LOS ANGELES (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:
3 LBS. (CBS, New!) - The Eye has given a cast-contingent pilot order to a new drama from Peter Ocko ("Boston Legal") about brain surgeons. The project, additional details of which were not available, is set up at Paramount Network Television.
DR. PHIL (Syndication) - Paramount Domestic Television has cleared the popular syndicated talk show on local stations covering 80% of the country through the 2008-09 season. The news means that "Dr. Phil," currently in its third season, will be around for another four seasons at least. As previously noted (read the story), "Phil" will switch from mostly NBC owned-and-operated stations to mostly CBS owned-and-operated stations in many markets come fall 2006 including Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Pittsburgh and Baltimore as well as the newly added New Orleans and Charleston, West Virginia markets.
IN THE GAME (ABC) - Alyson Hannigan ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer") has joined the cast of the Jennifer Love Hewitt-led comedy, which is undergoing several changes since its original pilot was shot last spring. She'll play the assistant to Hewitt's character, who also happens to be her best friend since junior high school. Hannigan replaces Paula Cale, who played said assistant in the original pilot. In addition, Ed O'Neill's character has been changed from Hewitt's boss to her father. Both changes come as the show tweaks its concept. Originally revolving around Hewitt's exploits as a neophyte reporter for ESPN, the series will now focus on the father-daughter relationship between Hewitt and O'Neill's characters as they work for a fledgling sports channel. The new pilot is understood to open with Hewitt's character asking her father, a veteran "Monday Night Football" producer used to working on the road, to come to work for her upstart network. It's not clear how or if said changes will affect John Patrick Stewart or Josie Davis's characters. The producers also plan to add a Diane Sawyer-esque reporter into the mix, casting for which is underway. Shooting on the revamped project, which is executive produced by Gabe Sachs and Jeff Judah ("life as we know it"), is set to begin on Tuesday, January 18.
HALLEY'S COMET (The WB, New!) - David E. Kelley ("Boston Legal") is dipping his producing toes into the Frog's pond as the network has greenlit production on a pilot for a new dramedy about a 23-year-old first-year med student who, after battling a life-threatening illness for years, finds herself moving from patient to doctor while also finally maturing as an adult woman. Andrew Kreisberg ("The Simpsons") created the project, which is set up at Kelley's 20th Century Fox-based David E. Kelley Productions. Kelley, Kreisberg and Jonathan Pontell ("Boston Public") then will serve as executive producers of the pilot, which is understood to have potentially one of the largest license fees in the network's 10-year history as well as a significant cash penalty should it not go forward to series. Former WMA agent Ross Fineman is also attached as a producer.
HOUSE OF PAYNE (FOX, New!) - Writer/producers Bill Chais ("Family Law") and Jeff Rake ("The Street") have received a production green light for a new drama pilot about a successful golden boy lawyer who has a nervous breakdown and teams up with another mentally disturbed lawyer with an anger problem to help people with issues, legal and otherwise. The lighthearted project is set up at 20th Century Fox Television.
THE INSIDE (FOX) - Peter Coyote ("The 4,400"), Willa Holland ("The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things"), Hira Ambrosino ("The West Wing") and Kimberly Scott ("Family Law") reportedly have joined the cast of the midseason drama, about a young F.B.I. agent (Rachel Nichols) who works for the Los Angeles Violent Crimes Division. No details however are known about their respective characters. Jay Harrington and Adam Baldwin also star.
LADIES' NIGHT (USA) - The cable channel has slated the telefilm to air on Friday, February 18 at 8:00/7:00c. Here's how USA describes the project: "When insurance investigators Susan Vercillino and Jesse Grant attempt to recover embezzled money for a client, they soon realize this particular case is more dangerous than any they have faced before. Trailing the stolen money, the two intrepid investigators are shocked to discover that a number of female bank employees have been murdered -- and a serial killer is on the loose. Jesse and Susan discover the women have been seduced by one of the killers, a charming and handsome con artist named Art Kirkland convinced to steal money from their employers, then murdered. What they don't at first suspect is that the murderers are father and son. Having found the link between these murders, Susan and Jesse must stop the killers before they strike again. Starring Paul Michael Glaser ("Starsky & Hutch"), Colin Ferguson ("Coupling") and Claudette Mink ("Paycheck")."
LOVE LINDSEY/HATE HANNAH (The WB, New!) - Andrew Kreisberg ("Hope & Faith") is developing a new comedy at the netlet about a man who falls in love with his ex-wife's sister. No other details were given about the project.
THE REAL WORLD (MTV) - The cable channel has pacted with Bunim-Murray Productions for a massive multi-year renewal deal of the company's "The Real World" franchise. The deal includes five more seasons of "The Real World," taking it to its 20th season in 2008, as well as two additional seasons of "The Real World/Road Rules Challenge" (through 2006, its 11th season). Still up in the air however is the fate of "Road Rules," which completed its 13th installment in September. Production on season 16 of "The Real World," this time set in Austin, Texas, is set to begin shortly for a June launch. The series remains one of MTV's top draws, especially in the network's key 12-34 demographic where it finished as the top cable series in said group last year.
PAINKILLER JANE (Sci Fi) - Emmanuelle Vaugier ("Smallville") has been cast in the title role of the two-hour backdoor pilot, about a young Marine officer who acquires rapid self-healing powers after being exposed to a biochemical weapon. Walker Howard ("CSI: Crime Scene Investigation") has also been cast in the project, which is set up at the NBC Universal Television and MGM Television.
SMALLPOX (FX) - A solid 3.0 million viewers tuned into Sunday's original movie, including a 1.4 rating/3 share in adults 18-49. An encore at 10:00/9:00c also fared well, earning 1.4 million viewers.
THAT'S FUNNY (Syndication) - October Moon Television has confirmed the series will return for a second season this fall. The half-hour series, which features video clips and taped pranks, will also expand from to 143 markets from its current clearance of just over 100 markets. Rondell Sheridan ("That's So Raven") hosts the project, which is executive produced by Vin Di Bona ("America's Funniest Home Videos").
UNTITLED LOUIS C.K. PROJECT (HBO) - The pay channel has issued its first multi-camera pilot order in its history as the network is moving forward with its untitled sitcom from actor/writer Louis C.K. The project centers on a middle-class couple with a kid with Louis C.K. playing the father. He'll also write and executive produce the project, which is set up at HBO Independent Productions, with his manager at 3 Arts Entertainment, Dave Becky.
UNTITLED RICK FOX PROJECT (ABC, New!) - Former Los Angeles Laker Rick Fox ("Oz") has signed a one-year talent holding deal with the network and Touchstone Television. The pact calls for the pair to develop a series project for Fox or cast him in one of their existing properties.
WHOSE LINE IS IT ANYWAY? (ABC) - ABC Family has licensed the 25 unaired episodes of the now defunct sketch-comedy series from Warner Bros. Domestic Cable Distribution. Said episodes will begin airing Mondays at 8:00/7:00c and 9:00/8:00c beginning January 17. The cable channel has been carrying repeats of the series since Jaunary 2002 with episodes currently airing weeknights at 10:00/9:00c. "Whose Line" has fared particularly well for ABC Family as the series averaged a solid 1.4 million viewers last month and helped the network finish the year with its highest-ever tally in its target 18-34 demographic.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters