LOS ANGELES (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:
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THE ADVENTURES OF BIG HANDSOME GUY AND HIS LITTLE FRIEND (FOX, New!) - Writer/producers Josh Sternin and Jeff Ventimilia ("Kitchen Confidential") have landed a script order from FOX for a new single-camera comedy set up at 20th Century Fox Television. The project is based on the short film of the same name from Jason Winer and Hayes MacArthur, about their real-life friendship, and how everything comes easy for MacArthur ("the big handsome guy"), but not Winer ("his little friend"). The pair will co-write the script with Sternin and Ventimilia as well as topline the pilot. Sternin and Ventimilia then will serve as executive producers and showrunners should the project move forward to series.
AL IN THE FAMILY (CBS, New!) - Al Sharpton ("I Hate My Job") is in talks to topline a new comedy at the Eye and Paramount Network Television. The project, which is said to be nearing a script commitment from the network, is described as a family comedy with Sharpton playing off his larger-than-life personality. Feature writer Peter Ackerman ("Ice Age") and Jamie Widdoes ("Out of Practice") are attached to write and direct respectively, with both serving as executive producers along with Bruce Cherat and Jeffrey Kramer.
CABLE RATINGS ROUND-UP - This past Friday saw a new holiday-themed episode of USA's "Monk" draw 5.48 million viewers, including a 1.7 rating/5 share among adults 18-49. On Saturday, Hallmark's original movie "Love's Long Journey" hit a network record of 2.93 million total viewers. Over on Sunday, the fifth-season finale of HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm" averaged 1.1 million viewers while Showtime launched its new drama "Sleeper Cell" to the tune of just 296,000 viewers. Also on Sunday, the ABC Family original "Chasing Christmas" saw 3.2 million tune in. And on Monday, Lifetime's original movie "Recipe for a Perfect Christmas" drew 3.3 million total viewers, including a 1.6 rating/4 share among women 18-49, while fellow original "The Engagement Ring" on TNT drew 3.2 million viewers.
CRISTINA'S COURT (A.K.A. UNTITLED CHRISTINA PEREZ PROJECT) (Syndication) - Twentieth Television has cleared the court series on local stations covering 55% of the country for a fall 2006 launch. The project, which features the former host of Telemundo's "La Corte de Familia," has been cleared on the various Fox owned-and-operated stations, including WNYW-WWOR New York, KTTV-KCOP Los Angeles, WFLD-WPWR Chicago, WTXF Philadelphia and WFXT Boston, as well as stations from the Sinclair Broadcast Group, Raycom Media and Lockwood Broadcasting groups. Peter Brennan ("Judge Judy") is the executive producer of the series.
DIRT/LOW LIFE (A.K.A. UNTITLED EDDIE IZZARD PROJECT) (FX, New!) - The cable channel is moving forward on two of its drama projects, ordering both Eddie Izzard's "Lowlife" and Courteney Cox & David Arquette's "Dirt" to pilot. The former revolves around a family of grifters who take the identity of an upper-middle-class suburban family in Louisiana. Izzard will play the father, who after hitting a spiritual and midlife crisis, begins to question their lifestyle, just as his wife, newly sprung from prison, rejoins the family. Playwright Dmitry Lipkin wrote the pilot script and will executive produce along with Izzard and Maverick Television's Guy Oseary, Michael Rosenberg and Mark Morgan. The latter then concerns a tabloid editor and her right-hand photographer as they navigate the murky world of celebrity journalism. Matthew Carnahan ("Fastlane") is behind the project, which is set up at Cox and Arquette's Warner Bros. Television-based Coquette Productions.
FLORY (ABC, New!) - Mel Gibson's Con Artist Productions, Jaffe/Braunstein Productions and Sladek/Taaffe Productions are set to team for a new original movie at the Alphabet based on the real-life love story of a Dutch Jew named Flory Van Beek and the non-Jewish boyfriend who sheltered her from the Nazis. Cynthia Saunders ("Profiler") has been tapped to write a script outline, which could be greenlighted as a two-hour movie or a four-hour mini-series. Nancy Cotton, Bruce Davey, Michael Jaffe, Howard Braunstein, Daniel Sladek and Chris Taaffe then will serve as executive producers however Gibson himself has yet to sign on to serve as an executive producer.
HAPPY HOUR (FOX) - FOX has formally ordered the comedy project, about a pair of roommates "one who's been damaged by love, and another who's been blinded by love," to pilot. Jeff Filgo and Jackie Filgo ("That 70s Show") are behind "Happy Hour," which is set up at the Warner Bros. Television-based Werner-Gold-Miller. Also serving as executive producers are Tom Werner, Eric Gold and Jimmy Miller.
HOLLIS & RAE (ABC, New!) - Emmy-winner Steven Bochco ("Commander-In-Chief") and Oscar-winner Callie Khouri ("Thelma & Louise") are set to team for a new drama at the Alphabet and Touchstone Television about two 30-year-old female best friends, a detective and a prosecuting attorney, who tackle criminal cases in a small southern town. The network has greenlighted production on the pilot which Khouri will write based on a story from the duo. The pair will also executive produce through Bochco's Touchstone-based banner.
KIDNAPPED (NBC) - Emmy-winner Dana Delany ("China Beach") has been cast in the drama pilot, about a wealthy New York family whose 15-year-old son is kidnapped and held for ransom, with the story being told from multiple points of view. She'll play Ellie Cain, the mother of the kidnapped boy. Her character is described in the casting notice as: "Early 40s, attractive. Conrad's blue-blooded, silver spooned wife, the daughter of a Pierpont Morgan banking type figure. Ellie appears to be the perfect society maven, when in reality she dabbles in pills, alcohol, and the occasional afternoon dalliance with a powerful U.S. Senator, who people are calling the next President of the United States. Ellie desperately wants Leopold returned, but at the same time, wants to protect the family name and fortune." Delany joins the previously cast Mykelti Williamson, Carmen Ejogo, Boris McGiver, Linus Roache and Delroy Lindo. Michael Dinner, Jason Smilovic, Sarah Timberman and Carl Beverly are behind the project, which comes from the latter pair's Sony Pictures Television-based 25C Productions.
MO'S HOUSE (ABC, New!) - Former "The Parkers" star Mo'Nique, one of the original "Queens of Comedy," has inked a development deal with the Alphabet and Touchstone Television. The pact calls for the network and studio to develop a series project around the comedian, with Sara Finney-Johnson ("The Parkers") attached to pen the pilot script. It's understood the comedy will be based on Mo'Nique's own life experiences with the comic playing a working class married mother who works at a neighborhood grocery store in a town outside of Baltimore. Finney-Johnson then will executive produce along with Sherri McGhee McCovey and Courtney Conte while Mo'Nique herself will also receive a producer credit.
MOOCHERS (CBS, New!) - Dr. Phil McGraw ("Dr. Phil") and son Jay McGraw ("Renovate My Family") have booked a six-episode order at the Eye for a new unscripted series in which they help people rid their lives of deadbeat relatives and friends who've overstayed their welcome. The project is set up at the pair's Stage 29 Productions however neither is expected to host. As for specifics, like ABC Family's "Kicked Out," "Moochers" will assist the offending parties in getting them to stand on their own two feet by getting them jobs and setting them up with apartments. In addition, the show will also work with those who've been mooched, to show them how they might have turned into enablers, as well as remodel the moochers' rooms to prevent them from returning.
SPIKE TV UNSCRIPTED PROJECTS (Spike TV, New!) - The cable channel has detailed a handful of its unscripted projects in the works for next year. Already given the green light is "Fresh Baked Videogames," a half-hour late-night series hosted by Bert Kreischer that sends up videogame culture via sketches, animated bits and man-on-the-street segments. Spike has ordered 13 installments of the project, which will premiere in January. Charlie Siskel, John Rosenberg, David Moodie, David Getson and Jonathan Drubner are the executive producers. "Fresh" joins newcomers "King of Vegas" and "Pros vs. Joes" as well as new seasons of "World's Most Amazing Videos" and "Carpocalypse."
Also in development: "American Caveman," a late-night gameshow from Stuart Krasnow ("Average Joe") in which contestants are challenged to unleash their Neanderthal; "Raising the Roofs," an unscripted comedy from The Tony and Jay Show's Jay Blumenfield and Anthony Marsh and 3 Arts Entertainment about a working actor and his small-town relatives living it up in Hollywood; "Big Iron," from Scott Hallock, Kevin Healey, Peter Greene and Nick Perlmuter, in which regular guys get the chance to operate heavy machinery; "Bullrun," about the popular racecar rally and the fans, drivers and souped-up cars that make up the annual event, from the Maloof brothers, Andrew Jameson and Bullrun founders Andrew Duncan and David Green; "Wrecking Havoc," a docu-reality series from Liberal Media and Bruce Toms ("Nanny 911") about the misadventures of Houston's real-life tow-truck wreckers, who compete for the town's newly totaled vehicles; "Disorderly Conduct: Video on Patrol," from Cheri Brownlee, a clip show of police footage highlighting high-speed chases, car crashes and roadside drug busts; and an untitled weekly hour shot in Las Vegas showcasing comedy, musical and off-the-wall novelty acts.
UNTITLED ALAN SPENCER PROJECT (FOX, New!) - "Sledge Hammer!" creator Alan Spencer is set to team with producer Brad Johnson for a new multi-camera comedy at FOX about the current state of male-female relationships. No plot specifics however were given about the project, which is set up at Johnson's 20th Century Fox Television-based Watson Pond banner.
UNTITLED BRANDY PROJECT (The WB) - "Girlfriends" creator Mara Brock Akil has been tapped to pen the pilot script to Brandy's comedy vehicle for the WB. The project, which is set up at Craig Zadan and Neil Meron's Touchstone Television-based Storyline Entertainment, will revolve around a die-hard New Yorker (Brandy) who moves to Los Angeles to take a job as an entertainment editor. Akil's involvement however is in second position to her duties on "Girlfriends." Akil, Zadan and Meron then will serve as executive producers with Brandy herself, along with her mother/manager Sonja Norwood, co-executive producing.
UNTITLED DONAL LOGUE PROJECT (ABC, New!) - Former "Grounded for Life" star Donal Logue and "Ed" creators Rob Burnett and Jon Beckerman are set to team for a new comedy about a group of blue-collar guys in New York City who decide to rob a celebrity. The project, which is set up at David Letterman's Worldwide Pants and Touchstone Television, will be penned and executive produced by the duo with Burnett attached to direct. It's understood the producers are still trying to determine which celebrity will be targeted on the show. Jeff Goldblum had been discussed as a possible option however the actor passed on being involved. Logue himself will also serve as a producer.
UNTITLED HARVEY FIERSTEIN PROJECT (FOX) - Harvey Fierstein's comedy project from Craig Zadan and Neil Meron's Touchstone Television-based Storyline Entertainment has found a new home. Previously set up at ABC, the half-hour is now in the works at FOX with David Richardson ("8 Simple Rules") attached to co-write the pilot script with Fierstein. The Seaside Heights, N.J.-based project will feature Fierstein (in drag) as a blue-collar mom raising two kids. Zadan, Meron and Richardson then will serve as executive producers with Fierstein as a co-executive producer.
UNTITLED JUNE RAPHAEL/CASEY WILSON PROJECT (UPN, New!) - Comedians June Raphael and Casey Wilson have been tapped to star in a potential new comedy series at the netlet and Regency Television. David Richardson ("8 Simple Rules") is on board to executive produce the project, additional details of which weren't specified.
UNTITLED RACHAEL RAY PROJECT (Syndication) - King World Productions has cleared the series in all top 25 markets and 46 of the top 50 for its fall 2006 launch. Among those carrying the series, which launches in the fall of 2006, are WABC New York, KCBS Los Angeles, WBBM Chicago, WPVI Philadelphia, WBZ Boston, KPIX San Francisco, KTVT Dallas/Ft. Worth, WTTG Washington, D.C., WXIA Atlanta and KPRC Houston. Said project will replace Buena Vista Television's "The Tony Danza Show" in the New York and Philadelphia markets, putting the future of "Danza" in jeopardy. As for the Ray project, the series plans to originate from New York with Harpo Productions, Scripps Networks and Watch Entertainment producing in association with King World.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters