LOS ANGELES (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:
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BIG LOVE/DEADWOOD (HBO) - Promos currently running on the pay channel indicate HBO has bumped up the premiere of its new dramedy "Big Love" to March. Said project, about a Mormon polygamist (Bill Paxton) and his three wives, will follow "The Sopranos" long-awaited sixth season on Sunday nights at 10:00/9:00c (exact date TBA). The news means that HBO will hold "Deadwood's" third season until June where it will likely serve as a lead-in to the new season of "Entourage" and new multi-camera sitcom "Lucky Louie."
THE DEAD ZONE/MONK (USA) - A note on "Monk's" official web site indicates the show's fourth season will resume on Friday, January 13 at 10:00/9:00c. Likewise, a similar note on "The Dead Zone's" official web site mentions new episodes will return on Sunday, June 11 at 10:00/9:00c. Both series will offer up special holiday episodes next weekend on December 2 and December 4 at 10:00/9:00c respectively.
FOR PETE'S SAKE (NBC, New!) - Katalyst partners Ashton Kutcher, Jason Goldberg and Carey Burke have set up a new multi-camera workplace comedy at the Peacock about a group of five people who continually die and fail to get into heaven, thus sending them back to Earth for another go around. Eric Gililland ("That '70s Show") is behind the project, which he'll executive produce along with the 20th Century Fox Television-based trio. As for specifics, it's understood their workplace settings will change with each "life" (every couple of episodes) however the core essence of the characters and their relationships will remain constant. FOX has given a script order to the project, with a penalty attached if it doesn't go to pilot.
GAMESHOW MARATHON (CBS, New!) - The Eye has quietly given a seven-episode order to a new game show in which six celebrity contestants compete in various classic formats - including "Match Game," "What's My Line?" and "Card Sharks" - one per week, until a champion is crowned. Granada America and FremantleMedia North America, who together own the rights to the Mark Goodson/Bill Todman library of classic game shows, are behind the project, which is based on the U.K. format "Ant & Dec's Gameshow Marathon." It's understood audiences at home will also have a chance to win the prizes the celebrities win, while a charitable donation will also be handed out on behalf of the two finalists. Fremantle North America CEO Cecile Frot-Coutaz and Granada America CEO Paul Jackson will executive produce "Gameshow Marathon," additional details of which weren't mentioned.
GROSS ENTERTAINMENT PROJECTS (New!) - Touchstone Television-based producer Matthew Gross (ABC's "Neighbors") has set up four drama projects at the broadcast networks, including three dramas at ABC and one at NBC. The latter project, entitled "Bond Street," revolves around an ultra-hip New York hotel. Zev Borow and Matthew Carnahan ("Fastlane") are behind the drama with hotel/restaurant impresario Sean MacPherson (of New York's Maritime and L.A.'s Jones and Swingers fame) attached as a consultant. The former pair will write the pilot script with Gross and Carnahan executive producing and Borow serving as a supervising producer.
Over at ABC, Gross has "20 Questions," a conspiracy-themed series set in Washington, D.C. Thomas Hines ("Y2K: Countdown to Crisis") is behind the project, which Gross is executive producing along with John Wirth ("Love Monkey"). Also at the Alphabet is an action thriller entitled "Day Break," however no plot details were given. Feature writer Paul Zbyszewski ("After the Sunset") is behind the hour. Finally there's "Napoleon Hendrix," which Gross is developing with Peter Calabrese's Q Media Partners. The drama, which comes from feature writer Jeb Stuart ("Die Hard") and has Michael Clarke Duncan attached to star, is based on the life of San Francisco homicide detective Napoleon Hendrix.
HEIST (NBC, New!) - Steve Harris ("The Practice"), Michelle Hicks ("The Shield") and Billy Gardell ("Lucky") have all joined the cast of the drama pilot, an ensemble dramedy that chronicles over the course of a season a group of thieves' attempt to simultaneously rob three jewelry stores on Beverly Hills' famed Rodeo Drive. The trio will join the previously cast Dougray Scott in the project, which comes from director Doug Liman, NBC Universal Television and and Sony Pictures Television. Harris will play the partner of Scott's character, the mastermind of the operation. Hypnotic's Liman and David Bartis, Mark & Robb Cullen, Bernie Brillstein and Peter Safran are the executive producers.
THE JENNA ELFMAN SHOW (A.K.A. EVERYTHING I KNOW ABOUT MEN) (CBS) - The Eye has confirmed various changes on the Jenna Elfman-led comedy series, which premieres Monday, January 23 at 9:30/8:30c. Original cast members Brady Smith ("ER"), Lauren Tom ("Bad Santa") and Rhea Seehorn ("Head Cases") have apparently exited the project, while Josh Randall ("Ed"), Jillian Bach ("Two Guys and a Girl") and Josh Stamberg ("A Lot Like Love") have all joined the cast. In addition, the show's premise has been revised to being about "an attractive, single, semi-workaholic (Elfman), with one simple goal: find true love while balancing a career as a successful lawyer." Meanwhile, as previously reported (read the story), Rob Hanning has taken over showrunning duties from original creator Fred Barron, who based the series on his U.K. creation "According to Bex." Seth Kurland and Eileen Conn also serve as co-executive producers.
LOOKS OF LOVE (ABC Family) - The long-in-the-works reality series, which was originally announced in January (read the story), will reportedly premiere in February. Scott Mesick's Mess Media is behind the project, about the "workplace family" of hairstylists at the "Looks of Love Hair Salon" in Los Angeles.
LOVE MONKEY (CBS) - Ivana Milicevic ("The Mind of the Married Man") and Katherine Lanasa ("Alfie") have both been confirmed as cast members of the midseason drama, about "a 30-something up and coming single record executive (Tom Cavanagh) who's navigating the tumultuous and highly amusing waters of work and dating in New York City." No details were given about their respective characters. The series premieres Tuesday, January 17 at 9:00/8:00c.
MEDIUM (NBC) - Lifetime's off-network deal for the series, announced on Monday (read the story), reportedly is worth a whopping $1.3 million per episode. Said pact, which gives the network the exclusive weekday and weekend repeat rights to the series beginning in mid-2009, marks the cable channel's largest for an off-network run in its history. The deal is capped at 10 seasons worth of episodes, contingent of course on NBC's renewal of the series through the period.
NINE LIVES (ABC, New!) - "Without a Trace" creator Hank Steinberg and his sister, K.J. Steinberg, ("Judging Amy") are developing a new post-Sept. 11-themed drama at the Alphabet and Warner Bros. Television, where the former signed a three-year overall deal in August. No other details were given about the project.
THE SHOP (A.K.A. MR. ROONEY'S BARBERSHOP) (MTV) - The cable channel has ordered the reality project, about the quirky characters and hip-hop celebrities that populate the Queens, N.Y.-based Mr. Rooney's Barbershop, to series. Tommy Mottola, through his Mottola Entertainment banner, is behind the project, which he's executive producing along with Jeb Brian, Cory Rooney, Rushion McDonald and Varsity Entertainment's Matt Morchower and David Kaufman. No launch date was indicated.
SOLITARY (Fox Reality, New!) - The cable channel has ordered its first original project, a new reality series in which contestants go through all sorts of tough conditions, ranging from solitary confinement to sleep deprivation. Fox Reality has committed to eight one-hour episodes of the series, which comes from Lincoln Hiatt ("The Contender") and Andrew Golder ("Win Ben Stein's Money"). It's understood the project will bow in the first quarter of next year.
SOUTH BEACH (UPN) - The netlet has confirmed the freshman drama will premiere in Jaunary, where it will fill the Wednesday, 8:00/7:00c hour during the break between the fifth and sixth editions of "America's Next Top Model." No firm premiere date however was specified. In addition, the network has confirmed it will only produce eight installments of the series, down from its initial order of 13 episodes. The project revolves around "Matt (Marcus Coloma) and Vince (Chris Johnson), best friends filled with aspirations of a better future, as they abandon their world as they know it and head to the alluring paradise of sandy beaches, beautiful people and hot spots in glamorous South Beach."
TRIUMPH (ABC, New!) - "Commander-in-Chief" creator Rod Lurie has set up a new drama project at the Alphabet and Touchstone Television. The project revolves around an 18-year-old boy who ends up as mayor of a midsize town. Lurie will write the pilot script and is attached to direct as well as executive produce along with his Battle Plan Productions partner Marc Frydman. The news comes on the heels of real-life 18-year-old high school student Chris Seeley being elected to the post of mayor of Linesville, PA, however Lurie's project is not tied to said development.
THE UNIT (CBS) - Audrey Marie Anderson ("Once & Again") has joined the cast of the midseason drama, about "a covert team of Special Forces operatives as they risk their lives on undercover missions around the world, while their families maintain the home front, protecting their husband's secrets." She'll take over for Amy Acker in the role of Kim Brown, the wife of Scott Foley's character. No reason for the change was given.
UNTITLED JARRAD PAUL PROJECT (NBC, New!) - Actor/writer Jarrad Paul ("Action") has scored a script order from the Peacock for a new comedy about a guy whose longtime girlfriend dumps him for his business partner. The project, which has a script commitment at the network, is set up at Eric & Kim Tannenbaum's Warner Bros. Television-based the Tannenbaum Co. Paul will write the pilot script and serve as a co-executive producer.
UNTITLED RACHAEL RAY PROJECT (Syndication, New!) - The ABC owned-and-operated stations in New York (WABC), Philadelphia (WPVI) and four other markets have cleared the King World Productions newcomer for a fall 2006 launch. The news marks the first set of clearances for the series, which stars the Food Network personality.
WITHOUT A TRACE (CBS) - Writer/producer Greg Walker has inked a massive three-year, seven-figure overall deal with Paramount Network Television. The pact will give Walker the showrunning duties on the veteran Thursday drama for the next two years, after which he'll focus on developing new projects for the studio.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters