") and Michael Ealy ("Barbershop") have scored the lead roles in the pay channel's drama pilot, about a black Muslim ex-con (Ealy) recruited by the F.B.I. to infiltrate an Islamic sleeper terrorist cell in the United States. Fehr is set as the charismatic Arab leader of the extremist cell, which is made up of predominantly American and European converts.
DHARMA & GREG (ABC) - WE: Women's Entertainment has purchased the cable rights to all 119 half-hours of the comedy from 20th Century Fox Television, which will begin airing weeknights (after 5:00/4:00c) starting in fall 2005. WE's deal isn't exclusive as the cable channel will share the series with FX, which will run the series on weekdays prior to 5:00/4:00c, also in the fall 2005. Financial details about WE's four-year deal weren't released, although it's likely the deal was worth far below what FX paid, $400,000 per episode, back in July 2000 for the series. Said pact was when "Dharma" was in its second season and one of ABC's top performers. The show nevertheless faded significantly afterwards and was canceled after five seasons. "Dharma" has been running to little fanfare in syndication since the fall of 2002. FX no doubt is more than happy to hear about the WE's purchase of the series, as their undisclosed license fee will be cut from FX's.
DREAM JOB (ESPN) - Casting is underway on the next two seasons of the sports channel's popular reality series. Season two, which begins its seven-week run on Tuesday, September 21 at 7:00/6:00c, will once again search for a new SportsCenter anchor. A third season, tentatively set to begin in February 2005, will switch gears, this time looking for a play-by-play announcer. Interested parties can visit the show's official web site for more information.
DOG THE BOUNTY HUNTER (A&E) - The cable channel has confirmed the upcoming reality series, about the life of bounty hunter Duane "Dog" Chapman, has a 12-episode order. Chapman is best known as the man who tracked down convicted rapist and Max Factor heir Andrew Luster in Mexico last year. "Dog" premieres Tuesday, August 30 at 10:00/9:00c.
DOUBLE OR NOTHING/EXTREME REUNIONS (NBC, New!) - The Peacock has given cast-contingent pilot orders to two new reality projects from LMNO Productions. The first, "Double or Nothing," is an import of a British format from Sky One and Die 4 Productions in which one gutsy player sells everything he owns in order to risk his net worth on one spin of a Las Vegas roulette wheel. LMNO's Eric Schotz and Bill Paolantonio will serve as executive producers on the project, with Tracy Green co-executive producing. "Extreme Reunions," the second project, is a result of LMNO's partnership with web site MyFamily.com. The duo will work to reunite friends and family members in the one-hour series, most of which will be solicited from MyFamily.com's 1.5 million paid subscriber base. LMNO says the project will be a much more "epic-style" and feature a slicker presentation than those used by daytime talk shows.
EVEL KNIEVEL (TNT) - As part of the biopic's premiere on the weekend of July 30, Robbie Knievel, son of the legendary motorcyclist, will attempt a spectacular jump in the Knievel tradition on the deck of the USS Intrepid. The one-hour event will air live on Saturday, July 31 at 8:00/7:00c as a lead-in for the telefilm's second night of its three-play weekend. "Knievel will attempt the world�s first jump over an array of military aircraft on the deck of the USS Intrepid, a former aircraft carrier docked in New York Harbor, which is currently the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum," according to a network press release. Ernie Johnson Jr., Craig Sager, Dave Burns and Wally Dallenbach will provide live reports and commentary throughout the telecast.
EVERWOOD (WB) - Scott Wolf ("Party of Five") is set to join the cast of the drama series when it returns for its third season this fall. Wolf will play Jake Hanson, a California doctor who takes over Dr. Abbott's old practice. "Dr. Abbott and Dr. Brown have gone into practice together, so Scott comes in as the new doctor across the street," executive producer Mickey Liddell told Daily Variety. "He starts stealing clients from Abbott and Brown (because) he's the new, young doctor in town." Wolf is no stranger to the "Everwood" team of Mickey Liddell and Greg Berlandti as the actor starred in their ABC drama pilot "Kat Plus One" this past development season. Liddell added Wolf's character will "definitely have a romance" as well as "a bit of an edge." Meanwhile, in other "Everwood" news Rina Mimoun has been upped to executive producer on the drama as Berlanti and Liddell work on both "Everwood" and newcomer "Jack & Bobby."
THE JOE SCHMO SHOW (Spike TV) - The cable channel has quietly moved the series from Tuesdays at 10:00/9:00c to Mondays at 11:05/10:05c after "WWE Raw" as of its June 28 airing. The switch has more than paid off as "Joe Schmo" pulled in 1.2 million viewers for said time slot premiere, nearly triple the numbers of its first two broadcasts this season, 596,000 and 418,000 respectively.
LAW & ORDER: TRIAL BY JURY (NBC) - Director Mark Rydell ("On Golden Pond") has signed on as an executive producer of the upcoming "Law & Order" spin-off. He'll join fellow executive producers Dick Wolf and Walon Green on the series. The New York-based Rydell will focus on casting and securing directors while Green will head the writing staff. Executive producers Matthew Penn ("Law & Order"), Ted Kotcheff ("Law & Order: S.V.U.") and Fred Berner ("Law & Order: Criminal Intent") serve in similar capacities on their respective shows. Production on "Trial by Jury" is set to begin in New York on October 4 for an early 2005 premiere on the Peacock. So far only Jerry Orbach and Carey Lowell have been confirmed as cast members with deals reportedly in the works with Candice Bergen and John Mahoney for recurring roles.
THE LIBRARIAN (TNT) - Kyle MacLachlan ("Sex and the City"), Olympia Dukakis, Bob Newhart, Jane Curtin, Sonya Walger, Kelly Hu and David Dayan Fisher have all joined the cast of the telefilm, which stars Noah Wyle as the the protector of a hidden cache of magical relics that gets stolen by a group bent on world domination. MacLachlan plays the predecessor to Wyle's character, while Dukakis plays his mother. Production is underway in Mexico City on the project with Peter Winther ("The Tag") directing and Dean Devlin ("Independence Day") executive producing. "The Librarian" is tentatively set to premiere in December. Phil Goldfarb, David Titcher, Marc Roskin and Kearie Peak also serve as executive producers.
LISTEN UP (CBS) - Wendy Makkena ("Oliver Beeene") has joined the cast of the comedy where she'll take over for Kirsten Nelson in the role of wife to Jason Alexander's characer, Tony. The producers plan to reshoot Nelson's scenes as well as make several other minor changes, including changing the setting of the opening scene from Tony's workplace to his home and upgrading the sets. Regency Television and CBS Productions are behind the project, which features the former "Seinfeld" star as a columnist, sports TV show host and a father of two.
MASTERPIECE (FX, New!) - Brothers Hayden Christensen ("Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones") and Tove Christensen ("Shattered Glass") are set to team with Emmy-winning documentarian R.J. Cutler ("American High") for a new reality project for the cable channel. Tentatively titled "Masterpiece," the potential series plans to chronicle a young artist's rise to fame. FX has made a pilot presentation order for the project, which the trio will executive produce. No other details were available, other than casting has begun for a budding artist to topline the project.
N.Y.P.D. BLUE (ABC) - Bonnie Somerville ("The O.C.," "In-Laws") is the latest cast member to sign on to the show's 12th and final season this fall, as the veteran drama hopes to fill the void left by the exit of Charlotte Ross this past season. She'll play a sexy detective who joins the New York Police Department's 15th Precinct.
NORTH SHORE (FOX) - Christopher MacDonald ("Cracking Up") has signed on for a four-episode arc on the summer drama as Walter Booth, the father of Brooke Burns' character. MacDonald's first episode is set to air on July 26. According to a network press release, "MacDonald plays Walter Booth, a ruthless and sophisticated hotel magnate. Booth owns 12 luxury hotels around the world, but his most prized possession is his daughter, Nicole, played by Brooke Burns. New York-based Booth arrives at the North Shore and is certain to make waves for Nicole and her co-workers at The Grand Waimea." Meanwhile, "American Idol's" Jasmine Trias will make a cameo appearance as herself on the show's July 12 episode.
ON THE ROAD: A TRUE ROCK-N-ROLL ROAD STORY (Spike TV, New!) - Tonight marks the premiere of a new reality series that "follows eight contestants on Sugar Ray's Make Every Mile Count Tour (kicked-off last April in New York City) as they compete for a year's paid job at Lava Records and a new 2004 Kia Spectra by performing assignments related to the music business," according to a network press release. "The premiere episode introduces eight contestants, Dustin (24, Oklahoma City, OK), Trey (27, Clarksville, TN), Haley (21, Pittsburgh, PA), Lindsay (21, New York, NY), Lindsey (24, Nashville, TN), Elizabeth (23, New York, NY), Marc (23, Franklin Lakes, NJ) & Chrome (27, Trenton, NJ), and brings them together in New York City. In NYC, they meet Sugar Ray's record label General Manager Lee Trink from Lava Records. Trink informs the group that they will be going on tour with Sugar Ray and provides them with ALL ACCESS passes, granting them the ability to work behind-the-scenes with the band for their duration on the tour. Living on a tour bus, the contestants travel cross-country in one group. Upon each tour stop, the contestants are broken up into groups and are assigned jobs specific to the music industry. The teams must be creative and use the resources available to them to complete the task at hand. Each team is provided with a Kia Spectra in each city the tour bus stops to navigate their way around for the materials and items needed for their assignments. With the help of Mark McGrath and the other band members, Trink decides who gets to keep their ALL ACCESS pass and continue on the road with the band." The series kicks off tonight at midnight/11:00c.
OUTBACK JACK (TBS) - Week two of the new TBS reality series drew 2.4 million viewers, up 300,000 from its June 22 premiere.
PRYOR OFFENSES (Showtime) - Eddie Griffin ("Malcolm & Eddie") has landed the lead role in the pay channel's half-hour comedy pilot which is inspired by the life of comedian Richard Pryor. The project is an updated take on Pryor's real-life experience as a thirtysomething comedian (Griffin) on the verge of a career breakthrough who is dealing with a ton of personal issues. Pryor himself and his wife, Jennifer Lee Pryor, are executive producing the pilot alongside Billy Grundfest, who wrote the pilot.
STILL STANDING (CBS) - Creators Joey Gutierrez and Diane Burroughs have signed a new two-year, seven-figure overall deal with the show's distributor, 20th Century Fox Television. The pact calls for the duo to continue to oversee "Still Standing," which returns for its third season this fall, as well as eventually create new projects for the studio. In addition, writer Ben Wexler has also signed a two-year, seven-figure overall deal with the studio, which includes an option for a third year. Wexler will continue in his duties on "Standing" as a co-executive producer as well as develop his own projects. It's understood Wexler is being groomed as a possible showrunner of "Standing" should current showrunners Gutierrez, Burroughs or Tim Doyle move on to other projects in the future.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters