LOS ANGELES (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:
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THE CATCH (ABC) - Kym Whitley ("Curb Your Enthusiasm"), the pilot's co-star, has inked a one-year talent holding deal with Touchstone Television. The pact is expected to place Whitley in one of the studio's 2006-07 season pilots. In addition, she'll guest star on an upcoming episode of Touchstone's ABC drama "Grey's Anatomy."
THE COMPANY (ABC, New!) - Writer/playwright Rick Dresser ("The Job") has scored a script commitment (with a low-six-figure penalty attached) at ABC for a new dark comedy set in the world of pharmaceuticals. The one-hour project, which reportedly was the subject of a three-network bidding war, is set up at Sarah Timberman and Carl Beverly's Sony Pictures Television-based 25C Productions. The news marks the company's second major 2006-07 season commitment, the other being Jason Smilovic and Michael Dinner's serialized drama "Kidnapped" for NBC. As for "The Company," Beverly told Daily Variety: "It's a dramedy exploring the excesses and pathologies of corporate America. We kind of feel like there's this insanity in corporate America: People are climbing the corporate ladder and getting pushed off without a parachute."
COOKED (New!) - Dane Cook is set to topline a new single-camera comedy pilot presentation for Sony Pictures Television, about the comedian's quirky relationship with his friends (Liz Vassey, Joel David Moore) and their exploits. Barry Katz and Jay Kogen are behind the project with Cook himself serving a co-executive producer. David Steinberg is attached to direct from a script by Kogen with Sony pitching the completed presentation to the broadcast and cable networks shortly after production wraps later this month.
DEXTER (Showtime) - Michael C. Hall ("Six Feet Under") has been cast in the lead role of the pay channel's drama pilot, about Dexter Morgan, a Miami Police Department forensics expert who moonlights as a serial killer of guilty parties. His character is described in the casting notice as follows: "30s, Caucasian, good looking, with a mischievous twinkle in his eye. He's unassuming and can blend into a crowd, yet charming when need be. He's a student of human nature and from that he has a sense of wonder about the world. Dexter is a clever sociopath who believes himself unlovable and is convinced he has no human feelings; however, he's an excellent actor whose agreeable, socially conventional demeanor belies the emptiness and rage inside." The project, which is based on Jeff Lindsay's novel "Darkly Dreaming Dexter," comes from executive producers James Manos Jr. ("The Sopranos"), John Goldwyn and Sara Colleton. In addition, Michael Cuesta (also of "Six Feet Under") has been tapped to direct the pilot from a script by Manos.
IT'S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA/STARVED (FX) - The cable channel's new comedies "Starved" and "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" opened to a disappointing 1.54 million and 1.42 million viewers respectively on Thursday. Among adults 18-49, the former drew a 0.8 rating/2 share with the latter a 0.7/2. Said numbers marked a significant decline from the launch of FX's last original comedy series - 2003's "Lucky" (2.5 million on 4/8/03).
KNIGHT SCHOOL (ESPN, New!) - Production is underway on a six-episode series in which 16 basketball players vie for one walk-on spot with Bobby Knight's Division I Texas Tech team. The project, a co-production of ESPN Original Entertainment, RIVR Media and WealthEffectMedia, will launch in February in a yet-to-be-announced time period. The controversial Knight, best known for a choking incident while at Indiana University, is one of only two people to play on and coach national championship teams, not to mention the third-winningest basketball coach of all time.
LAW & ORDER (NBC) - Attorney-turned-writer Rick Eid ("Law & Order: Trial by Jury") has inked a two-year overall deal with Dick Wolf's NBC Universal Television-based Wolf Films. The pact calls for Eid to develop new projects for the company as well as come aboard the flagship "Law & Order" as a co-executive producer this season.
N.C.I.S. (CBS) - Lauren Holly ("Chicago Hope") has scored a recurring role on the series, which returns for its third season this fall. She'll play Jenny Shepard, the new boss of the N.C.I.S. unit where Mark Harmon's character works as well as his potential love interest. It's understood she'll make her inaugural appearance in the show's first episode this season.
SOUTH BEACH (UPN) - Model/actress Odette Yustman has been cast as the female lead in the midseason drama, about two best friends (Marcus Coloma, Chris Johnson) who relocate to Miami's South Beach area and get swept up in the "dangerous and possibly seedy underbelly." She'll take over for Sara Foster in the role of Ariel, the model ex-girlfriend of Coloma's character. No reason was given for the change.
UNTITLED GARY OWEN PROJECT (FOX, New!) - Comedian Gary Owen ("Rebound"), best known as the only white comedian ever to host BET's "Comicview," has signed a talent holding deal with FOX. The pact calls for the network to develop a project around Owen, most likely based on his own standup material which revolves around his trailer park upbringing as well as his stint in the Army.
WHAT ABOUT BRIAN (ABC) - Writer/producer Sheila Lawrence ("Gilmore Girls") has come aboard the midseason drama as a co-executive producer. The move comes as the result of a two-year, seven-figure overall deal Lawrence has signed with "Brian's" producer, Touchstone Television. In addition, she'll develop new series projects for the studio.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters