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.
24 (FOX) - Twentieth Television has confirmed the series' syndicated launch is a go in 18 major-market stations beginning in the fall of 2005. Said stations, which cover 34% of the country, include the Viacom-owned WCBS in New York, KCBS-KCAL in Los Angeles, WBBM in Chicago, KYW-WPSG in Philadelphia, KPIX-KBHK in San Francisco, KTVT-KTXA in Dallas, WWJ-WKBD in Detroit and KSTW in Seattle. The series will run twice each weekend on each of the stations with Twentieth holding back seven of the 14 minutes of ad time for national ad sales as part of the all-barter deal. It's understood Twentieth is also looking to sell a cable run of the series however no deals have been reached. And in other "24" news, Jason Padgett ("The Amityville Horror") is set to appear in a two-episode arc on the show's fourth season, playing an unspecified character.
BABYCAKES (Showtime, New!) - Working Title is developing a small screen adaptation of the Armistead Maupin novel, the fourth in his "Tales of the City" series. No other details were given about the project. Showtime is no stranger to the "Tales" franchise, having adapted the second and third "Tales" novels in 1998 ("More Tales of the City") and 2001 ("Further Tales of the City") in 2001. The original "Tales" was brought to the small screen by PBS in 1994.
THE BERNIE MAC SHOW (FOX) - Some additional details have emerged about FOX's decision last week to bump the series next month in favor of "Nanny 911" while star Bernie Mac "recuperates from illness" (read the story). It's understood exhaustion from shooting on the features "Ocean's 12" and "Guess Who," as well as doing press for the release of "Mr. 3000," is the reason for the delay. Said work had already resulted in the show falling behind schedule, leading FOX and Regency Television to mutually agree to suspend production for four weeks while Mac recovers. While no return date has been set for the program itself (the series was originally set to resume new episodes on November 3), "Mac" will more than likely return in December or January at the latest.
DARWIN'S CHILDREN (Sci Fi, New!) - Michael De Luca ("Blade," "Rush Hour 2") is the latest feature producer to find a home at the cable channel as the former New Line Cinema and DreamWorks executive is developing his first TV project, a four-hour mini-series version of Greg Bear's novels "Darwin's Radio" and "Darwin's Children." The project explores the generational conflict between man and "virus babies," a group of superchildren that was made as the result of speeded-up evolution. Howard Braunstein, Michael Jaffe, Ralph Vicinanza and Vince Gerardis will all executive produce "Children" alongside De Luca, who joins Sci Fi's already substantial talent roster which includes Ridley Scott ("The Andromeda Strain"), Frank Darabont ("The Thing"), Steven Spielberg ("Nine Lives"), Martin Scorsese ("The Twelve"), Bryan Singer and Dean Devlin ("The Triangle") and Gale Anne Hurd ("Red Mars").
FARSCAPE: THE PEACEKEEPER WARS (Sci Fi) - The weekend's much-anticipated, two-part follow-up to the cult classic series averaged a solid but far from spectacular 1.9 million total viewers for its premiere on Sunday and Monday. While "Farscape" was the top non-sports draw on both nights in adults 18-49 among all basic cable networks, the mini-series fell well short of the respective series and season premieres of "Stargate Atlantis" (4.2 million) and "Stargate SG-1" (3.2 million) earlier this year.
LISTEN UP (CBS) - Co-executive producer David Litt has signed a seven-figure, multi-year overall development and production deal with Paramount Network Television. The pact, which begins in June, calls for the writer/producer (who also co-created "The King of Queens") to develop, create and produce series projects for the studio. The deal marks incoming Paramount topper David Stapf's first move since taking over the role last month.
KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER (New!) - Frank Spotnitz ("The X-Files") is looking to revive the cult classic 1970s franchise as part of his overall deal with Touchstone Television. While no specific details were given about the new "Kolchak," Spotnitz nevertheless told Daily Variety, "I wouldn't expect a religiously faithful adaptation. I don't intend to repeat the same mistakes [of the original series]." "Kolchak," about a reporter named Carl Kolchak (played by Darren McGavin) who had a tendency to uncover mysteries involving vampires, serial killers and other freakish occurrences, began as a pair of highly-rated Dan Curtis-produced telefilms in 1972 and 1973 but quickly floundered as a short-lived series in 1974-75 despite the talents of a writing staff that included David Chase and Robert Zemeckis. Chris Carter, the creator of "The X-Files," has often cited "Night Stalker" as an inspiration for his own franchise, even having McGavin appear on the series as the first custodian of the show's "X-Files."
LAS VEGAS (NBC) - The Peacock confirmed this week it has upped its commitment to the show's sophomore season by two episodes, bringing its season total to 24 episodes.
LAW & ORDER: S.V.U. (NBC) - Ernest Waddell ("The Wire") has scored a potentially recurring role on the veteran "Law & Order" spin-off as the estranged son of Ice-T's character. No air date was mentioned for Waddell's appearance.
LOST (ABC) - Writer/producer Carlton Cuse ("Nash Bridges," "Martial Law") has come aboard the highly-rated freshman drama as an executive producer. He'll serve alongside fellow executive producers J.J. Abrams, Damon Lindelof and Bryan Burk on the Touchstone Television/Bad Robot Productions series. Cuse, who spent last season shepherding the short-lived WB drama "Black Sash," is no stranger to Lindelof, having given the then rookie writer his first break on "Bridges" four years ago. Meanwhile in other "Lost" news, William Mapother ("The Grudge") is set to guest star in two upcoming episodes of the drama in an unspecified role.
MANHUNT (Bravo) - A disappointing 453,000 total viewers tuned into the show's Tuesday premiere last week, well behind the network's previous Tuesday, 9:00/8:00c efforts "Showbiz Moms & Dads" (1.0 million on 4/13/04), "Significant Others" (703,000 viewers on 3/9/04) and "Blow Out" (645,000 on 6/8/04).
MONK (USA) - Emmy Clarke ("My House In Umbria") has booked a recurring role on the series when it returns for the remainder of its third season next year. She'll play the daughter of Monk's new assistant (Traylor Howard).
MY 11:30 (NBC) - The Jeff Goldblum-led comedy pilot, once considered as a possible midseason replacement, will not move forward according to an NBC spokesman. NBC Universal Television and executive producer Paul Reiser were behind the project, about relationship betweeen a shallow fortysomething L.A. businessman (Goldblum) and his no-nonsense therapist (Donna Murphy).
MYSTERY WOMAN (Hallmark) - Patty McCormack ("The Sopranos") has joined the cast of the latest "Mystery" telefilm, about a young woman (Kellie Martin) who takes clues from mystery books to solve crimes. McCormack will play a member of the woman's mystery book group.
NORTH SHORE (FOX) - Vincent Spano ("Prince Street") is set for a multi-episode arc on the freshman drama as an eccentric millionaire. No details were given as to when Spano's first episode will air.
POWERBALL (HBO, New!) - Mitchell Burgess and Robin Green ("The Sopranos") have scored a script commitment from the pay channel for a new comedy described as a "Beverly Hillbillies"-meets-Wal-Mart parody of Middle America consumerism, about a family that hits a $300 million jackpot. "The Sopranos'" Brad Grey Television is also on board to produce the series, which is a result of the pair's overall deal at HBO. The news marks Brad Grey's second comedy project in the works at the cable channel, the other being an adaptation of Mark Falanga's book "The Suburban You."
RESCUE ME (FX) - The freshman drama closed its run last week to the tune of 3.08 million viewers including a 1.7 rating/4 share in adults 18-49, making it cable's most-watched entertainment program on Wednesday night. Said numbers helped crown "Rescue Me" as 2004's most-watched new basic cable series in adults 18-49, the third year in a row FX has accomplished the feat ("Nip/Tuck" in 2003 and "The Shield" in 2002 being the others).
RENO 911 (Comedy Central) - The cable channel has confirmed it has ordered a third season of 13 episodes of the half-hour comedy. "Reno," which averaged a solid 1.6 million viewers for its second season, will return with new episodes next summer. Only "South Park" and "Chappelle's Show" have fared better overall in the ratings for Comedy Central than "Reno," which comes from Jersey Television.
THE SCHOLAR (ABC, New!) - Bunim-Murray Productions and Carsey-Werner-based producers Steve Martin and Joan Stein are behind the Alphabet's latest reality effort, which gives 15 high school students who lack the means to pay for their higher education the chance to compete for a shot at a full scholarship at the college of their choice. Martin, Stein, Jon Murray, Marcy Carsey and Tom Werner will executive produce the project through their respective companies. Jaye Pace and Shannon Meairs, two former college admissions officers, and Waxman Williams Entertainment originated the idea for the series. No other details were given about the project, other than it will take place at a still-to-be-determined university and could be ready in time for a spring debut.
SECOND TIME AROUND (UPN) - Christina Vidal ("10-8") is set to appear in a multi-episode arc on the freshman comedy where she'll play the free-spirited sister of Melissa De Sousa's character. In addition, Vidal has also booked a guest spot on CBS' "Clubhouse" as the fiancee of John Ortiz's character. It's not clear however when either appearance will air.
SEX AND THE SINGLE MOM (Lifetime) - The cable channel is moving forward with a sequel to the popular 2003 telefilm, which pulled in 4.1 million viewers for its September 8 airing. Gail O'Grady and Grant Show are on board to reprise their roles in the sequel, full details of which weren't given. Here's how Lifetime's press materials describe the original "Mom": "Jess Gradwell is a stressed-out single mom with a high-pressure job as a paralegal and a 15-year-old daughter who has bad boys on the brain. Jess tries to teach her teen about appropriate sexual behavior, but when this working mother starts lusting after a hunky witness, she tosses her morals aside. Get ready for steamy love scenes, dramatic family blowups and a surprising finale!" Andrea Baynes, Les Alexander and Don Enright will executive produce the project, with Judith Paige Mitchell writing the script. Production is expected to begin in December for a first quarter premiere date.
SPECIES 3 (Sci Fi) - The cable channel has slated the small screen incarnation of the "Species" franchise for Saturday, November 27 at 9:00/8:00c. Here's how the network's press materials describe the project: "Based on the hit films Species and Species 2, this chilling tale follows Sara, the offspring of Eve, the clone of Sil. The purest and most lethal of Sil's human-alien hybrid offspring, she has quickly matured into a beautiful young woman. Abducted by a scientist who harbors a perverse dream of crafting a "genetically perfect" race of alien beings, Sara is also hounded by short-lived "half-breed" alien monsters intent on mating with her to produce hardier, longer-lived future generations. Her only friend is Dean, a young man who, even though he knows that their two species can never coexist in peace, falls in love with her all the same."
SURRENDER, DOROTHY (CBS) - Tom Everett Scott ("ER"), Lauren German (MTV's "Undressed"), Alexa Davalos ("Angel") and Peter Riegert ("The Beast") have all joined the cast of Diane Keaton-led telefilm, an adaptation of the Meg Wolitzer novel of the same name. The project centers on a woman, Natalie (Keaton), as she copes with the sudden death of her 30-year-old daughter, Sara (Davalos), by going to the summer house where Sara spent a month every year with her best friend, Adam (Scott), a successful gay playwright, and Mandy (German) and Peter, Sara's long-married friends.
THREE RIVERS (ABC)/UNTITLED DAVID HOLLANDER PROJECT (FOX) (New!) - David Hollander ("The Guardian") has set up a pair of projects at ABC and FOX as part of an overall deal with Sony Pictures Television. The one-year pact, financial details of which weren't specified, calls for Hollander to develop new series projects for the studio. The ABC project, entitled "Three Rivers," focuses on a recently divorced female crime journalist who works for her dad's Pittsburgh newspaper. Each week then would track a different murder with said journalist and her ex-husband, a police detective, providing different points of view. Meanwhile the FOX project, which is currently untitled, focuses on the intersecting lives of professors and students at a fictional law school/legal clinic in the Los Angeles area as they deal with the burden of school and their high-need, low-income clients. Both projects have script commitments from their respective networks with Hollander writing and executive producing each.
TIN MAN (Sci Fi, New!) - Steven Long Mitchell and Craig Van Sickle ("The Pretender," "The Tin Man") are developing a new four-hour mini-series at the cable channel which puts a sci-fi twist on "The Wizard of Oz." The project centers on Dorothy, a young girl who gets lost in an alternate universe policed by law enforcement officers known as Tin Men and tries to find her way home with the help of three strangers she meets in the mysterious land known as Outer Zone, or O.Z. The pair will write and executive produce the mini-series, which is still in the early stages of development.
UNTITLED ANNIE DUKE PROJECT (NBC)/UNTITLED DAN BUCATKINSKY PROJECT (CBS) (New!) - Writer/producer Jack Burditt ("I'm With Her") has set up a new comedy at the Peacock about the real-life story of Annie Duke, a single mom and one of the world's top poker players, while Dan Bucatinsky is behind a new dramedy at the Eye. Both projects come from Bucatinsky and Lisa Kudrow's production company, Is or Isn't Entertainment, which just signed a new two-year overall deal with Warner Bros. Television. Burditt's project, which is said to have been part of a heated bidding war between CBS and NBC, has a script commitment from the Peacock with a sizable penalty attached should it not go forward to pilot. Bucatinsky and Kudrow will both executive produce Burditt's project. As for Bucatinsky's project at CBS, no other details were given other than he'll write the pilot script and executive produce with Kudrow. Both projects join the HBO pilot "The ComebacK" on Is or Isn't Entertainment's development roster.
UNTITLED AISHA TYLER PROJECT (CBS, New!) - Aisha Tyler ("Friends," "C.S.I.: Crime Scene Investigation") has inked a new talent holding deal with the network to topline a new comedy or drama project for next season. Tyler spent the past development season as the lead in an untitled comedy pilot at the Eye.
UNTITLED BRAD GARRETT PROJECT (HBO, New!) - Emmy-winner Brad Garrett ("Everybody Loves Raymond") reportedly is close to finding a post-"Raymond" home at the pay channel. The actor is said to be in talks with HBO to topline a new comedy project for the network, full details of which were not released.
UNTITLED BRETT RATNER PROJECTS (CBS, New!) - Feature director Brett Ratner ("Rush Hour") has inked a massive two-year, seven-figure overall deal with 20th Century Fox Television to develop new series projects for the studio. Ratner has already set up two projects through his Rat TV banner at CBS - one with feature writers David Diamond and David Weissman and another with "Law & Order" veteran Barry Schindel (who's also set up at 20th). No other details were given about the CBS projects, other than Ratner will executive produce and direct their pilots should his schedule permit.
UNTITLED DENNIS HOPPER PROJECT (New!) - Dennis Hopper ("The Last Ride") is set to return to the small screen as the prolific actor has teamed with Matt LeBlanc's Fort Hill Productions and writers Mike Chessler and Chris Alberghini to topline a new comedy project for Warner Bros. Television. The project features Hopper as a groovy, free-spirited dad who ends up living with his grown, much more conservative daughter and her husband. His character is understood to also have a 2-year-old child, whom he raises much differently from his grown children. Fort Hill and company are expected to begin pitching the project to broadcast networks in the next two weeks.
UNTITLED HENRY VIII PROJECT (Showtime, New!) - Working Title Films and Ben Silverman's Reveille have scored a script commitment from the pay channel for a new drama about the life of King Henry VIII. The project, which comes from feature writer Michael Hirst ("Elizabeth") opens in the early 16th century as the young king, heir to the Tudor dynasty, meets with Anne Boleyn, the future mother of Queen Elizabeth I, for the first time.
UNTITLED SUSIE ESSMAN PROJECT (CBS, New!) - Actress Susie Essman ("Curb Your Enthusiasm") has inked a talent holding deal with the Eye to develop a new comedy series about her life as a surrogate stepmom of sorts to four kids (ages 11 to 16) when she started dating a real estate executive in upstate New York last year. No writers or producers are attached to the project although Essman has only begun to meet with writers.
UNTITLED KEVIN SORBO PROJECT (ABC) - Barry Kemp ("Coach," "A Minute With Stan Hooper") has come aboard to develop Sorbo's comedy project at the Alphabet and Touchstone Television. Kemp will executive produce alongside Eric Gold on the project, which is expected to be a family comedy of some sort.
UNTITLED STEVE LEVITAN PROJECT (NBC, New!) - Steven Levitan ("Just Shoot Me") and commercial writer-director John Immesoete have scored a put pilot commitment from the Peacock for a new comedy series loosely based on Immesoete's popular character Leon, an egotistical football player featured in several Budweiser ad spots. The project is set up at 20th Century Fox Television and will revolve around the life and family of an out of touch black sports superstar, probably a football player, who has an extra-large sense of entitlement. Levitan and Immesoete will write the pilot script together as well as executive produce. The news marks Levitan's surprising return to NBC after originally vowing to never work for the Peacock again following its treatment of "Just Shoot Me's" final season.
UNTITLED TORI SPELLING PROJECT (NBC, New!) - Tori Spelling ("Beverly Hills, 90210") has signed a talent holding deal with the Peacock to topline a new single-camera comedy for the network described as a fictitious rendering of her real life before she got married. Chris Alberghini and Mike Chessler ("Whoopi") are on board to write executive produce the NBC Universal Television project with Spelling herself serving as a co-executive producer. The Peacock has made a script commitment to the untitled comedy, additional details of which were not available.
UNTITLED WILL SASSO PROJECT (ABC, New!) - Actor Will Sasso ("Less Than Perfect") is set to topline a new comedy project for ABC and Touchstone Television from "Perfect" writer Chuck Tatham and producers Nina Wass and Gene Stein. The project, which has a script commitment from the network, features Sasso as the bartender at a local country club who raises his younger brother and sister. Wass and Stein will executive produce via their Wass/Stein Productions banner along with Tatham.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters