LOS ANGELES (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:
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7TH HEAVEN (The WB) - Haylie Duff ("Joan of Arcadia") has signed on to appear in 13 episodes of the show's upcoming 10th season. She'll play the pregnant girlfriend of David Gallagher's character from college. It's not clear when Duff's first episode will air.
CHAPPELLE'S SHOW (Comedy Central) - Co-writer and executive producer Neal Brennan has exited the comedy series, the production of which was postponed earlier this year after Dave Chappelle took an unexpected leave to South Africa. Brennan has reportedly reached a contract settlement with Comedy Central, details of which weren't specified. Doug Herzog, president of Comedy Central, told reporters at the TCA Summer Press Tour he's acting as if the show won't return and that "the ball's in Dave's court" as far as the show's return is concerned.
THE CLOSER/INTO THE WEST (TNT) - Part four of Steven Spielberg's limited series "Into the West" drew 4.4 million viewers on July 8, up slightly from its previous installment (4.1 million on June 24). Meanwhile, "The Closer" hit a series low 3.8 million viewers for its July 4 airing.
DON'T ASK (FOX) - Lev Spiro ("Summerland"), who directed the failed FOX comedy pilot, has inked a holding deal with the network to helm additional pilots for the network this upcoming development season. Separately, Spiro is slated to direct episodes of "Everybody Hates Chris," "My Name Is Earl," "Kitchen Confidential" and "Arrested Development" this season.
HBO ORIGINAL SERIES (HBO) - "Six Feet Under" drew 2.2 million viewers on its return to Sunday nights on July 10, helping new lead-out "Entourage" draw a series high 2.0 million viewers at 10:00/9:00c. The series nevertheless remained on par with its previous Monday, 9:00/8:00c time period average. Meanwhile, "The Comeback" continued to struggle, drawing just 931,000 viewers on said night.
HOUSE (FOX) - Director/producer David Semel ("Revelations") has inked a two-year, seven-figure pact with NBC Universal Television. The deal calls for Semel to serve as a co-executive producer on FOX's "House" when it returns for its second season this fall. In addition, he'll develop new series projects for the studio with an eye toward directing the pilots for each. Semel spent the past development season directing the FOX version of the drama pilot "Windfall," which NBC has since picked up and plans to reshoot.
KAROL: A MAN WHO BECAME POPE (Hallmark, New!) - The cable channel has purchased the domestic rights to "A Man Who Became Pope," a completed Italian-produced four-hour mini-series about the life of the late Pope John Paul II for close to $3 million. "The project, which is slated to air on Monday, August 15 at 8:00/7:00c, is described by the network's press materials as follows: The true story of Karol Wojtyla, the young boy who resisted the Nazi occupation of Poland with unsurpassed faith - one that would lead him to papacy to preach non-violent revolution and to build a greater understanding and tolerance between all faiths as the first non-Italian Pope since Hadrian VI, nearly five centuries earlier." Piotr Adamcyzk, Matt Craven and Kenneth Welsh star.
LAWS OF CHANCE (ABC) - Emmy-winning director/producer Michael Dinner ("The Wonder Years") has inked a one-year overall deal with Sony Pictures Television. The pact calls for Dinner, who's helmed the pilots to "North Shore," "Karen Sisco" and most recently ABC's failed drama "Laws of Chance," to develop and direct new projects for the studio.
THE LOOP (FOX) - Amanda Loncar ("The Bedford Diaries") and Sarah Mason ("Quintuplets") have joined the cast of the midseason comedy, about a guy right out of college (Bret Harrison) who becomes the first among his friends to get a real job and straddles the fence between slacker and working man. Loncar will take over for Becki Newton in the role of Piper while Mason will play her best friend, Lizzy, a new character. No reason for the change was given.
MASTERS OF SCI-FI (New!) - IDT Entertainment and Industry Entertainment, whose "Masters of Horror" anthology series bows this fall on Showtime, is already starting work on a follow-up series entitled "Masters of Sci-Fi." Like "Horror," "Sci-Fi" will feature 13 one-hour tales from the masters of the genre, including adaptations of works by Harlan Ellison, H.G. Wells, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein and Stanislav Lem. Talks are already underway for Michael Tolkin ("The Player") to adapt and direct Heinlein's "Jerry Was a Man." In addition, IDT plans to once again finance the series completely out of pocket with production set to begin in March in Vancouver. No network however is currently attached. Brad Mendelsohn and Keith Addis are executive producing for Industry Entertainment with Andrew Deane serving as a co-executive producer.
THE MERMAID CHAIR (Lifetime, New!) - Sue Monk Kidd's ("The Secret Life of Bees") best-selling novel of the same name is set to be the focus of a new Lifetime original movie. The project, to be adapted by Suzette Couture ("Vinegar Hill," "Martha, Inc.: The Story of Martha Stewart"), revolves around a 42-year-old married woman who falls in love with a Benedictine monk. To date more than 700,000 copies have been sold of "Chair," making it a The New York Times bestseller. Executive producing the project are Chad Oakes and Mike Frislev of Nomadic Pictures and Randy Robinson.
MINDING THE STORE (TBS) - Producer Rob Lee ("Blow Out") has signed a one-year overall deal with Lions Gate Television. Under the terms of the pact, Lee - whose "Minding the Store" series premieres on TBS this Sunday - will develop new unscripted projects for the company.
THE SURREAL LIFE (VH1) - Executive producers Mark Cronin and Cris Abrego have signed a massive production deal with the cable channel, which includes a three-season renewal of "The Surreal Life" (season five bowed this past Sunday) and on-air commitments to four other projects. Among the newcomers will be "Surreal" spin-off "My Fair Brady," which is set to bow in September. The pair will executive produce each project through their respective companies Mindless Entertainment and 51 Pictures.
USA ORIGINAL SERIES (USA) - Sunday's (July 10) most recent installments of "The 4,400" and "The Dead Zone" drew 3.2 million and 3.3 million viewers respectively. Said numbers helped the series top the premieres of "The Surreal Life 5" (2.0 million), "Hogan Knows Best" (2.7 million) and "Celebrity Fit Club 2" (2.2 million) that same night.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters