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[12/24/04 - 12:00 AM]
Development Update: December 20-24
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) - Arnold Vosloo ("Vertias: The Quest") is the latest addition to the drama's fourth season storyline. He'll play the leader of a terrorist plot against the United States. No other details were given about his character or when his first appearance will be. "24's" two-night, four-hour season premiere begins Sunday, January 9.

ANONYMOUS REX (Sci Fi) - The backdoor pilot movie premiered to a 1.4 household rating according to numbers recently released by the cable channel. Overall "Rex" was Sci Fi's top draw for the week of November 29 through December 5 but fell short of recent Saturday night originals "Species 3" (1.9 household rating on 11/27/04), "Gargoyles: Wings of Darkness" (1.8 on 10/30/04), "Frankenfish" (1.7 on 10/9/04), "Darklight" (1.7 on 9/18/04), "Raptor Island" (1.8 on 8/21/04) and "Out for Blood" (1.6 on 7/31/04).

THE ASHLEE SIMPSON SHOW/NEWLYWEDS: NICK & JESSICA (MTV) - MTV has bumped the respective second and third season premieres of the popular reality series to Wednesday, January 26 beginning at 10:00/9:00c.

CHAPPELLE'S SHOW (Comedy Central) - The cable channel has opted to delay the show's third season premiere, originally set for February 16, due to health problems regarding star Dave Chappelle, including flu and borderline walking pneumonia. It's understood the producers are now targeting a March or April premiere for the new season.

DANTE (A.K.A UNTITLED STEVE LEVITAN PROJECT) (NBC) - Morris Chestnut ("Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid," Ladder 49") and Tony Cox ("Bad Santa," "Rescue Me") have been cast in the lead roles of the comedy pilot, about the life and family of a football superstar (Chestnut) who has an extra-large sense of entitlement and often is out of touch with reality. Cox will play Uncle Goldey in the project, which is loosely based on commercial writer/director John Immesoete's popular series of humorous Budweiser ad spots featuring the egotistical football player Leon. FOX has given a put pilot commitment to the 20th Century Fox Television-based project which Steve Levitan ("Just Shoot Me") is shepherding.

ESPN SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL (ESPN) - Last week's game featuring the Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens became the sixth most-watched cable telecast of all time with 12.08 million viewers tuning in. The broadcast also ranked in the top 10 among all programs for the week in adults 18-49 (5.1/13).

FATHOM (NBC, New!) - Writers/directors Josh and Jonas Pate ("L.A. Dragnet") have received a production green light to produce a new one-hour action-adventure drama pilot which revolves around mysterious creatures deep in the ocean. Full details of the "Abyss"-esque project weren't released however it's been likened to the Peacock's answer to ABC's "Lost." The brothers will write, direct and executive produce the project, which is set up at NBC Universal Television.

FOUR MINUTES (ESPN) - The network's biopic about Roger Bannister, the English runner who was the first person to break the four-minute mile, is understood to be the next ESPN original movie to go into production. The project is being targeted for a summer 2005 premiere date.

HAPPY TOGETHER (The WB, New!) - Bill Martin and Mike Schiff ("Grounded for Life") are back in business with the Frog as the pair have scored a put pilot commitment for a new comedy about two life-long friends that must adapt to a new way of life when one of them gets engaged. The project, which is loosely based on the pair's real-life exploits, is set up at Warner Bros. Television with Martin and Schiff writing and executive producing.

LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE (ABC) - The Alphabet's mini-series update of Laura Ingalls-Wilder's classic book series has been quietly scheduled to begin Saturday, March 26 as part of the network's "Wonderful World of Disney" franchise. Here's how ABC's press materials describe the project: "For nearly a decade (1975-1983) the long-running hit series Little House on the Prairie was appointment viewing for the entire family. Now ABC retells the engrossing story of the pioneering Ingalls family in an exciting three-part series that remains true to Laura Ingalls-Wilder's classic book series, Little House. For young Laura Ingalls and her family, traveling to rural Kansas to start a new life after the Civil War is filled with life-threatening challenges. They brave dangers from wolves, disease, cowboys and Indians, as well as overcome battles with storms and prairie fires. Through it all, the family pulls together as they re-build their lives while learning to depend on their neighbors. This wholesome series is sure to bring families back to television together again."

N-70 (A.K.A. THE FRENCH CONNECTION) (NBC) - Bobby Cannavale ("Third Watch") is set to topline the drama pilot, about the lives of real-life New York detectives Sonny Grosso (Cannavale) and Eddie Egan. The pair helped bring about one of the biggest drug busts in U.S. history and were the focus of the 1971 feature "The French Connection." Clark Johnson ("S.W.A.T.") is also on board to direct the project from a script by writer/producer Rand Ravich. It's understood Cannavale's casting lifts the cast contingency component from the pilot's production order.

THE REAL WORLD (MTV) - Austin, Texas has been named the home of the 16th season of the veteran reality series. Production on a new batch of 24 episodes is set to begin in the first quarter of 2005 for a June premiere date. The show's current Philadelphia-based season will complete its run on Tuesday, February 22.

THE TYRA BANKS SHOW (Syndication) - Warner Bros. Domestic Television has cleared the talk show for a fall 2005 bow on four additional stations - KMGH Denver, KGTV San Diego, KHQ Spokane and KGW Portland, Oregon. It's understood the distributor is in talks with Disney, Viacom and Tribune Broadcasting about clearances in the nation's top markets. Banks' Bankable Productions, Handprint Entertainment and Telepictures Productions are all producing the project.

UNTITLED ADAM CAROLLA PROJECT (Comedy Central, New!) - Former "The Man Show" co-host Adam Carolla is looking to get back into bed with Comedy Central as the comedian has signed a talent deal with the network to develop a talk show for the network. The project, no details of which were specified, is being eyed as a possible companion to the network's signature late-night series "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart." Former "Jimmy Kimmel Live" and "The Man Show" executive producer Daniel Kellison is also on board to help develop the series which is set up at Carolla, Kimmel and Kellison's production company Jackhole Industries.

UNTITLED JACK JOHNSON PROJECT (ESPN, New!) - The life of Jack Johnson, the first African-American heavyweight champion of the world, is set to be the focus of an ESPN original movie. Paris Qualles ("The Tuskegee Airmen," "Blood Brothers") has been tapped to write the script to the project, which will be executive produced by Gerald Abrams ("Nuremberg") through his Cypress Point Productions banner. Johnson's life was previously chronicled in the 1970 James Earl Jones feature "The Great White Hope" and is also set to be the focus of Ken Burns' upcoming documentary "Unforgivably Black: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson." Production on the untitled project is expected to be completed in time for a late 2005 air date. ESPN's scripted presentations continue to build audiences as its Dale Earnhardt biopic "3" scored a 5.0 household rating (4.44 million households) earlier this month and will likely finish 2004 as cable's most-watched original movie of the year. Previous efforts include the Bobby Knight biopic "A Season on the Brink" (2.964 million homes in May 2002), the Bear Bryant-themed "The Junction Boys" (3.014 million homes in December 2002) and the Pete Rose biopic "Hustle" (1.24 million homes earlier this year).

UNTILED LARRY REITZER PROJECT (ABC, New!) - Larry Reitzer, the assistant to writer/producer Marsh McCall, has received a script commitment from the Alphabet for a new comedy at the network about a soft-spoken gay man who lives with his very not gay brother. McCall himself is attached to supervise the project through his Warner Bros. Television-based Marsh McCall Productions. The news marks McCall's third project in the works for the 2005-06 season, the others being untitled comedies at CBS and the WB, both of which have put pilot commitments.

UNTITLED SHARON WARREN PROJECT (CBS, New!) - Actress Sharon Warren, who played Ray Charles' courageous mother Aretha Robinson in the recent "Ray" feature, has inked a talent holding deal with the Eye. The pact calls for CBS to cast her in one of its pilots targeted for a fall 2005 premiere date.

WHEN PRIDE STILL MATTERED (ESPN, New!) - David Maraniss's book of the same name about famed football coach Vince Lombardi is being developed as an original movie at the cable channel. No other details were given.

Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters





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· 24 (FOX)
· ANONYMOUS REX (SYFY)
· ASHLEE SIMPSON SHOW, THE (MTV)
· CHAPPELLE'S SHOW (COMEDY CENTRAL)
· DANTE (NBC)
· DARKLIGHT (SYFY)
· FOUR MINUTES (ESPN)
· FRANKENFISH (SYFY)
· GARGOYLES: WINGS OF DARKNESS (SYFY)
· GROUNDED FOR LIFE (WB)
· HAPPY TOGETHER (WB)
· HUSTLE: THE PETE ROSE STORY (ESPN)
· JUNCTION BOYS, THE (ESPN)
· JUST SHOOT ME (NBC)
· LA DRAGNET (ABC)
· LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE (ABC)
· LOST (ABC)
· MAN SHOW, THE (COMEDY CENTRAL)
· NEWLYWEDS: NICK & JESSICA (MTV)
· NUREMBERG (TNT)
· NY-70 (NBC)
· OUT FOR BLOOD (SYFY)
· RAPTOR ISLAND (SYFY)
· REAL WORLD, THE (MTV)
· RESCUE ME (FX)
· SEASON ON THE BRINK, A (ESPN)
· SPECIES 3 (SYFY)
· SURFACE (NBC)
· THIRD WATCH (NBC)
· THREE: THE DALE EARNHARDT STORY (ESPN)
· TOO LATE WITH ADAM CAROLLA (COMEDY CENTRAL)
· TYRA BANKS SHOW, THE (SYNDICATION)
· UNTITLED JACK JOHNSON PROJECT (ESPN)
· UNTITLED LARRY REITZER PROJECT (ABC)
· UNTITLED SHARON WARREN PROJECT (CBS)
· VERITAS: THE QUEST (ABC)
· WHEN PRIDE STILL MATTERED (ESPN)
· WONDERFUL WORLD OF DISNEY, THE (ABC)





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