LOS ANGELES (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:
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BERT & DICKIE (HBO, New!) - Owen Wilson ("Wedding Crashers"), Larry Charles ("Seinfeld") and Rick Rubin are set to team for a new half-hour comedy at the pay channel, about an odd-couple standup comedy team that can't ever manage to come out on top, personally or professionally. HBO has given a script order to the project, which the trio will co-write and executive produce. Wilson however will not star. Separately, Charles has exited his role as an executive producer of the HBO series "Entourage" as the director is set to begin production on the 20th Century Fox film "Borat," a spin-off of "Da Ali G Show" starring Sacha Baron Cohen.
BIG CATTLE PRODUCTIONS PROJECTS (New!) - Eric McCormack's NBC Universal Television-based Big Cattle Productions has found network homes for three projects - two comedies and a drama - targeted for the 2006-07 season. UPN has committed to "Evil," a serialized "real time" drama about a week-long camp reunion that turns into a frightfest. Michael Reisz ("Boston Legal") created the project and is writing the pilot script. On the comedy front, NBC is the home to "Morningside Heights," from David Light, about would-be priests, rabbis and monks who all live in the same dorm while Lifetime is behind a "Curb Your Enthusiasm"-esque comedy set in the dating service world from Brad Issacs ("King of the Hill") and Guy Shalem. The latter project has already completed production on a pilot presentation.
The company is also said to be developing at least three other projects: "Hunting Rabbits," a drama from Alex Taub ("Smallville"), about two ex-repo men who find themselves working for the government after failing to pay their taxes; "Assisted Living," a comedy from "Scarecrow and Mrs. King" creators Brad Buckner and Eugenie Ross-Leming; and "Night Fall," a horror drama from feature writer Irving Belateche (the upcoming "Time Killer"). McCormack and company topper Michael Forman will serve as executive producers on all the projects.
CRISS ANGEL: MINDFREAK (A&E)/GHOST HUNTERS (Sci Fi) - Both cable reality series are set to air one-hour Halloween specials on Monday, October 31 at 10:00/9:00c. Here's how A&E's web materials describe the "Criss" installment: "In, CRISS ANGEL MINDFREAK: HALLOWEEN EDITION master provocateur, Criss Angel will alarm us all when he attempts the potentially lethal escape, �iN-Pieces.� For this stunt, Criss Angel will be shackled � handcuffed � and then nailed into a pine casket that is rapidly approaching a giant, industrial BioChipper � a menacing, gigantic, mechanical slicing machine capable of shredding massive tree trunks in a matter of seconds. With his shackled hands in clear sight at all times, Criss Angel must escape from the casket before he is shredded into a million pieces... Throughout the special, we will see Criss Angel�s intense preparation for this awe-inspiring, spectacle." Sci Fi has yet to release an official description of the "Hunters" special.
CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM/EXTRAS (HBO) - 1.55 million viewers tuned into "Curb Your Enthusiasm's" fifth season premiere on Sunday, less half of its season four premiere audience (3.3 million on 1/4/04). That installment however followed a new episode of "Sex and the City." As for "Extras," the British import posted just 988,000 viewers for its premiere, down 36% from its "Curb" lead-in.
FAMILY GUY (FOX) - Writer/producer David Goodman ("Futurama") has inked a two-year, seven-figure overall deal with 20th Century Fox Television. The pact calls for Goodman to continue in his showrunning duties on the animated series (along with creator Seth MacFarlane) as well as develop new projects for the studio.
KILL SWITCH (ABC, New!) - "Desperate Housewives" creator Marc Cherry is set to executive produce a new suspense drama for the Alphabet from feature writer Don Mancini ("Child's Play"). The network has given a script commitment to the project, which centers on a woman who is executed for killing her daughter's murderer and then enters a sort of purgatory, wherein every week she finds herself in the body of someone about to be killed and must figure out who the murderer will be and prevent it from happening. The project, which Mancini will write and executive produce, is set up at Touchstone Television, where Cherry has an overall deal.
THE LAW FIRM (NBC) - Bravo has rescheduled the last three episodes of the short-lived NBC series for Saturdays at 12:00 p.m. eastern beginning tomorrow. Episodes had been running on Tuesdays at 8:00/7:00c until September 20, after which it was pulled from the schedule for unspecified reasons.
LOCUSTS: THE 8TH PLAGUE/MANTICORE (Sci Fi) - The cable channel has confirmed its two Saturday night originals for the month of November will be "Locusts: The 8th Plague" and "Manticore." The former, which airs November 12 at 9:00/8:00c, is described as follows: "Genetically engineered locusts escape from a research facility and go on a flesh-eating rampage. Now a team of scientists and investigators must destroy the swarm before it grows too large to be stopped. Dan Cortese (TV's Veronica's Closet), Julie Benz (Darla on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, Steven Spielberg presents Taken) and David Keith (Path of Destruction) star."
The latter, which premieres November 26 at 9:00/8:00c, is detailed as: "A team of U.S. soldiers in post-liberated Iraq locates a "weapon of mass destruction," but it's not what anyone expected: It's the mythological beast known as the Manticore � a half-lion, half-dragon. It has been unleashed by an Iraqi of ancient Persian ancestry who seeks revenge on the Americans and modern Iraqis he blames for devastating his country. Robert Beltran (Star Trek: Voyager), Heather Donahue (The Blair Witch Project, Steven Spielberg presents Taken) and Chase Masterson (Terminal Invasion, The Specials, Leeta on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) star."
RECIPE FOR A PERFECT CHRISTMAS (Lifetime, New!) - Christine Baranski ("Happy Family"), Carly Pope ("Popular") and Bobby Cannavale ("Kingpin") are set to star in an upcoming original movie for the cable channel, production of which began this week. The romantic comedy, set to air on Monday, December 5, tracks a first-time food critic (Pope) whose life is turned upside down when her uninhibited mother (Baranski) shows up unannounced to stay for the holidays. Cannavale plays an ambitious young chef who Pope's character sets up with her mother in exchange for her reviewing his restaurant, but problems arise when she realizes her true feelings for him.
THIRTEEN (FOX, New!) - "24" creators/executive producers Joel Surnow and Bob Cochran have received a put pilot commitment from FOX for a new serialized drama that takes a film noirish look at a contemporary investigator looking into a kidnapping in Los Angeles. The project, which is described as modern-day "L.A. Confidential," is set up at 20th Century Fox Television. Said title "Thirteen" is considered tentative as it refers to the fact each season will unfold over a 13-episode arc rather than in "real time" a la "24." As for specifics, the pair told Daily Variety they're currently working on the pilot script, which will "follow a man who's confronting his past" and "will tentacle through the fabric of the city, from the lowliest junkie to the highest CEO tapped into the government."
UNTITLED TODD KOMARNICKI PROJECT (FOX, New!) - Feature producer Todd Komarnicki ("Elf") has scored a blind six-figure development deal at FOX. The pact calls for Komarnicki to write and co-executive produce a pilot for the network, which will be set up at Steve Pearlman and Andrew Plotkin's Warner Bros. Television-based Class IV Productions. Pearlman and Plotkin then will serve as executive producers on the project, details of which have yet to be hashed out.
UNTITLED VICTOR FRESCO PROJECT (NBC, New!) - Writer/producer Victor Fresco ("Andy Richter Controls the Universe") has booked a put pilot order from NBC for a new high-concept comedy about an average Joe whose world is turned upside down when he realizes that his life is being driven by supernatural forces representing good and evil. 20th Century Fox Television, with whom Fresco has an overall deal, is behind the project. Fresco spent the past season behind the short-lived FOX comedy "Life on a Stick" and also served as a consulting producer on NBC's "The Office."
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters