LOS ANGELES (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:
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AMBUSH MAKEOVER (Syndication) - E! Entertainment's Style Network has purchased the rights to all 180 half-hour episodes of the short-lived Banyan Productions syndicated series, which Twentieth Television canceled earlier this year. Episodes will run weekdays at 6:00/5:00c beginning Monday, September 12 on the cable channel. No financial details were given about the pact, which is nonexclusive.
BLACKBEARD (Hallmark, New!) - Angus Macfadyen ("Miracles"), Stacy Keach ("Prison Break") and "The Thorn Birds" co-stars Richard Chamberlain and Rachel Ward are set to star in a new four-hour mini-series for the cable channel, a slightly fictionalized take on the tales of the pirate Blackbeard. Hallmark Entertainment and Larry Levinson Productions are behind the project, which Kevin Connor ("Frankenstein") will direct from a script by Bryce Zabel (NBC's upcoming "The Poseidon Adventure"). Production is currently underway on the Caribbean-set story for a June 2006 airdate.
PAGING DR. FREED (FOX, New!) - Michael Feldman ("That's So Raven") has scored a put pilot order from FOX for a new comedy about two gynecologist brothers who can't seem to sever the umbilical cord with their own mother. The project, which Feldman wrote on spec, is set up at Brad Johnson's 20th Century Fox Television-based Watson Pond Productions. It's understood FOX is fast-tracking "Freed" for possible midseason consideration following a bidding war with NBC. Casting is set to begin shortly.
SCI FI CHANNEL ORIGINAL MOVIES (Sci Fi) - The cable channel has confirmed its two October originals will be "Dungeons & Dragons II: Wrath of the Dragon God" and "Cerberus." The former, which premieres Saturday, October 8 at 9:00/8:00c is described as follows: "Five heroes undertake a quest to prevent the rise of a dragon god and an evil sorcerer � who intend to subjugate the world under their reign of fire and shadow. Mark Dymond (the James Bond film Die Another Day), Bruce Payne (reprising his role as Damodar from the original Dungeons & Dragons) and Clemency Burton-Hill (the upcoming miniseries Supernova) star in this fantasy epic based on the popular role-playing game."
And on Saturday, October 29 at 9:00/8:00c look for "Cerberus": "Art historian Samantha Gaines (Emmanuelle Vaugier, Mindstorm, Wishmaster 3: Beyond the Gates of Hell) is shanghaied into the search for the fabled Sword of Mars, a weapon of such infernal might that its possessor is said to be invincible. But even for those who know how to find the hidden blade, it isn't free for the taking: It's guarded by the Cerberus, a three-headed hellhound. And the Cerberus doesn't defend only the sword � it also stands sentry before a portal to Hell itself. Sebastian Spence (star of the SCI FI original series First Wave), Greg Evigan (TV's TekWar) and Garret Sato (The Shadow, The Mask, Pearl Harbor) also star."
THAT GUY (FOX, New!) - Josh Lobis ("The Tracy Morgan Show") and Darin Moiselle ("Special Unit 2") have snagged a script order from FOX for a new comedy about a 35-year-old man who decides to embrace a "second puberty" and start living his life like a 21-year-old. Feature director Ivan Reitman ("Evolution") is on board to executive produce the project through his Montecito Picture Co. along with his producing partner Jackie Marcus. No studio is currently attached to the project, which also includes a cash penalty should it not go forward to pilot.
VANISHED (FOX, New!) - FOX has given a hefty six-figure put pilot commitment to a new serialized drama from writer/producer Josh Berman ("Killer Instinct"). The project, Berman's first out of his new four-year overall deal with 20th Century Fox Television, will track the search for Sarah Collins, a senator's wife who goes missing as part of a larger conspiracy, through the eyes of law enforcement, family members and the media. No other details were given.
WEEKENDS AT THE D.L. (Comedy Central) - The cable channel has quietly shaved off the Sunday installment of the previously thrice-a-week talk show, which will now run only on Fridays and Saturdays at 11:00/10:00c. The news comes after two weeks of pre-emptions (for the Pamela Anderson roast on August 14 and a "South Park" marathon on August 21). To date "Weekends" has been averaging 626,000 viewers with the Sunday editions being the least watched at 427,000 on average. In addition, several writers have been axed (Robert Morton however will remain the showrunner) as the show adjusts to a slightly different format. Comedy Central executive VP of programming and development Lauren Corrao told Daily Variety: "In the first couple of weeks, the problem was that the format felt too much like what Letterman and Leno do, for example opening with a monologue. Essentially, the show didn't feel like it belonged on Comedy Central. We made some changes that give the show a lighter tone and more energy so it has the Comedy Central attitude." The changes appear to be working as 727,000 viewers tuned into the most-recent (August 20) installment. Overall, "Weekends" is performing on par with fellow late-night newcomer "Too Late With Adam Carolla" (628,000 viewers on average) despite not having "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" as a lead-in.
UNTITLED LORENE SCAFARIA PROJECT (ABC, New!) - Feature writer Lorene Scafaria (the upcoming "Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist") has pacted with the film's producers Chris and Paul Weitz to develop a new half-hour comedy for the Alphabet and Touchstone Television. The single-camera project, which was set up prior to the Weitzs' recently signed two-year overall deal with NBC Universal Television, is described as a "Scrubs"-esque comedy set in the faculty room of a New Jersey public high school. While it will be ensemble piece, one of the central characters is understood to be a young English teacher who's returning to the school from which she graduated eight years earlier. Scafaria will write the pilot script and serve as a co-executive producer with the Weitzs executive producing.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters