LOS ANGELES (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:
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CELEBRITY IDOL (FOX, New!) - "American Idol" producers FremantleMedia and 19 Entertainment are developing a new spin-off of the reality franchise in which 10 well-known faces compete "Idol"-style for charity, with the winner getting a $1 million purse for his or her pet cause. The 10-episode project will likely run as a multi-week sweeps event with several installments airing each week. "Idol" producers Simon Fuller, Nigel Lythgoe, Cecile Frot-Coutaz and Ken Warwic are said to already be on board to shepherd the spin-off however no commitments have been made by judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson or host Ryan Seacrest. Said development comes within days of NBC's announcement of "I'm a Celebrity But I Want to Be a Pop Star" on Monday (read the story) however both FremantleMedia and 19 Entertainment insist "Celebrity Idol" has been in the works for several months.
THE CLOSER (TNT) - 5.57 million viewers tuned into the second episode of TNT's original drama, including 1.91 million among adults 18-49 and 2.22 million among adults 25-54. Said numbers were off 21%, 26% and 26% respectively from its stellar debut on June 13: 7.027 million overall, 2.574 million among adults 18-49 and 3.004 million among adults 25-54. The installment nevertheless topped most of its broadcast competition, including all programs on ABC, UPN and the WB.
DAUGHTERS OF JOY (AMC, New!) - Robert Duvall ("Kicking and Screaming") is set to star and executive produce a new $15 million four-hour mini-series for AMC, its largest original programming commitment to date. The historical project, an epic adventure set in the Old West, centers on a rancher (Duvall) and his nephew who cross paths with five enslaved Chinese women being sent to mining camps to work as prostitutes. The pair takes pity on the women and opt to take them along as they transport more than 500 horses from Oregon to Wyoming. Emmy-winner Walter Hill ("Deadwood") is attached to direct the mini-series from a script by Alan Geoffrion with Duvall, Rob Carliner ("The Apostle") and Stanley M. Brooks ("Living With the Dead") executive producing through their respective companies Run Films and Once Upon a Time Films. Production is set to begin in Calgary this August for a premiere next summer.
HEAD CASES (FOX) - Richard Kind ("Spin City") has joined the cast of the upcoming FOX drama, about a pair of troubled lawyers (Chris O'Donnell and Adam Goldberg) who take on underdog clients while attempting to keep each other "sane." He'll play an ex-attorney who was disbarred in the midst of a scandal that O'Donnell and Goldberg hire as a paralegal. It's not clear if the pilot will be reshot to include Kind's character or if he joins the cast in a later episode. Producers also have yet to recast Rachel Leigh Cook's character who left the series last month (read the story).
KITCHEN CONFIDENTIAL (FOX) - Writer/producers Josh Sternin and Jeff Ventimilia ("That '70s Show") have inked a two-year, seven-figure overall deal with 20th Century Fox Television. The pact calls for the pair to serve as co-executive producers on the upcoming FOX comedy "Kitchen Confidential" as well as develop new projects for the studio. Last season the duo had a multiple script deal with 20th, which resulted in the Tom Arnold-led "Odd Man In" at ABC however that project never went to pilot.
PRISON BREAK (FOX) - "Blind Justice" co-creator Matt Olmstead has joined "Prison Break's" showrunning team of Paul Scheuring and Mike Pavone. The development is the result of a two-year, seven-figure overall deal the writer/producer recently signed with 20th Century Fox Television. Also as part of the pact, Olmstead will develop new projects for the studio.
THE REAL WORLD (MTV) - The 16th-season premiere of "The Real World" launched to the tune of 3.7 million viewers on Tuesday, including 2.4 million among adults 18-49. Said numbers topped the second season premiere of FX's "Rescue Me" (see below for more info) in the 10:00/9:00c slot.
RELATED (The WB) - Kiele Sanchez ("Married to the Kellys") has joined the cast of the fall drama "Related," about four adult sisters (Sanchez, Jennifer Esposito, Lizzy Caplan, Laura Breckenridge) in New York. She'll take over for Laura San Giacomo in the role of Ann Sorelli, who's described in the network's press materials as: "First-born sister Ann is a 33-year-old legal aid lawyer and the nurturing mother hen of the group. Ann works out of a run-down office, helping people who have no voice." Sanchez had previously been attached to the NBC midseason comedy "Four Kings" as the girlfriend of Josh Cooke's character however now it appears that role will be recast.
RESCUE ME (FX) - The show's second season opened to 2.9 million viewers on Tuesday, a drop of nearly 30% from its premiere last summer (4.1 million on 7/21/04). Among adults 18-49, "Rescue Me" averaged a 1.5 rating/4 share or roughly 1.9 million viewers. Similarly, said numbers were off 24% from last year's debut (2.0 rating/4 share or 2.5 million viewers).
UNTITLED LEWIS BLACK PROJECT (FX, New!) - Lewis Black ("The Daily Show With Jon Stewart") is reportedly set to star in a new comedy for the cable channel about a former Washington insider (to be played by Black). The project is understood to be set up at Sony Pictures Television and David Tochterman's Tochterman Productions (HBO's "Operation: Desert Sands" and TNT's "Confessions") with Richard Dresser ("Keen Eddie," "The Job") writing the pilot script. No other details were given.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters