[12/03/04 - 12:00 AM]
Development Update: December 1-3
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.

24 (FOX) - A&E has scored the off-network rights to the serialized drama for a relatively modest license fee estimated to be in the $250,000 per episode range. While no start date was given for A&E's five-night-a-week run, it's likely to start in the fall of 2005, the same time repeats also begin airing in weekend syndication on local stations across the country (read the story). While "24's" lack of self-contained story lines were expected to drive the show's off-network license fee down, Twentieth Television nevertheless is understood to have been asking for $750,000 per episode as early as mid-2002.

30 DAYS (FX) - The cable channel is moving forward with Morgan Spurlock's ("Super Size Me") documentary series, ordering six one-hour episodes for a summer 2005 premiere. Each episode plants an individual into a lifestyle that is completely different from his or her upbringing, beliefs, religion or profession for 30 days. The pilot for example tracks a Christian insurance salesman from West Virginia as he lives with a Muslim family in Dearborn, Michigan, home of the nation's largest Islamic community. Spurlock himself hosts and narrates the series, which he created and executive produces with Ben Silverman and Howard Owens ("The Restaurant").

ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT (FOX) - Liza Minnelli and Martin Short ("Primetime Glick") are set to guest star in the critically acclaimed comedy's second season. Minnelli will reprise her role of Lucille Austero in at least two upcoming episodes of the series while Short will don heavy makeup to play a 70-year-old friend of the Bluth family and a potential love interest for Jessica Walter's character. It's not clear how many episodes Short's arc will involve or when his first episode will air.

BERGDORF BLONDES (The WB, New!) - Warner Bros. Television and producers Karey Burke and Jamie Tarses have pacted with the Frog to adapt Plum Sykes' bestselling novel of the same name for the small screen. Rebecca Kirshner ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer") is attached to write the pilot to the project, which revolves around the exploits of a spoiled twentysomething and the cast of characters who make up her New York-based "Sex and the City"-esque lifestyle, including her best friend, heiress Julie Bergdorf. Sykes, a contributing editor for Vogue will also help co-create the one-hour dramedy.

CAMPUS LADIES (Oxygen, New!) - "Curb Your Enthusiasm" star Cheryl Hines is executive producing a new improvisational comedy pilot for the cable channel, which is being likened to a female version of the 2003 feature "Old School." The project tracks two late-thirtysomething women (Carrie Aizley and Christen Sussin) who decide to go back to college and live in the freshman dorms at a fictional Midwestern university after one is widowed and the other divorced. Peter Principato and Paul Young ("Reno 911") are also attached to executive produce the project through their Principato-Young banner. Production is set to begin this week in Los Angeles on the pilot, which is based on Groundlings improv troupe members Aizley and Sussin's stage work.

THE DARK (TNT) - Billy Burke ("The Jury"), Michelle Hurd ("Law & Order: S.V.U."), Colleen Porch ("Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation") and newcomer Eric Jenson have been cast in the Stephen J. Cannell-produced drama pilot, which revolves around the F.B.I.'s tracking and apprehension team, which is only called upon when the most disturbing, dangerous and baffling serial criminals are on the loose. Burke will play the group's leader with the rest all playing unspecified members of the team.

DARKSIDE (FOX, New!) - Director Michael Dinner ("North Shore"), writers Brandon Beckner and Scott Sampila and Roundtable Entertainment are taking a cue from ABC's "Lost" as the group is developing a new high-concept drama about a group of astronauts who go missing after tracing an S.O.S. signal to the dark side of the moon where they discover a mysterious compound. Roundtable's Gina Matthews and Grant Scharbo will executive produce the 20th Century Fox Television-based project, which has a script commitment from the network, with Dinner directing as well as executive producing through his Rooney McP banner. In addition to the astronauts' tale, the series will also track an Earth-bound storyline about a government conspiracy to cover up what happened to the crew.

FAITH UNDER FIRE (PAX) - The fledgling broadcast network has greenlit 13 additional episodes of the Lee Strobel-hosted talk show, which airs Saturday nights 10:00/9:00c. The news comes on the heels of PAX's 13-episode pickup of "World Cup Comedy" (read the story) and its second season renewal of "Cold Turkey" (read the story). Jim Berger, president of Rocket Pictures, is the show's executive producer.

JACK & BOBBY (The WB) - Mike Erwin ("Everwood") is once again back at the Frog and working with executive producer Greg Berlanti as the actor is set to appear in at least six episodes of the freshman drama this season. He'll play a college student and a love interest for Jessica Pare's character.

KIDNAPPED (FOX, New!) - Former "Karen Sisco" executive producers Jason Smilovic and Michael Dinner are developing a new drama project at FOX, full details of which have yet to be released.

MAKING IT BIG (Oxygen, New!) - The cable channel has given a six-episode order to a new series which pits three contestants working their way up in a particular industry against each other in pursuit of a career break. The project is based on the special of the same name that aired in March of this year. Production is expected to be completed on the installments for an April 2005 premiere.

MR. & MRS. DOE (ABC, New!) - Writers Ron Hanning ("Frasier") and Amy Welsh are developing a new one-hour dramedy at the Alphabet about two single F.B.I. agents who go undercover as a married couple. The project is set up at Touchstone Television with Roundtable's Gina Matthews and Grant Scharbo executive producing.

MY NAME IS EARL (NBC, New!) - The Peacock has given a cast-contingent pilot order to a new comedy from Greg Garcia ("Yes, Dear") and 20th Century Fox Television. The project revolves around a low-rent crook who, after winning the lottery, decides to use his limited yet oddly effective intelligence to right the wrongs he has made in his life. Garcia will write the pilot script and executive produce.

PRISON BREAK (FOX) - Dominic Purcell ("John Doe") and Wentworth Miller ("Dinotopia") have been cast in the lead roles of the drama pilot, about an engineer (Miller) who inserts himself into a prison he designed to help his brother (Purcell), a death row inmate who insists he is innocent, escape. Purcell's involvement is the result of a talent deal the actor signed with the network back in April (read the story). "Break" comes from 20th Century Fox Television and is executive produced by Marty Adelstein, Dawn Parouse, Brett Ratner and Paul Scheuring. Ratner will direct the pilot from a script by creator Scheuring.

THE REAL GILLIGAN'S ISLAND (TBS) - 4.0 million viewers tuned into the show's debut on Tuesday, well ahead of the cable channel's recent launches "He's a Lady" (1.7 million) and "Outback Jack" (2.1 million). A second episode at 9:00/8:00c showed little audience erosion, earning 3.7 million viewers. More importantly, "Island" not only led all ad-supported cable networks in virtually all demographics but also topped FOX and UPN among adults 18-49 (1.9 rating/5 share, 2.7 million) and all the broadcast networks save for CBS among men 18-49. The series' encores at 10:00/9:00c on TNT and 11:00/10:00c on TBS also fared well, earning a combined 3.2 million viewers.

SOCCER MOMS (ABC, New!) - Don Todd ("Life as We Know It") and Marla Ginsburg are developing a new drama at the network about housewives who investigate suburban crimes. No other details were given about the project, which is set up at Touchstone Television where Todd is in the second year of his overall deal.

SPRING STREET (FOX, New!) - Emmy-winner Michael Dinner ("The Wonder Years") and writer Barry Schindel ("Robbery Homicide Division") are spearheading a new drama for FOX, however no details about the project were specified.

THAT '70S SHOW (FOX) - Eliza Dushku ("Tru Calling") is set to guest on an upcoming episode of the veteran comedy as Sarah, a hot girl who works at Donna's (Laura Prepon) radio station. Said installment is expected to air during the February sweeps period.

THICKER THAN WATER (Hallmark, New!) - Melissa Gilbert, Brian Wimmer ("Going to the Mat") and Robert Mailhouse are all set to topline an upcoming telefilm at the cable channel, about a guarded and controlling woman (Melissa Gilbert) who is stunned to learn about her deceased dad's past. Wimmer plays a handsome vet who becomes smitten with Gilbert's character while Mailhouse is set as her co-worker and best friend who helps her do research on her father.

TILT (ESPN) - Amelia Cooke ("Species 3") is the latest addition to the show's ensemble cast. She'll play the daughter of Don "The Matador" Everest (Michael Madsen) who becomes a love interest to Eddie Cibrian's character. Chris Bauer also stars in the project, which premieres Thursday, January 13 at 9:00/8:00c on the cable channel.

UNTITLED CARLA KETTNER PROJECT (UPN, New!) - Carla Kettner ("Strong Medicine") has set up a new drama series at the netlet, the full concept of which wasn't specified. The project nevertheless is set up at Spelling Television and Roundtable Entertainment with Gina Matthews and Grant Scharbo executive producing.

UNTITLED DIANE FARR PROJECT (The WB) - Diane Farr's comedy project for Sony Pictures Television, originally announced in August (read the story), has found a home at the WB and an executive producer in Peter Tolan ("Rescue Me"). The untitled half-hour revolves around a group of women entering their 30s in Los Angeles. Farr will topline the show's cast and is expected to write the pilot and also serve as a supervising producer with Tolan serving as executive producer.

UNTITLED NEIL TOLKIN PROJECT (NBC, New!) - Neil Tolkin ("The Emperor's Club") is developing a new drama series at the Peacock set in the world of the Los Angeles real estate market. The project is set up at Roundtable Entertainment with principals Gina Matthews and Grant Scharbo executive producing.

UNTITLED PETER DINKLAGE PROJECT (ABC) - "The Station Agent" star Peter Dinklage is set to team with "Life as We Know It" co-executive producer Don Todd for an untitled comedy at the Alphabet and Touchstone Television about an unconventional teacher (played by Dinklage). The project, which will use both single and multi-camera elements, is the result of a talent holding deal the actor signed with Touchstone in August (read the story). Todd is also set up with an overall deal at the studio and will write and executive produce alongside fellow "Life" executive producer Stu Bloomberg.

UNTITLED WILL GLUCK/PAM BRADY PROJECT (FOX) - Mimi Rogers ("The Door in the Floor") is the latest addition to the comedy pilot, about a guy right out of college (Bret Harrison) who becomes the first among his friends to get a real job and straddles the fence between slacker and working man. Rogers will play a V.P. at the company where the guy works. Becki Newton also stars in an unspecified role.

THE WAR AT HOME (FOX, New!) - FOX has given a cast-contingent pilot order for a new comedy about hypocritical parents who struggle to maintain dominance over their kids. Rob Lotterstein ("The Big House") is behind the project, which is set up at Warner Bros. Television and Acme Productions. Lotterstein will write and executive produce the project alongside Acme principals Mindy Schultheis and Michael Hanel.

Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters

  [december 2004]  

· 24 (FOX)
· 30 DAYS (FX)
· MR. & MRS. DOE (ABC)
· RENO 911 (QUIBI)

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