LOS ANGELES (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:
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BALANCING ACT (ABC Family) - The cable channel is said to be close to ordering 13 episodes of the drama series, about a young cop who moves his family back to the inner-city neighborhood where he was raised in hopes of making a difference. Seth Freeman ("American Dreamer") is behind the project, which stars Russell Hornsby ("Playmakers"), Nicki Micheaux ("The Shield"), Rhyon Brown ("That's So Raven"), Erica Hubbard ("The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants") and Mishon Ratliff. Kevin Hooks ("Lost") directed the pilot. No studio is currently attached.
CONFESSIONS OF A TAX COLLECTOR (FX, New!)/UNTITLED MICHELLE ASHFORD PROJECT (ABC, New!) - Writer/producer Michelle Ashford ("Medical Investigation") is developing a new drama at ABC about the day-to-day realities of career women with kids. The project is set up at the Warner Bros. Television-based Shephard/Robin Co. with Ashford, Michael M. Robin and Greer Shephard serving as executive producers. In addition, Ashford has set up a script for "Confessions of a Tax Collector," a dark comedy based on the true story of an average Joe who gets stuck working for the IRS for 12 years, at FX. Paramount Network Television-based producers Gavin and Greg O'Connor ("Miracle") are behind said project through their Solaris banner.
DARK KINGDOM: THE DRAGON KING (Sci Fi, New!) - The cable channel has purchased the broadcast rights to Germany's successful four-hour mini-series "Ring of the Nibelungs," which stars Kristanna Loken ("Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines"), Alicia Witt ("Cybill") and Benno Fuermann ("The Order"). "Nibelungs," which will air in March under the title "Dark Kingdom: The Dragon King," is loosely based on the Germanic myth about the magic ring of the Nibelungs and the Nordic Volsunga Saga, both of which also served as inspirations for J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings." Uli Edel ("The Mists of Avalon") directed the project, which was filmed in English. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment will release "Dark Kingdom" on DVD shortly after its premiere on Sci Fi.
DEADWOOD (HBO) - Creator/executive producer David Milch has inked a two-year production deal with the pay channel. The pact covers his services on "Deadwood" for the next two seasons as well as calls for him to develop new projects for HBO. Currently, Milch is working with his former "N.Y.P.D. Blue" collaborator Bill Clark on a potential new drama about Clark's experiences as a rookie undercover officer assigned to keep tabs on the Black Panthers and other countercultural rabble-rousers during the post-Vietnam era in New York, a period which saw scandalous levels of corruption among New York's finest.
FAMILY GUY (FOX) - "Family Guy Presents Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story," the direct-to-DVD movie release of the animated series, has grossed more than $41 million in consumer spending since its September 27 release according to 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. Said numbers already put "Stewie" among the top three of straight-to-DVD titles this year, behind only "Mulan 2" ($60 million) and alongside "Tarzan 2" ($42 million). To date consumer spending on the various "Family Guy" DVD releases have raked in roughly $200 million.
HELL'S BELLES/STUPID CUPID (ABC Family, New!) - Reality guru Bruce Nash ("Meet My Folks," "Outback Jack") is making the transition to scripted projects, having sold two original movies to ABC Family. The first, "Stupid Cupid," comes from writers Douglas Tuber and Tim Maile ("Darcy's Wild Life") while the second "Hell's Belles," was penned by Deena Berezin and Chris Papierniak. The former tracks a clumsy Cupid who blows his last chance to help a couple fall in love by accidentally hitting his own heart. The latter tells the story of three young women venturing into the work force for the first time who make a Faustian bargain with a mysterious man who promises to fulfill their wildest dreams. Nash and Robert A. Kosberg ("Mr. Personality") will executive produce each movie should they get the green light.
HUSTLE (AMC, New!) - The cable channel has inked a deal to license the first two seasons of the BBC drama as well as co-produce the upcoming third season of the series. Described as a TV version of "Ocean's Eleven," "Hustle" follows the exploits of a group of London-based con artists. Adrian Lester ("Primary Colors"), Marc Warren ("Hooligans"), Robert Vaughn ("The A-Team"), Robert Glenister ("Hitler: The Rise of Evil") and Jaime Murray star. To date 12 episodes have been shot with AMC's run set to begin Saturday, January 14 (time TBA). No premiere date has been set for the show's third season on the BBC.
SCRUBS (NBC) - Cheryl Hines ("Curb Your Enthusiasm") is set to guest star on the show's upcoming fifth season. She'll play Paige Cox, the sister John C. McGinley's character, a devout Christian who comes to town for the baptism of Dr. Cox's son.
THE SHIELD (FX) - Laura Harring ("Mulholland Drive") has booked a recurring role on the cable drama, which returns for its fifth season in January. No details were given other than she'll play Becca Doyle, an attorney. Harring joins fellow newcomer Forest Whitaker in the new season, who's playing detective in the Los Angeles Police Department's Internal Affairs division.
STANKERVISION (MTV2) - The "Sic 'Em Friday" block member will not return for a second season, according to the show's official web site. "Bad news boys and girls. Stankervision has officially been canceled by Mtv2," the statement reads. "The cast and crew are all shocked, because we produced a great show with solid ratings. I guess that's show biz. Anyway, we just want to say thanks to the fans and check back for future projects of the Stank crew." The show wrapped its eight-week run in August. The most-recent airing, a repeat on October 14, drew just 62,000 viewers. Data for its first-run airings was not given.
UNTITLED ERIC WINTER PROJECT (New!) - Eric Winter ("Days of Our Lives") has signed a one-year talent holding deal with 20th Century Fox Television. The pact calls for the studio to cast the actor, who's appeared in episodes of "Love, Inc." and "Just Legal" this season, in one of its projects in development, which could be a comedy or a drama.
UNTITLED JESSE VENTURA PROJECT (NBC, New!) - One-time pro wrestler and former governor of Minnesota Jesse Ventura may be headed to the Peacock to star in a new comedy for the network. It's understood the Collective's Jeff Golenberg and Michael Green have approached Ventura about toplining a potential comedy project that's being targeted for NBC. No details were given as writers are still meeting with Ventura to hammer out a concept. Should it go forward, Golenberg and Green will executive produce the project along with Ventura's managers, Michael Braverman and Barry Bloom.
UNTITLED JANICE DICKINSON PROJECT (Oxygen, New!) - Former "America's Next Top Model" judge Janice Dickinson has pacted with Stuart Krasnow ("Average Joe") to develop a new reality series for the cable channel. It's understood the project will track Dickinson's efforts to establish her own modeling agency. No other details were given other than the pair are eyeing an early 2006 premiere should it move forward.
THE WEINSTEIN CO. PROJECTS (New!) - Small-screen versions of the feature films "Sin City" and "Rounders" are among the projects under consideration at Harvey and Bob Weinstein's the Weinstein Co. The news comes as the pair prepare to welcome ex-Miramax Television executive Barbara Schneeweiss to head up their TV arm. Other projects in the works include a series adaptation of Daily Variety editor-in-chief Peter Bart's novel "Dangerous Company: Dark Tales from Tinseltown" at NBC; "Occult Cop," about a real-life New York cop who specializes in occult-related cases; "Emergency Sex and Other Desperate Measures," about the U.N. peacekeeping forces in the world's most dangerous hot spots; and "The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency," a drama based on Alexander McCall Smith's book about a female gumshoe in Botswana, with Anthony Minghella on board to direct from a script by Richard Curtis ("Love Actually"). So far however only "Dangerous" has a network home.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters, TV Guide