LOS ANGELES (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:
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100 THINGS TO DO BEFORE I DIE (NBC, New!) - Veteran comedic actors Leslie Nielsen ("Naked Gun") and Ed Asner ("The Mary Tyler Moore Show") reportedly are set to be the focus of a new reality series in which the pair attempt, you guessed it, to achieve 100 various milestones "before they die." Bunim-Murray Productions, the company behind "The Simple Life," is behind the project, which is said to be close to being ordered to pilot.
THE BEDFORD DIARIES (The WB) - The network formerly known as the Frog has rolled back its commitment to the midseason drama, about a group of New York-based college students enrolled in a Human Behavior and Sexuality class. Originally given a 13-episode order, the series will now shoot only eight installments for the time being (including the pilot). Jim Finnerty, Tom Fontana, Barry Levinson and Julie Martin are the executive producers of the series, a co-production of Warner Bros. Television, HBO Independent Productions and the Levinson-Fontana Co. No official reason was given for the decision.
THE CLASS (CBS, New!) - David Crane ("Friends") and Jeffrey Klarik ("Half & Half") have scored a 13-episode commitment from CBS and Warner Bros. Television for an ambitious new comedy about a group of eight twentysomethings - all of whom attended the same third-grade class 20 years ago - that are reunited after one of them throws a surprise anniversary party for his girlfriend, also of the same group. The series will then track their newly reformed connections despite their vastly separate lives. It's understood the project was the focus of a massive bidding war between CBS, FOX and NBC, the latter of which reportedly even offered a 22-episode commitment. Crane and Klarik, who wrote the pilot on spec, will serve as executive producers on the series.
COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF (ABC) - Veteran TV producer Steven Bochco ("N.Y.P.D. Blue") has been tapped to take over the showrunning duties on the freshman drama, following creator Rod Lurie's decision to step aside to focus on developing other projects through his Battle Plan Productions banner. It's understood Lurie was also having trouble delivering episodes on time, a fact supported by the show's listings often being late. In any case, Lurie will still serve as an executive producer on the series as he works on his new two-year overall deal with producer Touchstone Television. As for Bochco, the newly Touchstone-based producer will take over the day-to-day operations on the show beginning this week.
DEADWOOD (HBO) - Three-time Emmy-winning director Mark Tinker ("N.Y.P.D. Blue") has signed on to direct several upcoming episodes of the HBO original series as well as serve as an executive producer on its third season. There he'll reunite with "Blue" co-creator and executive producer David Milch.
THE ENGAGEMENT RING (TNT) - The Patricia Heaton-led telefilm has been rescheduled for Monday, November 28 at 8:00/7:00c. Here's how the network'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 EVIDENCE (ABC) - Rob Estes ("Melrose Place") has joined the cast of the midseason drama, a police procedural set in San Francisco. Estes will take over the role of Inspector Sean Cole from previous series lead Nicky Katt. Here's how the original casting notice described the character: "Early-mid 30s, Caucasian, handsome but weathered. He is a San Francisco detective with a distant sadness and quiet intensity, who has just returned from a leave of absence following his wife's murder. He has been obsessed with finding her killer, alternating between anger and withdrawal, and blames his sergeant for screwing up the case. He has a strong relationship with his partner and best friend, Clint Bishop [Orlando Jones]." No reason was given for the change. Martin Landau, Jodi Lyn O'Keefe and Michele Hicks also star. Warner Bros. Television and John Wells Productions are behind the series, with Sam Baum and Dustin Thomason serving as executive producers.
LAW & ORDER: TRIAL BY JURY (NBC) - Court TV's off-network deal with NBC Universal Domestic Television for the short-lived "Law & Order" spin-off, which was announced earlier this week (read the story), is understood to be valued at $5.2 million. Overall the network will pay about $400,000 apiece for the exclusive rights to nine episodes and about $300,000 each for the remaining four installments. The smaller fee for the latter, all of which featured the late Jerry Orbach, is due to the fact those episodes were also sold to TNT.
MURDER BOOK (FOX) - Feature director Antoine Fuqua ("Training Day") has signed with 20th Century Fox Television to develop new projects for the studio. The one-year pact, which has an option for a second year, will set up his Fuqua Films banner at 20th where Josh Dragge will serve as the head of TV development. Fuqua helmed the failed drama pilot "Murder Book," about the methodical work of two Los Angeles Police Department homicide executives (Josh Brolin and Paula Patton), for the studio and FOX last season.
N.C.I.S. (CBS) - Paramount Domestic Television has begun shopping around the show's off-network run to the various cable networks - including USA, TNT, Spike TV and FX. It's understood the company expects to clear $1 million per episode for the repeats rights to the series, which would begin in the fall of 2007. At least 92 episodes are expected to be produced by said date, following the conclusion of its fourth season. Separate deals for weekend plays on local stations and/or once-a-week repeats beginning this fall may also be offered, depending upon the exclusivity of the off-network deal.
THE SOPRANOS (HBO) - Emmy-winning writer/producers Mitchell Burgess and Robin Green have inked a three-year, seven-figure overall deal with Paramount Network Television. The pact, which begins in June, calls for the duo to develop new series projects for the studio. It's not clear if the pair's current project at HBO - "Powerball," an offbeat comedy about a middle-American family that hits a $300 million jackpot - will be folded into the Paramount deal.
UNTITLED LEWIS & CLARK PROJECT (HBO, New!) - The pay channel is set to team with Edward Norton, Brad Pitt and National Geographic for a 10-part mini-series about the three-year journey of legendary explorers Lewis and Clark across the uncharted North American wilderness. Stephen Ambrose's book "Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West" will serve as the basis of the project, which Pitt and Norton will executive produce through their respective Plan B and Class 5 production companies along with Tim Kelly of National Geographic Ventures and Adam Leipzig of National Geographic Feature Films. Norton himself plans to direct at least one of the episodes while it's not clear if he or Pitt will appear onscreen. No other details were given. The news marks HBO's fourth historical mini-series currently in the works, the others being adaptations of the David McCullough books "John Adams" and "1776" as well as the Playtone-produced "The Pacific," about the WWII battle against Japan.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters