LOS ANGELES (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:
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THE BIGGEST LOSER (NBC) - Caroline Rhea reportedly has been named the host of the upcoming reality series, in which contestants compete to lose the most weight. Reveille, NBC Universal Television and 3 Ball Productions are all behind the project, which is expected to roll out some time in 2005. Rhea spent the past development season as part of the ABC comedy pilot "Plan B." Ben Silverman, David Broome and J.D. Roth are the executive producers of "Loser."
COMMANDO NANNY (WB) - Philip Winchester, who plays the title character in the upcoming Frog comedy, has been recast after the actor broke his foot in an accident not related to the show's production. Said development, which will leave Winchester unable to work for 4-6 weeks, lead the WB to name fellow newcomer Owain Yeoman ("Troy") - who had a small role in the original pilot - as his replacement on the series as "Nanny" is set to debut on September 17. Producers had already planned to reshoot the pilot, meaning Yeoman's transition will be seamless. To make up for the decision, producer Warner Bros. Television is reportedly looking to sign Winchester to a talent holding deal that will lead him to being cast in one of the studio's other projects.
THE DEAD ZONE (USA) - With the loss of "The 4,400" as a lead-in, "The Dead Zone" took a noticeable dip on Sunday, falling from 4.6 million viewers to 3.6 million. The broadcast nevertheless was the top draw on basic cable for the night among total viewers, adults 18-49 (1.8 rating), adults 25-54 (2.3 rating) and households (2.8 rating).
ENTERTAINMENTSTUDIOS.COM (Syndication) - Byron Allen's Entertainment Studios, Inc. has cleared the half-hour newsmagazine on local stations covering 70% of the country, including WABC-TV in New York and KTLA-TV in Los Angeles. The series, which is entering into its fifth season this fall, profiles of TV, film and music stars.
GREY'S ANATOMY (ABC) - Producer Mark Gordon has signed a two-year overall deal with Touchstone Television, where he'll develop drama projects for the studio. Gordon is already hard at work as an executive producer of the ABC midseason entry "Grey's Anatomy," along with Shonda Rhimes, Betsy Beers and Jim Parriott, about a group of medical interns trying to make it through a grueling surgical training program.
HATE (Showtime) - Marcia Gay Harden ("Mystic River") is in final talks to headline while Eamonn Walker, Jeremy Davidson, Rosa Arredondo, Ken Leung, Daniel Saul and Aisha Hinds have joined the cast of the pay channel's drama pilot, about the N.Y.P.D.'s hate crimes unit. Harden is up for the role of Chief Jackie Mantello, the tough division head who struggles to balance the demands of her job with the needs of her troubled son. Details on the other actors' role were not available. Paris Barclay and James DeMonaco created and wrote the script to the project, which the former will direct. The pair will also executive produce "Hate" alongside Dan Jinks and Bruce Cohen ("American Beauty"). Production is set to begin later this month.
HERCULES (NBC) - Elizabeth Perkins, who recently signed onto the Showtime comedy pilot "Weeds," has also joined the cast of the upcoming Peacock mini-series about the life of the Greek hero. Also recently tapped for the project are Kim Coates, Tyler Mane and Leeanna Walsman. Perkins will play Alcmene, Hercules' mother, while Mane will play Antaeus, a giant whose strength appeared invincible until he wrestled Hercules, with Walsman as Megara, Hercules' first wife and later his archenemy. Coates' role wasn't specified.
HOWARD STERN: THE HIGH SCHOOL YEARS (Spike TV) - The cable channel is moving forward with the animated project, which takes a look at an adolescent Stern as he wades through high school. Spike TV has committed to 13 episodes of the series, which is expected to roll out in the summer of 2005. The order was given after network chief Albie Hecht saw several scripts and drawings for the project as no pilot was produced. Stern, who has yet to make clear if he'll voice his character on the series, will executive produce alongside Spike's programming executive VP Kevin Kay. The news marks a return to a troubled genre for the network as "Gary the Rat," "Stripperella" and "This Just In" failed to ignite any ratings sparks by the end of their respective runs.
JACK & BOBBY (WB) - Paul Sorvino is set to guest star in an upcoming episode of the new fall drama. He'll portray President Lorio on the series during its flash-forward segments, which take place from 2037-41. The character, which could become recurring, unwittingly comes to the aid of the future president - one of the two title characters - during a political debate and helps seal his eventual victory.
JUDGING AMY (CBS) - Carol Barbee ("Queer as Folk") has been named the executive producer/showrunner of the veteran drama just a few weeks before production is set to begin on its sixth season. She'll replace Richard Kramer who has left the post due to "production differences" despite only joining the series this summer. Barbee has been a staff writer on "Amy" since last season, where she served as a supervising producer.
KARROLL'S CHRISTMAS (A&E, New!) - Tom Everett Scott ("ER") is set to topline a new holiday themed telefilm at the cable channel, a twist on the Charles Dickens' classic in which the ghosts of Jacob Marley and Christmas past, present and future accidentally visit the wrong guy (Scott), the neighbor of their intended "Scrooge." Said visit causes Scott's character, a greeting card writer whose career and love life are in a slump, to help his neighbor redeem himself before it's too late. Dennis Dugan will direct the project from a script by Drew Daywalt and David Schneider with A&E's Delia Fine executive producing alongside Cosgrove/Meurer Productions' John Cosgrove, Terry Meurer and Linda Berman. John Klane and George Paige will also serve as executive producers on "Christmas," which also comes from Fox Television Studios and Voice Pictures. Production is set to begin on September 13 for a December air date on the network.
MONK (USA) - Friday's installment was the most-watched program for the week on basic cable, earning 4.9 million viewers and a 2.7 rating among adults 25-54, 2.1 rating among adults 18-49 and 3.8 rating among households. In year-to-year comparisons, "Monk" is up a solid 16% in households, 19% in adults 25-54 and 12% in adults 18-49.
POWER GIRLS (MTV) - The cable channel has reportedly given a six-episode order to the reality series, about the life of press maven Lizzie Grubman. "Girls" will track Grubman and her team of flacks as they run the nightlife in Manhattan, Miami and the Hamptons. Grubman is best known for running publicity for such clients as Britney Spears, Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, Jay-Z and Russell Simmons. It's not clear when MTV plans to debut "Girls" however it's more than likely set to roll out in early 2005.
THE REAL WORLD (MTV) - MTV has confirmed the 15th season of the series, which is based Philadelphia, will kick off Tuesday, September 7 at 10:00/9:00c.
ROCKY POINT (WB) - Lauren Holly ("Just Desserts"), Travis Fimmel ("Tarzan"), Moon Bloodgood ("C.S.I."), Beau Garrett and John Patrick Amedori are set to round out the cast of the drama pilot, which centers on Cassie (Chyler Leigh), a young woman living on Hawaii's North Shore who takes in her estranged father (Billy Campbell). Fimmel will play Cassie's boyfriend Taj, a charismatic professional surfer, while Bloodgood and Garrett will play Cassie's roommates with Holly as their landlord, a New York attorney who recently moved to Hawaii with her karate enthusiast son (Amedori). Production is set to begin early next month on the pilot, which comes from "Blue Crush's" John Stockwell and Lizzy Weiss.
THAT '70S SHOW (FOX) - Caryn Mandabach has opted to exit her nearly 20 year partnership as part of the independent studio Carsey-Werner-Mandabach. Mandabach's exit, which will be formally announced today, has lead the remaining parnters, and original founders, Marcy Carsey and Tom Werner to revert the company to its original name, the Carsey-Werner Co. Mandabach is expected to form her own production company however details were not given. It's not clear how the loss of Mandabach will affect the trio's investment in the Oxygen cable network.
WILL & GRACE (NBC) - Jennifer Lopez and Janet Jackson are set to make guest appearances on the show's first and second episodes respectively this season. Lopez's spot, set to air on September 16, will feature the actress/singer reprising her role as herself in which she returns from her summer performance tour with Jack (Sean Hayes), who accompanied her as a backup dancer. As for Jackson, the fellow actress/singer will also play herself in the September 23 installment which also sees Jack following her on tour as a backup dancer. The news marks Jackson's first TV appearance since an episode of "Diff-rent Strokes" over 20 years ago.
YOUR TOTAL HEALTH (Syndication) - The NBC News Productions series, which is set to debut the weekend of September 25-26, has now been cleared on local stations in more than 90% of country. Recent additions include KOIN-TV in Portland, Ore., WDIV-TV in Detroit and KMBC-TV in Kansas City, Mo.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters