LOS ANGELES (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:
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BIG LOVE/THE SOPRANOS (HBO) - "The Sopranos's" second installment this season drew 9.2 million viewers, down just 3.16% from its launch last week (9.5 million). Said numbers once again made "The Sopranos" cable's top series for the week of March 13-19, beating out the season finale of "Monk" on USA (5.4 million). As for "Big Love," the show dipped a troubling 26.09% from its opener last week (3.4 million vs. 4.6 million). Overall for the week, "Love" tied repeats of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" on USA and an airing of "Mr. Deeds" on TBS to finish in the top 10 of all cable series.
BLACK. WHITE. (FX) - 1.7 million viewers tuned into the show's second outing, a drop of 57.50% from its debut (4.0 million).
DRIFT (ABC) - Marcia Gay Harden (Mrs. Merriman on the WB's "Felicity: An American Girl Adventure") is set to star opposite Jason O'Mara in the drama pilot, about a New York detective (O'Mara) suffering from a major emotional trauma that leaves him with insomnia, little long-term memory and hallucinations that his deceased daughter is with him at the crime scenes he's investigating. Harden will play Cheryl, a therapist who treats O'Mara's character. Chazz Palminteri, Naelee Rae and Vanessa Ferlito also star in the Touchstone Television-based hour, which comes from executive producers Bert Salke, Chris Brancato, Jeremy Bolt, John Glenn and Paul W.S. Anderson. Anderson is directing from a script by creator Glenn.
GUESS WHO'S COMING OVER (CBS, New!) - Endemol U.S.A. has booked a pilot order at the Eye for a new reality series in which people from different walks of life are put together in an attempt to see if they can get along. Mike Nichols ("Tommy Lee Goes to College") is behind the project, additional details of which weren't specified.
LIFETIME ORIGINAL SERIES (Lifetime) - The cable channel detailed its 2006-07 season development slate this week, which includes four potential scripted series: "State of Mind," a drama from "The Closer's" Greer Shephard and Michael Robin about a female psychoanalyst and her patients at a psychiatric clinic; "Younger," a small screen take on Lizzy Weiss's novel of the same name about a 40-year-old woman successfully negotiating life as a 28-year-old; "The Funeral Planner," a comedy based on Lynn Isenberg's novel about a woman who creates an event-planning company designed to turn funerals into celebrations, with Isenberg herself attached to write the script and executive produce; and "Firebrand," about a forensics investigator who has superpowers, from Marvel Comics' Stan Lee and "She Spies" producers Tony Blake and Paul Jackson.
On the alternative front, Lifetime has five projects under consideration: Promofilm's "Alessandra," a Miami-based talk show hosted by Alessandra Rampollo, which focuses on relationships and celebrity interviews; Scout Productions's "Queen," which follows the transformation by experts of a young woman seeking to win a local beauty pageant; Kevin Kaufman Films's "Sworn Enemies," in which enemies from high school are reunited and then thrown together for a weekend to see if they stay rivals or become friends; Go Go Luckey Production's "Karaoke Queen," about twentysomething women who are crazy about karaoke; and Endemol USA's "Finding Mr. Right," a dating show in which women must determine which of her three dates is single/straight, gay or married - if she's right, she wins an all-expenses-paid cruise with the single guy; if she's wrong, the others receive the cruises.
JOKE'S ON YOU (CBS, New!) - Scott Hallock and Kevin Healey have scored a pilot order for a new half-hour series on the network in which people are recruited to play practical jokes on their friends and family - only to find out later that they're the actual marks. Wayne Brady is on board to host the project, which is based at Hallock and Healey's self-titled banner in association with Pottle Productions.
JULIE RENO, BOUNTY HUNTER (FOX) - Vincent Ventresca (Jimmy Savage on "Complete Savages") and Holmes Osborne (Mayor Littles on "Invasion") are the latest to join the cast of the comedy pilot, about a single mom-turned-bounty hunter (Erin Daniels). Ventresca will play T-Bone in the 20th Century Fox Television-based half-hour, who's described in the casting notice as: "Mid 30s. A sexy, handsome, athletic guy. T-Bone, who also works as a bounty hunter for bail bondsman John Wilkes Boothe, can be overly cocky. He makes the mistake of treating Julie, the new bounty hunter in town, like his personal servant. But he soon realizes that Julie's not about to take guff from anyone living - particularly someone of the male gender. Amused by Julie's gung-ho attitude, T-Bone makes a bet that he'll be the first to track down an armed and dangerous skip - but he has sadly underestimated Julie's bounty hunting prowess."
Osborne then is set as John Wilkes Booth, who's detailed as: "40-50. A slick man with "a fun sense of the absurd". John's the entrepreneurial owner of Booth's Bail Bonds and Bar, where you can get bail money, or enjoy an imported beer, all in the same visit. Impressed by the way Julie handles a deadbeat customer, Booth hires her as a bounty hunter and is soon mediating between the feisty Julie and the cocky T-Bone, but keeping the peace isn't always easy." Annie Potts also stars in the project, which comes from director Lev L. Spiro, creator Michael A. Ross and executive producers Paul Shapiro and Sandy Grushow.
MTV ORIGINAL SERIES (MTV) - The cable channel is moving forward with a trio of new projects, including an "Apprentice"-esque series in which aspiring journalists compete for a staff job at the famed Rolling Stone magazine. The untitled entry is set to begin its three-month production this summer for a premiere date later this year. Also getting the green light are "Fast Incorporated" and the previously announced "Blowin' Up." The former revolves around a team of "car hunters" who field celebrity requests for the finest in vintage and muscle cars. Tony DiSanto, Liz Gately and Rico Martinez are behind the half-hour, which was developed by Christy Spitzer. As for "Blowin' Up," the Jamie Kennedy-led series tracks the actor and sidekick Stu Stone as they try to break into the hip-hop music business. George Verschoor is serving as the project's showrunner with Pamela Kohl, Michael Rotenberg and Rod Aissa executive producing. Both "Up" and "Fast" have eight-episode orders while the Rolling Stone project's episode order wasn't specified.
MY EX LIFE (CBS) - Thomas Cavanagh (Tom Farrell on "Love Monkey") has been tapped for the lead role in the comedy pilot, about a divorced couple who remain best friends and share custody of their kids. He'll play Nick in the 20th Century Fox Television-based half-hour, which comes from creator Richard Appel and director Andy Cadiff. Cavanagh's involvement is technically in second position to the CBS dramedy, which isn't expected to return for a second season.
RUNAWAY (The CW) - Sarah Ramos (Patty Pryor on "American Dreams") has joined the cast of the drama pilot, about a family who become fugitives in order to prove the innocence of the family's patriarch (Donnie Wahlberg) - who's convicted of murder. She's believed to be playing Hannah, one of the children in the family. Dustin Milligan, Karen LeBlanc, Leslie Hope, Nathan Gamble and Susan Floyd also star in the Sony Pictures Television-based hour, which Mikael Salomon is directing from a script by creator Chad Hodge. Darren Star and Ed Zuckerman also serve as executive producers.
SHARK (CBS) - Romy Rosemont (Jacqui Franco on "C.S.I.: Crime Scene Investigation") and Jeri Ryan (Charlotte Morgan on "The O.C.") have both joined the cast of the James Woods-led drama pilot, about a celebrity attorney-turned-prosecutor. Rosemont will play Margaret, Woods's character's secretary, while Ryan is set as Jessica, him new D.A. boss. Ian Biederman is behind the 20th Century Fox Television-based hour, which Spike Lee is directing. Alexis Cruz, Sarah Carter and Sophina Brown also star while Imagine Television's Brian Grazer and David Nevins also serve as executive producers.
SISTERS IN LAW (ABC) - Xander Berkeley (Sheriff Rory Atwater on "C.S.I.: Crime Scene Investigation") has joined the cast of the drama pilot, about a group of women working in the same law firm. Details about his character, Campbell, weren't released. The show's ensemble cast also includes Garcelle Beauvais, Jill Ritchie, Julie Warner, Kelli Williams, Paige Turco and Regina King. Steven Banks and Claudia Grazioso are behind the Sony Pictures Television-based hour, which also comes from executive producers Sarah Timberman and Carl Beverly. Robert Luketic is directing.
SOUTH PARK (Comedy Central) - The animated veteran opened its landmark 10th season to a solid 3.5 million viewers on Wednesday, 2.3 million of which fell into the key adults 18-49 demographic. The latter number marked the show's most-watched season premiere in four years. The news comes on the heels of the much talked about exit of Isaac Hayes from the show and the network's decision to yank last week's repeat of its Scientology-themed episode.
TUESDAY NIGHT BOOK CLUB (CBS, New!) - The Eye has quietly greenlighted production on a new docu-soap about the lives of women living in an upper-middle-class suburb. Jay Blumenfield and Tony Marsh ("Family Business") are behind the series, which could air as early as this summer. As for specifics, the network says the project will track "the day-to-day pressures of raising children and maintaining households, not to mention satisfying their husbands and concealing their indiscretions and infidelities." Blumenfield and Marsh will executive produce via their Jay and Tony Show Productions banner in association with Pottle Productions.
UNTITLED AMY HARRIS PROJECT (HBO, New!) - Amy Harris, a writer/co-producer on "Sex and the City," is said to be close to scoring a pilot order for a new reality project along the lines of the HBO series. No other details however were given about the project, which would "attempt to capture the vivacity, sexuality and friendship of women in a big city under the banner of a reality show," according to The Hollywood Reporter.
UNTITLED BRAD COPELAND PROJECT (ABC) - Marne Patterson (Christy Jenkins on "Charmed") has joined the cast of the comedy pilot, about a band geek-turned-millionaire (Johnny Lewis) who moves back to his hometown where he buts heads with his jock brother (Shawn Hatosy). Patterson will play Jenny in the 20th Century Fox Television-based half-hour, which also stars Bruce Davison, Gill Gayle and Lee Garlington. Bruce Davison is directing from a script by creator Brad Copeland.
UNTITLED PATRICIA HEATON PROJECTS (ABC/Syndication, New!) - Patricia Heaton is understood to be in talks to topline a new talk show for Buena Vista Television. The series, which would launch in the fall of 2007, reportedly would feature Heaton and several co-hosts in a "View"-esque format. Marianela, a VJ on music television network Fuse, is said to be a frontrunner for one of the co-host spots with Nikki Joel and Danielle Sterling serving as executive producers. Heaton herself, along with her husband/producing partner, David Hunt, would also executive produce through their Four Boys Films banner. The untitled talk show isn't expected to interfere with Heaton's ABC comedy pilot should it move forward to series.
THE WAY (CBS) - Jane Alexander (Sara Delano Roosevelt on HBO's "Warm Springs") has joined the cast of the drama pilot, which focuses on a powerful New England family that uses witchcraft to further its business enterprises. She'll play Helen Warden, the matriarch of said family. Andrew McCarthy, Jason Behr, Julia Ormond, Peter Strauss, Riley Smith and Will Patton also star in the Sony Pictures Television-based hour, which comes from creator Adam Kulakow. Rod Holcomb is directing while Michael De Luca also serves as an executive producer.
WOMEN OF A CERTAIN AGE (ABC) - Illeana Douglas (Angela on "Six Feet Under"), Peri Gilpin (Roz Doyle on "Frasier") and Brittany Robertson (Michelle Genest on CBS's "Jesse Stone: Night Passage") have all reportedly joined the cast of the comedy pilot, about a widow (Heather Locklear) who embarks on a new life with her two best friends. Douglas and Gilpin will play the two friends - Sharon, a serial dater, and Dianne, a newly separated mom of twins, respectively - with Robertson as Doria, one of Locklear's children. Allison Adler is behind the Touchstone Television-based half-hour, which Arlene Sanford is directing. Gabe Sachs, Jeff Judah and Stu Bloomberg also serve as executive producers.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters