[02/23/05 - 12:00 AM]
Development Update: February 23
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 projects in development? Click here to visit our newly revamped "Series in Development" charts. Visitors can now filter our listings by network, genre and even development stage (ordered to pilot, cast-contingent, script, etc.). It's updated every day!

AMBITION (A.K.A. UNTITLED DONALD TRUMP PROJECT) (ABC) - Katheryn Winnick ("Two Weeks Notice") is the first to be cast in the Donald Trump biopic at the Alphabet, which is being cast under the title "Ambition." She'll play Ivana Zelnicekova Winklmayer Trump in the project, which will detail the last 25 years or so of "The Donald's" life. Her "character" is listed in the casting notice as: "20's-30's. Ivana is a gorgeous Czechoslovakian model, tall and blonde. A woman whose command of the English language remains charmingly fractured. Ivana meets Donald at a fashionable restaurant and is charmed by his gentlemanly manner, sensing that he has a mighty engine of ambition driving him." Executive producers Robert Greenwald and Barbara Lieberman are behind the telefilm, which will be directed by John David Coles from a script by Keith Curran.

CRAZY (UPN) - Kristin Bauer ("Hidden Hills") and David Julian Hirsh ("Naked Josh") are the first to be cast in the drama pilot, about a young therapist who gets involved in the lives of her patients, seeing her own problems reflected in their woes. No details were available on their respective characters. Sarah Thorp, Ed Zuckerman, Aaron Spelling and E. Duke Vincent are all behind the project, which is set up at Spelling Television.

DR. PHIL (Syndication) - The popular syndicated talk show will move from L.A.'s KNBC-TV to KCBS-TV/KCAL-TV one year earlier than originally scheduled. The Paramount Domestic Television-produced series will instead make the switch this fall as KNBC-TV has opted to go with Twentieth Television's newcomer "The Suze Orman Show" in "Phil's" current 4 p.m. slot come September. "Phil" distributor King World had been set to make the switch to the CBS owned-and-operated station in the fall of 2006 as part of the show's renewal through the 2008-09 season (read the story).

EARL (NBC) - Ethan Suplee ("Without a Paddle"), Nadine Velazquez ("Entourage") and Eddie Steeples ("Torque") have all been cast in the Jason Lee-led comedy pilot, about 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. Suplee will play Earl's brother, Randy, while Velazquez is set as hotel maid Tatiana with Steeples as Earl's friend Darnell. Jaime Pressly also stars as Earl's ex-wife. In addition, Marc Buckland ("Cracking Up") has come aboard to direct and executive produce the pilot, which comes from 20th Century Fox Television and creator Greg Garcia.

GHOST WHISPERER (CBS) - Jennifer Love Hewitt ("Party of Five") has quickly moved on from the demise of ABC's "In the Game," as the actress has scored the lead role in the drama pilot, about a young newlywed who communicates with the dead. She'll play Melinda Gordon, the title role in the project, which comes from Touchstone Television and renowned psychic James Van Praagh. John Gray, Ian Sander and Kim Moses are the executive producers.

INTRODUCING LENNIE ROSE (ABC) - Aya Sumika ("Hawaii") has joined the cast of the drama pilot, about a single woman (Abigail Spencer) trying to find love and make it big in New York. She'll play Stella in the Touchstone Television-based project, which also stars Sasha Barrese, Moon Bloodgood, Keir O'Donnell and Carlos Ponce. Krista Vernoff and Ken Olin are the executive producers.

MOBILE HOME DISASTERS (The WB, New!) - Renegade 83 ("Blind Date") and Steve Harvey's Nu-Opp Productions ("Steve Harvey's Big Time") are developing a new reality series described as a blue-collar take on "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" as run-of-the-mill mobile homes are transformed into something more elaborate. "Blue Collar TV's" Bill Engvall is already attached to host the project, production on the pilot of which is set to begin shortly. The producers are quick to note however the show won't make fun of the participants but rather follow "Makeover's" more upbeat style, just with a "Blue Collar TV"-style touch. For example: Engvall will use a monster truck instead of Ty Pennington's giant bus. Harvey, Nu-Opp's Rushion McDonald and Renegade's David Garfinkle & Jay Renfroe then will serve as the executive producers.

NUMB3RS (CBS) - Writer/producer Barry Schindel ("Law & Order," "Robbery Homicide Division") has inked a multi-year overall deal with Paramount Network Television. Under the terms of the pact he'll create, develop and executive produce new and existing programs for the studio. First up: Schindel will come aboard the Eye's freshman drama "Numb3rs" as an executive producer. As for original projects, Schindel reportedly hopes to continue developing procedural-style series, but with a heavy emphasis on character development. The news marks Paramount's third major development deal since Viacom's revamp of the studio, the others being with "Clubhouse's" Daniel Cerone and "Joan of Arcadia"/"Judging Amy's" Barbara Hall.

THE SHIELD (FX) - Creator Shawn Ryan has inked a massive three-year, seven-figure overall deal with 20th Century Fox Television. The pact calls for Ryan to create, develop and executive produce new and existing projects for the studio. As expected, the deal includes Ryan's duties on his 20th Century Fox Television-based drama pilot "The Unit" for CBS, should that project go to series. The pact however doesn't cover any work beyond "The Shield's" current fourth season. FX and Fox TV Studios would then have to negotiate for Ryan's services from 20th Century Fox Television should a fifth season be ordered. Previously, FX and Fox TV Studios co-funded Ryan's deal for seasons three and four of "The Shield" with 20th Century Fox Television. Ryan however doesn't expect it to be an issue, telling Daily Variety: "There are ways of giving everything you need to give to two projects. I don't think I could have done it a couple of years ago, but I've gotten better and I know a little more than I did then. And there's an amazing team (of writers) on 'The Shield.'"

THREE (CBS) - Former "Dawson's Creek" star James Van Der Beek has been cast in the comedy pilot, about a newly single guy (Zachary Levi) who suddenly finds himself the third wheel in the relationship between his best friend (Van Der Beek) and the friend's wife. Andrew Reich and Ted Cohen are behind the project, which comes from Paramount Network Television.

TILT (ESPN) - A paltry 997,000 viewers tuned into the show's most recent installment on Thursday. Said number marks a 51.13% decline from its premiere numbers (2.04 million on January 13). More troubling however has been its 9% loss among total viewers from its lead-in on average as well as a 16% decline from the network's primetime average and whopping 42% drop from "Playmakers'" first season average (both among total viewers). Nevertheless, "Tilt" is up by 9% among men 18-49 from ESPN's primetime average during the period.

WHAT ABOUT BRIAN? (ABC) - Barry Watson ("7th Heaven"), Rosanna Arquette ("Summerland") and Rick Gomez ("Band of Brothers") are the latest to be cast in the drama pilot, about a single man in his 30s still trying to figure out his life after all his friends have gotten hitched. Watson will play Brian O'Hara, the show's title character, in the Touchstone Television/Bad Robot Productions-based project. His character is described in casting notices as: "28-38, Caucasian. Single, moved to L.A. from Chicago a year ago to start his own computer company. Brian has a history of moving in with women too quickly out of sheer reluctance to say "no." Eager to have a relationship, marriage, kids, Brian looks around at his struggling sister and her younger husband, his two best friends Dave [Rick Gomez] and Adam [Matthew Davis] and their significant others, and has to wonder how the hell do you make it work. Startled to discover that he has serious feelings for Adam's long-time girlfriend and now fiance Marjorie [yet to be cast], Brian is emotionally vulnerable by this revelation. Brian is well aware that time is slipping by, but he's obviously torn between waiting for the absolutely right woman and maybe having to settle for settling."

Gomez then is set as Dave Greco, who's detailed as: "28-38. Brian's friend and business partner (they write computer games together), he is a "stoner-made-good, and seems most of the time to be in his own little world." Married to Deena [Amanda Detmer] and the father of three little girls, Dave is reluctant to commit to a pending deal with Sony, afraid of becoming, in his words, "a corporate zombie." Dave confides in Brian that his sex life with Deena isn't the greatest, but he's still startled when Deena herself brings up the problem to him and suggests that they both have an extra-marital affair to jump-start their own spark again. Dave seriously considers the idea, but has an epiphany that leads him to realize how lucky he is, and what he has - an epiphany that apparently hasn't occurred to Deena."

Finally, Arquette will play Nicole, who's described as: "35-45. Brian's stepsister by one of his father's many mini-marriages, Nic is a successful busiesswoman with her own line of cosmetics, a huge house, and a much younger husband, Angelo [Raoul Bova]. Nic loves Brian and is supportive of him in his hour of need when he comes to her, not for the first time, after being thrown out by yet another disillusioned girlfriend. Despite her support, Nic is well aware of Brian's unrealistic romantic dreams and warns him about waiting too long for the perfect woman. Nic is pregnant for the first time, after two years of trying, and she's devastated when she loses her baby, and possibly her dream of having a child at all. Her pain resonates with Brian and, oddly enough, with Dave." J.J. Abrams, Bryan Burk, Thom Sherman and Dana Stevens are the executive producers of "Brian."

WILDLIFE (UPN) - Denise Richards ("Two and a Half Men") has joined the cast of the pilot, a one-hour dramedy about a group of twentysomethings living in the hip Hollywood community of Silver Lake. Her involvement stems from a talent deal she signed with the netlet back in September (read the story). No details however were available about her character. In addition, David Straiton ("Cold Case," "Star Trek: Enterprise") has signed on to direct the pilot from a script by creators Michael Gans and Richard Register. The project is set up at Paramout Network Television with Jonathan Axelrod, Kelly Edwards and Daniel Cerone executive producing.

Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters

  [february 2005]  


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