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[08/25/04 - 12:00 AM]
Development Update: August 19-25
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.

BLIND JUSTICE (ABC) - John Badham ("Saturday Night Fever," "WarGames") has been named the executive producer/showrunner while feature director Gary Fleder ("Don't Say a Word," "Kiss the Girls") is set to helm the first two episodes of the midseason drama, about a detective (Ron Eldard) who returns to full duty despite being blinded during a major heist. Badham, who will executive produce "Justice" alongside co-creators Steven Bochco, Matt Olmstead and Nicholas Wootton and former New York police detective Bill Clark, will also direct at least one installment of the series, which is expected to launch in the Tuesday, 10:00/9:00c hour once "N.Y.P.D. Blue" finishes its run at midseason. "Justice" comes from Steven Bochco Productions and Paramount Network Television. Marisol Nichols, Rena Sofer, Reno Wilson, Frank Grillo and Michael Gaston also star.

ER (NBC) - Leland Orser ("Homeland Security") is the latest addition to the veteran drama, as the actor is set to play a trauma surgeon who becomes the new chief of surgery. No start date or additional details were given about Orser's character.

GREY'S ANATOMY (ABC) - Justin Chambers ("Southern Belles") has joined the cast of the midseason drama, about the daily lives of a group of residents in a surgical training program. He'll play a sexy new intern and a potential love interest for Ellen Pompeo's character. Patrick Dempsey, Isaiah Washington, Sandra Oh, Katherine Heigl, T.R. Knight, Chandra Wilson and James Pickens, Jr. also star in the project, which comes from Touchstone Television. In addition, writer/producer Jim Parriott (previously of "Threat Matrix" fame) has inked a two-year overall deal with the studio. The pact calls for Parriott to continue in his duties as an executive producer on "Anatomy" as well as develop original projects for the studio. Among his projects in development are two dramas: the West Point-based "Absolutely American," the development of which has been rolled over from last season, and another focusing on a narcissistic Hollywood actor raising his teenage son. He'll shepherd the former alongside author-journalist David Lipsky and executive producer Marc Platt and the latter with his former "Threat" partners Daniel Voll and Michael Edelstein.

LIFE AS WE KNOW IT (ABC) - Samm Levine ("Freaks & Geeks") is set to appear in a four-episode arc on the freshman drama, which launches on Thursday nights this fall. No details were given about Levine's role, which will reunite him with "Freaks & Geeks" producing alums Jeff Judah and Gabe Sachs.

ONE DAY WITH... (SoapNet, New!) - The cable channel has given a 10-episode commitment to a new half-hour reality series in which - you guessed it - host Wally Kurth ("General Hospital") spends a day with a fellow soap actor doing some of his or her favorite activities. Among the initial stars set to appear are Kurth's co-stars Ingo Rademacher, Alicia Willis and Scott Clifton as well as Peter Reckell ("Days of Our Lives"). "One," which comes from executive producers J. Stocco and Christian Taylor of KST Productions, will kick off Saturday, September 4 at 6:30/5:30c on the network. Kurth himself will also executive produce the project.

ONE GIANT LEAP (New!) - Fox TV Studios, Maverick Television and Content House are developing a small screen mini-series about the life of legendary astronaut Neil Armstrong. The project, which is based on Armstrong's biography "One Giant Leap: Neil Armstrong's Stellar American Journey" by Leon Wagener, tracks the life of Armstrong, the first man to step on the moon, as a test pilot and scientist, through the lunar mission and his subsequent return to Ohio. Content House's Kevin Cleary and Josh Morris as well as Maverick's Guy Oseary and Michael Rosenberg plan to executive produce the project, which is looking to hire a writer to adapt the book. The producers plan to pitch "Leap" to the broadcast and cable networks following the Labor Day holiday.

PRYOR OFFENSES (Showtime) - Jonathan Silverman ("Deacons for Defense") has been tapped to co-star opposite Eddie Griffin in pay channel's comedy pilot, a half-hour inspired by the stand-up material and real life of Richard Pryor about a thirtysomething comedian (Griffin) on the verge of a career breakthrough who is dealing with a ton of personal issues. Silverman, who spent the past development season as part of the ABC drama pilot "The DeMarco Affairs," will play the agent of Griffin's character.

RELATED BY FAMILY (FOX) - Ryan Belleville ("Going the Distance") has been upped to series regular on the midseason comedy. The actor was featured in a guest spot in the show's pilot episode.

SOUTHIE (Showtime) - Jason Isaacs ("Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets") is the latest actor to sign onto the drama pilot, from writer/producer Blake Masters, which focuses on the lives of two brothers in Providence, Rhode Island. Isaacs will play Michael Cassey, a brutal gangster and brother to Jason Clarke's character, a tough-minded politician. Annabeth Gish also stars as the wife of the latter's character. Elizabeth Stephen will executive produce the project alongside Masters with Phillip Noyce ("Tru Calling") directing.

SPELLBOUND (FOX) - Newcomer Dave Annable ("Little Black Book") and Maggie Lawson ("It's All Relative") are set to topline FOX's take on the comedy pilot, about a modern-day male witch (Annable) who falls in love with a mortal woman (Lawson). The pair take over for Richard Ruccolo and Andrea Anders, who played the leads in NBC's original version of the project. Rob Greenberg and Suzanne Martin are the executive producers of "Spellbound," which comes from Warner Bros. Television.

THIRD WATCH (NBC) - Co-creator Edward Allen Bernero has inked a seven-figure overall deal with 20th Century Fox Television to develop two cop-themed drama projects at the studio. The first, which is already set up at FOX, is described as a modern-day "Starsky & Hutch" and focuses on two cops - one a vice cop, the other a narcotics officer - with different approaches to upholding the law, while the other, which is expected to be picked up by CBS, is set in one of Chicago's five "area headquarters," law enforcement hubs where police, courts and jails are all housed under one roof. The FOX project reportedly includes a hefty $500,000 penalty attached should it not go forward while it's also believed that a third project was sold to NBC but won't be developed. Said development also marks the end of Bernero's term at "Watch" as the show's current season will be his last.

THREE (CBS, New!) - Andrew Reich and Ted Cohen ("Friends") have booked what's understood to be the Eye's first comedy pilot order of the 2005-06 season, about a newly single guy who suddenly finds himself the third wheel in the relationship between his best friend and the friend's wife. The project, which is set up at Paramount Network Television, is loosely based on Reich and Cohen's personal experiences.

TILT (ESPN) - Some additional details have been revealed about the cable channel's latest original series, which received a nine-episode order earlier this week (read the story). "Tilt" will feature an ensemble cast of six poker players - four men and two women - who live in Las Vegas, where the series is set (but most likely won't be shot). Brian Koppelman and David Levien ("Rounders") will executive produce the project, which has an estimated $1.2-1.5 million per episode production budget, as well as write and direct the show's initial installment. The pair were previously developing the drama "The Fix" at the cable channel, about the worlds of gambling and college football. Touchstone Television is behind "Tilt," a sister company of ESPN. Production is set to begin in November for its planned premiere date of Thursday, January 13 at 9:00/8:00c.

TOUGH ENOUGH (MTV) - The defunct reality series will return for a "fourth" season as part of UPN's "WWE Smackdown." Episodes will run as segments during the two-hour broadcast beginning in October, the winner of which receives a four-year WWE contract worth $1 million.

THE ULTIMATE POKER CHALLENGE (Syndication, New!) - Passport Entertainment is behind the latest no-limit Texas Hold 'Em TV entry, this time for broadcast syndication. The one-hour series, which has been cleared on local stations covering more than 80% of the country for a September 4 launch, will feature amateur and professional poker players competing against one another in 23 individual no-limit Texas Hold 'Em tournaments with the final eight competing for the ultimate prize of more than $1 million. Chad Brown ("As the World Turns") hosts the series, which will be taped before a live audience at the Plaza Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

UNTITLED BARRY SONNENFELD PROJECT (CBS, New!) - Barry Sonnenfeld ("Karen Sisco") is back at the Eye as the feature director is set to executive produce and direct an untitled private eye project at the network. CBS has made a premium script commitment to the Bahamas-based project, with Mark Haskell Smith ("A Partilha") writing the script to the pilot with Sonnenfeld, Smith and Paul Stupin ("Dawson's Creek") executive producing. Sonnenfeld spent the past development season directing the CBS drama pilot "The Webster Report."

UNTITLED BRANDY PROJECT (FOX, New!) - Actress-singer Brandy is reportedly close to pacting with Touchstone Television and Storyline Entertainment to return to her sitcom roots with a new comedy project for FOX. Storyline's Craig Zadan and Neil Meron will executive produce the show, which is still in the early stages of development, with Brandy and her mother and manager, Sonja Norwood, co-executive producing.

UNTITLED DAVID MAMET/SHAWN RYAN PROJECT (CBS, New!) - David Mamet and Shawn Ryan ("The Shield") are set to team for a new drama series about the elite antiterrorism force known as Delta Force. CBS has given a pilot commitment to the project, which is set up at 20th Century Fox Television and includes significant penalties if it doesn't move forward. The pair will use Eric Haney's book "Inside Delta Force" as the basis of the drama, with Mamet writing the pilot episode. Haney, a founding member of Delta Force, recounted his experiences in the secretive unit for the book. Mamet previously directed an episode of Ryan's "The Shield" earlier this season. It's not clear if Mamet also plans to helm the CBS project. Ryan's involvement won't affect his work on "The Shield," which will return for its fourth season in 2005.

UNTITLED FRANK SPOTNITZ PROJECT (New!) - "The X-Files" veteran Frank Spotnitz has signed a multi-year, seven-figure overall deal with Touchstone Television. The pact calls for Spotnitz to development new programs as well as possibly shepherd other projects for the studio. Spotnitz's last TV effort was the short-lived CBS drama "Robbery Homicide Division."

UNTITLED JENNIFER WESTFELDT PROJECT (ABC, New!) - Actor/writer Jennifer Westfeldt ("Kissing Jessica Stein") has pacted with Touchstone Television and Tom Shadyac's Shady Acres Entertainment to develop a new drama project at the Alphabet. The untitled project, which has a script commitment at the network to be written Westfeldt along with her sister Amy, will focus on Amy Westfeldt's experience as a reporter in New York. Shadyac and Michael Bostick ("Eight Simple Rules") will executive produce the project with the Westfeldt sisters co-executive producing.

UNTITLED JERRY BRUCKHEIMER PROJECT (NBC, New!) - The Peacock has reportedly given a series commitment to a new defense-themed drama set at the Pentagon from uber-producer Jerry Bruckheimer (the "C.S.I." franchise). Bruckheimer Television and Warner Bros. Television are behind the project with Bruckheimer and Jonathan Littman executive producing. A search is underway for a writer for the untitled drama, the commitment to which was rolled over from Bruckheimer's failed NBC drama project "City of Dreams," which starred Jimmy Smits as an L.A.-based P.I. to the stars.

UNTITLED TOMMY LEE PROJECT (NBC, New!) - Rocker Tommy Lee will be the focus of the Peacock's latest reality entry, a half-hour unscripted comedy in which Lee will enroll in college with cameras following his every move. Eddie October ("Bands Reunited," "Wanda Does It") is behind the project, which is set up at NBC Universal Television and has a series commitment at the network. October and Lee will executive produce the untitled series along with Brian Transeau, Richard Bishop and Brad Wyman with Carl Stubner co-producing.

THE WEST WING (NBC) - Alan Alda and Marley Shelton are the latest additions to the cast of the veteran drama while Mary McCormack has been upped to regular on the series. As for Alda, the actor will play Sen. Arnold Vinick of California, a Republican who has presidential aspirations, while Shelton will play Annabeth Schott, a former feature reporter mentored by Timothy Busfield's character who becomes White House deputy press secretary. Meanwhile, Jimmy Smits continues to remain in talks to also join the series, which launches its new season on October 20.

Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters





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· ABSOLUTELY AMERICAN (ABC)
· AREA, THE (CBS)
· BLIND JUSTICE (ABC)
· BROTHERHOOD (SHOWTIME)
· CITY OF DREAMS (NBC)
· CSI: CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION (CBS)
· CSI: MIAMI (CBS)
· CSI: NEW YORK (CBS)
· DAWSON'S CREEK (WB)
· DEACONS FOR DEFENSE (SHOWTIME)
· DEMARCO AFFAIRS (ABC)
· EIGHT SIMPLE RULES (ABC)
· ER (NBC)
· E-RING (NBC)
· FIX, THE (ESPN)
· FREAKS & GEEKS (NBC)
· FREE FALLING (ABC)
· FRIENDS (NBC)
· GREY'S ANATOMY (ABC)
· HOMELAND SECURITY (NBC)
· IT'S ALL RELATIVE (ABC)
· KAREN SISCO (ABC)
· LIFE AS WE KNOW IT (ABC)
· LIFE ON A STICK (FOX)
· MOESHA (UPN)
· NYPD BLUE (ABC)
· PARADISE (CBS)
· PRYOR OFFENSES (SHOWTIME)
· ROBBERY HOMICIDE DIVISION (CBS)
· SHIELD, THE (FX)
· SPELLBOUND (FOX)
· THIRD WATCH (NBC)
· THREAT MATRIX (ABC)
· THREE (CBS)
· TILT (ESPN)
· TOMMY LEE GOES TO COLLEGE (NBC)
· TOUGH ENOUGH (USA)
· TRU CALLING (FOX)
· ULTIMATE POKER CHALLENGE (SYNDICATION)
· UNIT, THE (CBS)
· UNTITLED BRANDY PROJECT (CW)
· UNTITLED ED BERNERO PROJECT (FOX)
· UNTITLED JENNIFER WESTFELDT PROJECT (ABC)
· WANDA DOES IT (COMEDY CENTRAL)
· WEBSTER REPORT, THE (CBS)
· WEST WING, THE (NBC)
· WWE SMACKDOWN (SYFY)
· X-FILES, THE (FOX)









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