LOS ANGELES (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:
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CABLE RATINGS ROUND-UP (Various) - HBO's "The Sopranos" once again remained cable's top draw for the week of April 24-30 with 8.5 million viewers tuning in. Lead-out "Big Love" (#4) also stayed in the top five with an audience of 4.0 million. Outside the top 15, the conclusion of HBO's mini-series "Elizabeth I" averaged just 821,000 viewers on Monday (April 24), nearly half its part one audience from Saturday (April 22).
THE CARTERS (E!, New!) - The cable channel has greenlighted a new docu-reality series about the lives of former Backstreet Boy Nick Carter and his four siblings. Said project, which has scored an eight-episode order for this fall, will track the Carters as they try to revive their careers as well as reconnect as a family. Rob Lee and J.T. Taylor will executive produce the series alongside Kenneth Crear and Johnny Wright of Wright Crear Management.
THE CON TEST (ABC, New!) - FremantleMedia North America is said to be close to snagging a five-episode commitment from ABC for a new question-and-answer game show in which players don't know how well their opponents are doing in the game, allowing those who are not doing so well to bluff their way to a million dollar prize. Ant and Dec (U.K.'s "I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!") created the project through their Gallowgate Productions banner in association with FremantleMedia sibling Talkback Thames. The pair are also hosting the original U.K. version, which is due to launch this summer.
DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES (ABC) - Julie White (the upcoming "Michael Clayton") and Kiersten Warren ("Hoot") are set to join the cast of the hit ABC drama when it returns for its third season this fall. Much like Alfre Woodard and Mehcad Brooks last season, White and Warren's characters will be introduced in the season finale (set to air on May 21) to help set up storylines for the show's junior effort. As for specifics, White will play someone with a connection to Kyle MacLachlan's also recently-introduced character while Warren's character will provide a new wrench in the marriage between Felicity Huffman and Doug Savant's characters.
DR. 90210 (E!) - E!'s veteran docu-reality series has been renewed for a fourth season, the network confirmed at its upfront presentation earlier this week. The new season will launch this fall. No specific episode order was mentioned. Still to be determined however are the fates of "#1 Single" and "Gastineau Girls."
THE EVIDENCE (ABC) - Orlando Jones, who played Inspector Cayman Bishop on the midseason drama, has inked a one-year talent holding deal with the network and Touchstone Television. The pact effectively signals the end of the Warner Bros. Television-based "The Evidence" as Jones will either join one of ABC/Touchstone's existing series and/or a new project will be developed around the actor for fall 2007 consideration.
FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE (ABC, New!)/SHOW ME THE MONEY (FOX, New!) - Endemol USA, the company behind NBC's hit series "Deal or No Deal," has set to up two new game show formats - "For the Rest of Your Life" at ABC and "Show Me the Money" at FOX. The former, much like "Deal," doesn't involve answering questions or physical challenges but rather the ability to control your gut instinct and greed - all for the chance to win a monthly stipend that lasts as long as the contestant's life. As for "Money," it's understood the more traditional game show involves answering trivia questions and taking chances to rack up prize money - all against the spectre of an unspecified mechanism that can reduce a contestant's winnings to zero or multiply it into the millions. Full details on each are being kept purposely vague in order to avoid other networks from stealing the concepts. Endemol USA topper David Goldberg and "Deal" creator Dick de Rijk are expected to serve as executive producers on both projects.
IN CASE OF EMERGENCY (ABC) - Emile Levisetti, a nonwriting executive producer on "Hope & Faith," has reupped has overall deal with Touchstone Television for two more years. The pact will cover his duties on "Hope" should it return next season as well as call for him to serve as an executive producer on fellow studio-based comedy "In Case of Emergency". Howard Morris and Jon Favreau also serve as executive producers on "Emergency," which has a blind six-episode commitment from the network.
MY BIG FAT FABULOUS WEDDING/UNTITLED PAUL WALL PROJECT (VH1, New!) - Kimberly Belcher Cowin's Pink Sneakers Productions, the company behind VH1's "Hogan Knows Best," has booked an eight-episode order for "My Big Fat Fabulous Wedding," a new half-hour series about couples who are planning over-the-top, lavish weddings. In addition, Cowin has received a pilot commitment from the network for an unscripted series featuring Houston-based rapper Paul Wall whose "The People's Champ" was one of the best-selling albums of last year.
RESCUE ME (FX) - To help promote the show's upcoming third season (due on Tuesday, May 30), FX plans to offer an original 15-minute short that will be distributed exclusively across video-on-demand and broadband platforms. Denis Leary and Peter Tolan wrote the installment, "Rescue Me 2.5," about a mysterious creature the crew discovers in the firehouse. Series regulars Leary, Jack McGee, Steven Pasquale, John Scurti, Daniel Sunjata and Michael Lombardi all appear in the short, which will be available online at AOL.com as well as on demand from cable/satellite systems Adelphia, Cablevision, Comcast, Cox, DirecTV and Reuters New York between May 8-29.
THE SIMPLE LIFE (E!) - The cable channel has confirmed the show's fourth season - subtitled "'Til Death Do Us Part" - will launch on Sunday, June 4 at 10:00/9:00c. The formerly FOX-based series is expected to run for 10 weeks, with the second season of "Girls Next Door" likely taking over the time slot in August. Repeats of "The Simple Life's" first three seasons have averaged a solid 0.3 rating among adults 18-49 since joining the network's schedule in March.
STACKED (FOX) - Jeffrey Richman, an executive producer on the series, has inked a two-year, seven-figure overall deal with 20th Century Fox Television. The pact calls for the writer/producer to develop new projects for the studio as well as potentially join one of its existing series next season.
SUMMER SHARE (ABC, New!) - The Alphabet has given a six-episode order to a new reality series about the lives and loves of a group of people who'll spend their weekends in a summer house on New York's Fire Island. Casting has already begun on the project, which comes from "Real World" producer Bunim-Murray. As one would expect from the title, ABC will launch the series this summer at an unspecified date. Additional details are expected to be announced in the coming weeks.
TAKING CHANCE (HBO, New!) - The true story of Lt. Col. Michael Strobl, a volunteer military escort officer assigned to accompany the body of 19-year-old Lance Cpl. Chance Phelps from Iraq to his home in Dubois, Wyoming in the spring of 2004 is set to be the focus of a new original movie at the cable channel. Phelps was killed by hostile fire after being in Iraq for barely a month and was posthumously awarded the Bronze Star with Combat Distinguishing Device. Production is set to begin this summer from a script by Strobl himself (based on this article for "Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience") with Brad Krevoy and Cathy Wischner-Sola serving as executive producers.
TWENTYFOURSEVEN (MTV, New!) - The struggles of seven friends - a recent Arkansas transplant, a wannabe actor, a young record producer, a rock singer, a club promoter, a filmmaker and a reggae singer - as they try to find success in Hollywood are set to be the focus of a new docu-reality series for the cable channel. Ken Mok ("America's Next Top Model"), Jesse Ignjatovic and Rod Aissa are behind the half-hour, which was created by Greg Carney and Kevin Tancharoen. MTV has ordered eight episodes of the series for a fourth-quarter launch later this year.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters