LOS ANGELES (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:
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22 BIRTHDAYS (CBS, New!) - Writer/producers Josh Oakley & Bill Weinstein ("The Simpsons") are set to team with feature director Doug Liman ("Mr. & Mrs. Smith") for a new drama at the Eye, about the Los Angeles-based power players of the finance, sports, politics and the entertainment industry using the semi-regular birthday parties they attend for their elite private school children as a backdrop. The project, which will be set up at Liman's NBC Universal Television-based Hypnotic banner, has a received a script commitment from the network with a six-figure penalty if it doesn't get ordered to pilot. Oakley, Weinstein, Liman and his producing partner Dave Bartis will serve as the executive producers with Liman directing the pilot from a script by Oakley and Weinstein.
CRISS ANGEL: MINDFREAK/INKED (A&E) - The cable channel has extended the run of both its Wednesday newcomers, doubling their season orders to 16 and 24 half-hours respectively. Both series have performed admirably according to A&E's press materials: "The premiere of 'Criss Angel Mindfreak' was cable's #1 original series among Adults 25-54 and finished #2 among Adults 18-49. 'Criss Angel Mindfreak' is now the youngest-skewing series premiere in A&E history, delivering a 33.5 median age from 10-11pm. 'Criss Angel Mindfreak' garnered 1.1 million impressions among Adults 18-49 and 1.0 million Adults 25-54, performing ahead of the A&E prime average by as much as 127%." As for "Inked:" "The premiere of 'Inked,' averaged 615,000 A18-49 impressions and outperformed A&E prime by 30%. 'Inked,' from 9-10pm, became the second youngest-skewing series premiere in the network's history, with a 33.6 median age."
THE ENGAGEMENT RING (TNT) - The Patricia Heaton-led original movie has been slated to premiere Sunday, November 20 at 8:00/7:00c. Here's how TNT's press materials describe the project: "Heaton stars in this romantic holiday story set in the Napa Valley wine country. Lost in the mail for many years, an engagement ring and a marriage proposal are finally delivered. Through the ring, originally intended for her mother, Heaton's character discovers the meaning of love, friendship and living life to its fullest." Lainie Kazan and Vincent Spano also star.
THE INSIDER (Syndication) - Kathie Lee Gifford is set to join the "Entertainment Tonight" spin-off as a special correspondent. She'll appear in at least two segments each week where she'll cover the Broadway beat for the syndicated newsmagazine, which begins its second season on September 12.
THE LAW FIRM (NBC) - Despite a notice on the show's official web site touting "NEW EPISODES NOW AIRING ON BRAVO!", the cable channel has dropped all upcoming airings of the series from its listings. It's understood those airings - all of which were in the late-night or pre-primetime hours - were intended to be the repurposed airings from NBC's original run should it not have been axed by the Peacock. It's not clear however when (or if) the six remaining episodes of "The Law Firm" will actually be aired.
LOST (ABC) - The network's recently released schedule for September indicates a "Lost Special" (working title) is slated to air on Wednesday, September 21 at 8:00/7:00c as a direct lead-in to the show's second season premiere. While no specifics were given, it's understood to be a one-hour recap of the events from last season.
PARIAH TELEVISION PROJECTS (New!) - Gavin Polone's Pariah Television has set up a handful of projects at the broadcast and cable networks, just a few months after signing an overall deal with Sony Pictures Television. Among what's in the works - a blind put pilot commitment from NBC for an unspecified series; a script at FOX for an "X-Files"-like thriller set in the world of cloning from Dan Therriault ("Witness Protection"); two unspecified scripts at UPN; a script at CBS for an untitled half-hour from Rob Cohen ("The Simpsons"); and a pilot order from HBO for "Sex Life," a boundary-pushing comedy about three couples with intimacy issues from writer Cynthia Mort, director Patricia Rozema ("Mansfield Park") and executive producer Vivian Cannon. Several additional projects are also said to be in the works however no specifics were given.
RESISTANCE (New!) - Ben Affleck, who took home an Oscar for his co-screenwriting duties on "Good Will Hunting," is developing a new drama series which he'll create, write and executive produce. The project, which is set up at his Live Planet banner and Touchstone Television, tracks a not-so-distant future in which a band of modern patriots are attempting to bring back the Bill of Rights and reunify the United States after a pair of catastrophic terror attacks split the nation into separate countries. Affleck will executive produce along with his Live Planet partner Sean Bailey (whom has separately inked a two-year, seven-figure deal to remain at Touchstone Television). No network is currently attached.
THE SOPRANOS (HBO) - Mitchell Burgess and Robin Green, two of the show's Emmy-winning executive producers, have opted not to return for the show's sixth (and reportedly final) season. It's understood they'll instead focus their energies on developing their own projects for the pay channel. The pair had previously set up "Powerball," a half-hour comedy about a Middle American family that hits a $300 million lottery jackpot, at the network.
SOUTH BEACH (UPN) - Scott Kaufer ("Boston Legal") has inked a two-year, seven-figure overall deal with Paramount Network Television. The pact calls for Kaufer (through his Chartwell Productions banner) to develop new series projects for the studio, as well as serve as an executive producer on UPN's upcoming drama "South Beach." There he'll serve alongside the current producing team of Phillip Levens, Tony Krantz, Jennifer Lopez and Simon Fields.
TIME BOMB (CBS) - David Arquette ("Scream") and Richard T. Jones ("Judging Amy") have been tapped for the lead roles in the original movie, which is scheduled to air on Sunday, October 16 on the network. They'll play Homeland Security agents in the project, which CBS's press materials detail as "a thriller about a threat received by Homeland Security during a big football game in Washington, D.C., stating that the stadium is rigged to explode during the fourth quarter."
UNTITLED STEVEN BOCHCO PROJECT (FOX) - Steven Bochco is set to re-team with his "Over There" co-creator Chris Gerolmo for his legal drama at FOX, about an ongoing civil court case and the private lives of those involved. It's understood Gerolmo will write the pilot script from a story worked out by Bochco and himself with both serving as executive producers. FOX made a pilot commitment to the project last week.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters