LOS ANGELES (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:
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BOBBY CANNON (ABC) - Kate Walsh ("After the Sunset") and Kevin Michael Richardson ("Like Family") have both landed roles in the Kevin Sorbo-led comedy pilot, which comes from Touchstone Television, Mosaic Media and executive producers Barry Kemp and Eric Gold. Walsh will play London, a book editor, while Richardson is set as Lincoln, a teammate of Sorbo's character. Thad Luckinbill, Joanna Canton and Rocky Carroll also star in the project.
EARLY BIRD (NBC) - Timm Sharp ("Undeclared") has been cast in the lead role of the comedy pilot, about a writer who was fired from his dream TV writing job and finds himself chilling out at a retirement village where he loves the laid-back lifestyle. Sharp will play Ethan, said writer in the NBC Universal Television/3 Arts Entertainment-based project, which comes from creator Rodney Rothman ("Committed"). Sharp's casting lifts that contingency on the pilot's production. 3 Arts' David Miner and Howard Klein are also attached as executive producers.
EVERYBODY HATES CHRIS (A.K.A. UNTITLED CHRIS ROCK PROJECT) (UPN) - Chris Rock's semi-autobiographical comedy has found a new home at UPN. The netlet has given a pilot order to the single-camera project, which was originally set up at FOX last season, about the eldest of three children in a strict Brooklyn family who attends a predominantly white school in 1982. Rock himself will narrate the project, which is being likened to "The Wonder Years." In addition, Paramount Network Television will replace original studio 20th Century Fox Television as the producer of the pilot, which also comes from 3 Arts Entertainment. Rock and Ali LeRoi ("Head of State") then will write and executive produce "Chris" along with 3 Arts' Michael Rotenberg and Dave Becky. Saladin Patterson, who was attached to the original FOX incarnation, appears to no longer be involved with the project.
EVERYTHING I KNOW ABOUT MEN (CBS) - Jenna Elfman ("Dharma & Greg") and Brady Smith ("ER") have both reportedly been cast in the comedy pilot, about an ad agency executive (Elfman) as she navigates the men in her life. Elfman's character, Bex, is described in the casting notice as: "Late 20s. Bex has man troubles: her father is a womanizing narcissist, her boss at the ad agency is a demanding womanizing narcissist, and her boyfriend Rob is happy to leave well enough alone - in other words, he likes to screw but never wants to get married. Surrounded by a wretched set of role models, Bex decides it's time to move on, and she orders Rob to start seeing other people, quietly hoping he won't take that ball and run with it." Smith then is set as Rob: "Late 20s, an unemployed artist who is Bex's longtime boyfriend, Rob thinks they have a great relationship, in which they both get sex and laughs without commitment - but to his puzzlement, Bex thinks they've just had 480 one-night stands. Easy going Rob believes that life with Bex would be perfect if she only lowered her expectations... and standards." "Men" comes from creator Fred Barron and is loosely based on his BBC comedy "According to Bex." Paramount Network Television has also signed on as a co-producer of the project along with Touchstone Television.
THE GHOST WHISPERER (CBS) - David Conrad ("Miss Match") is set to play husband to Jennifer Love Hewitt in the drama pilot, about a young newlywed (Hewitt) who communicates with the dead. The project, which is set up at Touchstone Television, comes from executive producers Ian Sander, Kim Moses, John Gray and James Van Praagh. Aisha Tyler also stars as the best friend of Hewitt's character. (Note: The original report incorrectly indentified the studio involved as Paramount Network Television.)
HIP HOP HOLD 'EM (Syndication, New!) - The Heritage Media Group has cleared a new first-run syndicated poker series on six of the top 10 markets - WPIX New York, KTLA Los Angeles, WPHL Philadelphia, KDAF Dallas, WNOL New Orleans and WCIU Chicago - for a fall 2005 launch. The weekly hourlong project, which is described as a mix between Bravo's "Celebrity Poker Showdown" and MTV's "Cribs," will track a guest celebrity as he or she invites five of their friends for a poker game at their home. Each installment then will open with a tour of the host's house as well as feature a poker expert who'll comment on the play. Participating stations will pay no cash for the series, which will air mostly in late afternoon or evening weekend slots, but rather give eight minutes of each hour to HMG and its partner Trans World International for national ad sales.
THE JANE PAULEY SHOW (Syndication) - NBC Universal Television Distribution has pulled the plug on the freshman talk show, despite firm two-year deals with several stations. Production on the series is currently slated to wrap by the middle of April in order to keep new episodes on the air during the May sweeps period. Many NBC owned-and-operated stations had already planned to fill "Pauley's" time period with Martha Stewart's new syndicated offering (also from NBC Universal) beginning this fall, so the cancellation comes as little surprise.
MERMAID (A.K.A. UNTITLED BRAD KERN PROJECT) (The WB) - Australian-born newcomer Nathalie Kelley has scored the title role in the drama pilot, about a mermaid who tries life on land in Miami. Also cast in the Spelling Television-based project is Geoff Stults ("7th Heaven") as the male lead. No other details were available about the project, which comes from executive producers Brad Kern, Aaron Spelling and E. Duke Vincent.
THRESHOLD (CBS) - Brannon Braga ("Star Trek: Enterprise") has signed a extension to his overall deal at Paramount Network Television. Braga, who's currently attached to showrun the CBS drama pilot "Threshold," will now stay put at Paramount (where he's been since 1991) until at least 2006 with pact extending through 2007 should the project get picked up to series. Bragi Schut, David Goyer, David Heyman and Mark Rosen are also executive producing "Threshold" along with Braga.
UNTITLED DAVE FLEBOTTE PROJECT (NBC) - Vincent Pastore ("The Sopranos") is the first to be cast in the Dick Wolf-produced comedy pilot, about an old-school Italian family who owns a deli/coffee shop in the North End of Boston, catering to longtime locals and yuppies. Pastore will play the father of said clan in the project, which comes from NBC Universal Television and Wolf Films. Wolf, Dave Flebotte and Nina Rodrigue then will executive produce the pilot, which is being directed by James Burrows.
UNTITLED DEBORAH KAPLAN/HARRY ELFONT PROJECT (ABC) - Lucy Davis ("Shaun of the Dead") and Mark Umbers ("A Good Woman") are the latest additions to the single-camera comedy pilot, about twentysomething singles in Philadelphia. Davis will play Paige in the project, while Umbers is set as Sam. Her character is described in the casting notice as: "Late 20's-early 30's, any ethnicity. An event planner, she is wry, pragmatic, supportive, a tad jaded, and Jane's [Julie Bowen] best friend. Paige has been keeping herself off the market ever since her husband left her for a 19 year old. That was a year ago. She had married well, and hopes to marry well again. She's at the point in her life where she doesn't want to be out there on the singles' scene, but can't really afford not to be out there either. She now feels ready to jump back into the game, and persuades Jane to join her. The result is a rather adventurous evening at a blind date restaurant, where the lights are out and no one can see each other."
Sam then is listed as: "Late 20's-early 30's, Caucasian, attractive, appealing, labeled a "girlfriend kind of guy" by his buddies, Sam is the quintessential nice guy. He's responsible, sentimental, reliable, and just a little uncertain that these qualities could be considered virtues. He's been dating Jane for six weeks, and not quite ready to admit they are exclusive - at least not to her - or to his pals. Sam goes out of his way to prove he is perfectly capable of dating around. Of course, he fails miserably." Michael Landes and Alan Tudyk also star in the project, which comes from Touchstone Television, The Untitled Burke/Tarses Project and creators Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont.
WESTSIDE (ABC) - Peter Facinelli ("Fastlane") and Camille Guaty ("The Help") have both been cast in the drama pilot, about an upscale agency specializing in high-end homes on Los Angeles' Westside. Facinelli will play the male lead (full details of which weren't specified) while Guaty is set as Sharon. Stark Sands, Judith Light, Charlotte Ross and Ashley Scott also star in the Warner Bros. Television/Class IV Productions-based project, which was created by Silvio Horta.
WITNESS: THE AMBER FREY STORY (CBS) - Nathan Anderson ("Without a Trace") is set to play Scott Peterson in the Eye's Janel Moloney-led telefilm, about the relationship between the recently convicted murderer and Frey. Peter Werner will direct the project from a script by Donald Martin with Zev Braun and Philip Krupp executive producing for the Braun Entertainment Group.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters