LOS ANGELES (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:
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10 ITEMS OR LESS/MY BOYS (TBS) - The cable channel's latest original series opened to modest numbers this week. "My Boys" pulled in 1.78 million viewers for its November 28 bow with a second episode at 10:30/9:30c snagging 1.65 million viewers (among adults 18-49, the former averaged a 1.0 rating/3 share and a 1.1/3 in adults 18-34). Said numbers trailed only FX's "Nip/Tuck" (3.02 million viewers, 1.7/5 in 18-49) in the Tuesday, 10:00/9:00c hour among all basic cable series. Overall the hour built slightly from its "Sex and the City" repeat lead-in (1.66 million viewers, 0.9/2 in 18-49) and was up considerably from the network's year-ago performance (1.2 million for its "Sex and the City"/"Seinfeld"). As for "Items's" November 27 launch, the newcomer saw 1.1 million viewers tune in, a drop of 26.67% from its "Family Guy" repeat lead-in (1.5 million viewers). In year-to-year comparisons, the series improved over a repeat of the feature "Scrooge" (870,000 viewers).
ANGELA'S EYES/LOVESPRING INTERNATIONAL (Lifetime) - In conjunction with its pick-up of "Army Wives" for 13 episodes on Thursday (read the story), the network confirmed both "Angela's Eyes" and "Lovespring International" will not be returning for second seasons. Both series averaged lackluster numbers during their summer runs - "Angela's" 1.7 million viewers and "Lovespring" 839,000 viewers - well short of the network's previous original non-reality offerings. As for specifics, Lifetime topper Susanne Daniels noted "Lovespring's" cancellation was "more a question of Lifetime being ready for a primetime comedy than it was about the creative success of the show" while "Angela's" demise was related to the show's creative direction, noting that "at the end of the day it hurt" that the network went straight to series instead of ordering a pilot first, after which they could have done some creative tinkering. "We felt it might be better to take a shot on something new," she said.
ARMED & FAMOUS (CBS, New!) - The Eye is reportedly moving forward with a new reality series in which five "celebrities" - Erik Estrada ("CHiPs"), singer La Toya Jackson, Jack Osbourne ("The Osbournes"), pro wrestler Trish Stratus and Jason "Wee Man" Acuna ("Jackass") - train to become police officers in Muncie, Indiana. Production has already begun on the project, which comes from reality guru Tom Forman ("Extreme Makeover: Home Edition"). He'll executive produce the series alongside Jeffrey Kramer and creator Michael Braverman via his Tom Forman Productions banner and Magic Molehill Productions. As for specifics, the series will feature said training as well as their graduation and subsequent duties as gun-carrying patrolmen with the same training officers who traditionally ride with rookies. It's not clear when the series, which was first confirmed by the Muncie Star Press, will air.
THE BEST AWFUL (HBO, New!) - Meg Ryan is set to topline a new mini-series for the cable channel based on Carrie Fisher's novel of the same name. The semi-autobiographical project tracks the further adventures of the heroine from Fisher's best-selling, thinly veiled autobiographical novel "Postcards From the Edge" - a bipolar, ex-actress, celebrity talk show host with a 6-year-old daughter, a gay ex-husband, an aging movie star mother and an unshakable will to survive. Both Ryan and Fisher are executive producing the entry alongside Richard LaGravenese ("Living Out Loud"), Bruce Cohen and Dan Jinks (ABC's upcoming "Traveler"). No director or screenwriter was specified.
BIG BANG THEORY (CBS) - Newcomer Kunal Nayyar and Simon Helberg ("For Your Consideration") have both joined the cast of the comedy pilot, about two brilliant theoretical physicists (Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki) who meet a woman (Kaley Cuoco) who shows them how little they know about real life. No details about their respective characters were given. Iris Bahr also stars in the Warner Bros. Television-based half-hour, which James Burrows is directing from a script by creators Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady.
BURN NOTICE (USA) - Gabrielle Anwar ("The Librarian: Return to King Solomon's Mines"), Sharon Gless ("Cagney & Lacey") and Bruce Campbell ("Touch the Top of the World") have all joined the cast of the Jeffrey Donovan-led drama pilot, about Michael Weston (Donovan), a blacklisted Special Ops agent who uses his elite training to find the reason for the "burn notice" that ended his spy career as well as to help those who can't go to the police. Anwar will play Weston's ex, a former IRA terrorist and expert at survival tactics who has a love-hate relationship with him, while Gless is set as his mother, a lonely, an aging chain smoker who has issues with her son, with Campbell as a former Navy SEAL who is an old friend of Weston's. Production is set to begin next week in Miami with Jace Alexander directing from a script by creator Matt Nix. Mikkel Bondesen is executive producing via his Fuse Entertainment banner alongside Fox TV Studios with Nix serving as a co-executive producer.
CONSPIRACY (Lifetime) - Lisa Sheridan ("Invasion") have been cast in the lead role of the drama pilot, about a young Washington lawyer (Sheridan) who, after winning a highly publicized case for a large pharmaceutical company, realizes she was given falsified documents and that her client was guilty. Sheridan's involvement lifts the cast-contingency off the pilot's production. Tim Bogart is behind the hour, which is executive produced by Gary Randall and Fox TV Studios.
DRIVE (FOX) - Director Greg Yaitanes, who helmed the show's inaugural installment, has reupped his development deal with producer 20th Century Fox Television. The pact calls for Yaitanes to serve as an executive producer on the series (alongside co-creators Tim Minear and Ben Queen) as well as develop new projects via his Five Past One banner and direct one of the studio's pilots targeted for the fall of 2008. In addition to his "Drive" work, Yaitanes has directed episodes of "Prison Break," "Lost" and "Grey's Anatomy" this season. As for the FOX newcomer, it's understood several roles on the show are being recast as the characters are taken in a different direction.
FUGLY (CBS, New!) - "My Name Is Earl" creator Greg Garcia has scored a put pilot commitment from the Eye for a new comedy about three homely siblings in North Carolina - identical twin sisters and a brother - who pool their money together to give one of the trio a dramatic makeover and then move to Hollywood to take advantage of the pretty one's new looks. The 20th Century Fox Television-based half-hour was originally developed by FOX as a potential Pamela Anderson vehicle. It's understood the project will be shot as a multi-camera comedy with some single-camera elements (a la "How I Met Your Mother"). Production on the half-hour is set to begin in March after "Earl" wraps shooting on its sophomore season.
GENE SIMMONS' FAMILY JEWELS (A&E) - The cable channel has ordered an expanded 20 episode second season of the reality series, about the antics of Simmons, longtime girlfriend Shannon Tweed and their two kids. In addition, each installment will be expanded to a full hour. The show's inaugural 13-episode season averaged a solid 1.3 million viewers, including a 56% among adults 18-49 (766,000) and 45% among adults 25-54 (742,000) versus the previous year. "Jewels" also ranks as one of A&E's youngest-skewing series with a median age of 39. Simmons, Leslie Greif, Adam Reed, Nancy Dubuc, Robert Sharenow and Didi O'Hearn are the executive producers.
THE INSTITUTION (FOX, New!)/THE SWIM TEAM (CBS, New!) - Feature director Shawn Levy ("Night at the Museum") has booked script commitments for two small screen series. The first is single-camera half-hour at FOX about three couples as they weather the highs and lows of matrimony. Chris Moynihan is penning the pilot script which he'll executive produce alongside Levy. The other project is a sitcom for CBS about a 30-ish narcissistic bachelor whose sperm bank visit during college comes back to haunt him when the offspring turn up on his doorstep. Rich Appel ("King of the Hill") is behind said half-hour which he'll likewise executive produce alongside Levy. Both projects are set up at 20th Century Fox Television and Levy's 21 Laps Entertainment banner.
JUDGE MARIA LOPEZ (Syndication) - Sony Pictures Television has cleared the series for a second season in more than 91% in the country. Stations in the CBS Corporpation, Weigel, Tribune, Clear Channel, Sinclair, Raycom and the CW 100+ Station Groups are among those reupping the series, which is currently cleared in 100% of the country. To date this season, "Lopez" is averaging a 0.9 household rating.
LOADED (HBO, New!) - Novelist/screenwriter Michael Tolkin ("Changing Lanes") is developing a new drama at the pay channel set in a gun store that has been owned and operated by several generations of the same family. No other details were given about the project, which would mark his first producing gig for the small screen as part of a one-year overall deal with the network. Jeff Timon is co-writing the pilot script and will serve as a co-executive produce while Management 360's Alex Hertzberg and Justin Silvera will also receive producing credits.
PARADISE CITY (E!, New!) - Ryan Seacrest Productions and Go Go Luckey Productions have scored a eight-episode commitment from the cable network for a new Las Vegas-based reality series about twentysomethings who've moved to Sin City in order to realize their dreams of stardom, whether that means becoming a model, rock star or bigtime club promoter. The half-hour project marks Seacrest's first series commitment since inking an overall deal with E! last year. Seacreast then will executive produce alongside Go Go Luckey's Julie Auerbach and Gary Auerbach. Production is currently underway for a spring premiere date.
PREACHER (HBO, New!) - Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon's famed comic series is being developed for the small screen by feature writer/director Mark Steven Johnson ("Ghost Rider"). The one-hour project, which will be written by Johnson and directed by Howard Deutch ("The Whole Ten Yards"), follows a down-and-out Texas preacher possessed by a supernatural entity that gives him immense powers, who, alongside an old girlfriend and a hard-drinking Irish vampire, set out on a journey across America to find God who has apparently abandoned his duties in heaven and plan to hold him accountable for his negligence. Johnson and Deutch will also executive produce alongside Michael De Luca, George Agusto, Chris Bender and JC Spink. Ennis and Dillon, as well as their agent Ken F. Levin, will also serve as co-executive producers.
A RAISIN IN THE SUN (ABC) - John Stamos ("ER") has joined the cast of the Alphabet's three-hour small screen adaptation of Lorraine Hansberry's famed play about a family living and struggling on Chicago's South Side in the 1950s. He'll play Carl Lindner, who represents the all-white community of Claybourne Park in its efforts to buy out the black Younger family from moving in. Sean Combs, Phylicia Rashad, Audra McDonald and Sanaa Lathan also star in the project, which is set to begin production shortly in Toronto with Kenny Leon directing from a script by Paris Qualles. Sony Pictures Television, Combs' Bad Boy World Wide Entertainment Group and Craig Zadan and Neil Meron's Storyline Entertainment are producing. Zadan, Meron, Combs, Carl Rumbaugh, Susan Batson and David Binder are the executive producers.
THE REAL WORLD (MTV) - The show's landmark 18th season opened to a lackluster 1.56 million total viewers on November 22, less than half of its season 17 opener's audience (3.33 million). The show also experienced similar declines in MTV's target 12-24 (965,000 vs. 1.87 million) and 12-34 demographics. Two one-hour preview specials that ran at 8:00 and 9:00 leading up to the premiere drew 1.18 million and 1.59 million viewers, respectively.
RULES OF ENGAGEMENT (CBS) - The oft-recasted comedy has quietly received an order for two additional scripts. The series, which stars Oliver Hudson, David Spade, Patrick Warburton and Megyn Price, currently has a seven-episode commitment (including its pilot). Sony Pictures Television, Adam Sandler's Happy Madison Productions and CBS Paramount Network Television are producing.
RUNAWAY (The CW) - "Runaway" creator Chad Hodge has reupped his mid-six-figure overall deal with producer Sony Pictures Television, scoring two blind script commitments in the process. "Runaway" was the CW's first drama project to get a pilot order from the network as well as the first series to be canceled by the netlet. In addition to writing the pilot, Hodge served as a co-executive producer on the series.
THE STARTER WIFE (USA) - Judy Davis, Anika Noni Rose ("Dreamgirls"), Peter Jacobson, Chris Diamantopoulos, Stephen Moyer and Bethany Whitmore have all joined the cast of upcoming mini-series, about a divorcee (Debra Messing) on a quest to redefine herself after years of marriage to a Hollywood studio head. The NBC Universal Television-based project, which Jon Avnet is directing from a script by Sara Parriott and Josann McGibbon, is based on Gigi Levangie Grazer's novel of the same name. Production is set to begin shortly in Australia with Grazer, Avnet, Parriott and McGibbon executive producing alongside Stephanie Davis and Howard Klein.
THREE STRIKES (Comedy Central) - Frank John Hughes ("LAX") has joined the cast while Lev L. Spiro ("Weeds") has come aboard to direct the pilot, a comedy set in the world of minor league baseball. Hughes will play Mike Scronic, the shortstop for the Fresno Floods, who's always got some deal on the side. Alex Gregory and Peter Huyck ("King of the Hill") are behind the hour, which they're executive producing alongside Ben Karlin and Jon Stewart's Busboy Productions.
TRAVELING SALESMAN (NBC, New!) - Jared Stern ("Toy Story 3") has reportedly close to landing a cast-contingent pilot order from the Peacock for a new hybrid comedy/reality series about a door-to-door salesman and his family. The project, which is based at Endemol USA, will be mostly scripted however the main character will interact with real-life people via hidden camera in certain scenes as he attempts to sell products to unsuspecting marks. Stern is writing and executive producing alongside Endemol USA topper David Goldberg and the company's new scripted division chief Jeremy Gold.
UNTITLED ALLISON JANNEY PROJECT (CBS) - "Two and a Half Men" creators Chuck Lorre and Lee Aronsohn have signed on to write and executive produce Allison Janney's comedy project for the Eye. It's understood the half-hour project will feature Janney as a successful woman who's re-examining the relationships in her life. The network has a premium script commitment to the project, which is Tagline Television ("Psych") is co-producing with Warner Bros. Television.
UNTITLED CEDRIC THE ENTERTAINER/LARRY WILMORE PROJECT (ABC, New!) - Cedric the Entertainer is set to team with "The Bernie Mac Show" creator Larry Wilmore for a new comedy at the Alphabet about a man who juggles his home life as the single father of a teenage girl with his work life as security chief at LAX. Cedric's involvement is the result of a talent holding deal the comedian has signed with the network and sibling studio Touchstone Television. The Wilmore penned half-hour however is set up at Warner Bros. Television, which would assume the pact should it move forward to series.
UNTITLED KESSLERS/ZELMAN PROJECT (FX) - Glenn Close ("The Shield") has been tapped for the lead role in the drama pilot, a character-driven legal thriller about Patty Hughes, America's foremost high-stakes litigator. Todd A. Kessler ("The Sopranos"), Daniel Zelman and Glenn Kessler are behind the hour, full details of which still have yet to be released. Allen Coulter ("Hollywoodland") is directing the project, which has also added Sony Pictures Television as a producer. Production is set to begin in New York in February.
UNTITLED ROB ROY THOMAS PROJECT (FOX, New!) - "Free Ride" creator Rob Roy Thomas has snagged a pilot presentation commitment from FOX for a comedy about a reluctant congressional candidate from Arizona who unexpectedly wins and goes to Washington. Brendan Hines ("If You Lived Here, You'd Be Home Now") has already been tapped to star in the project, which like "Ride" is based at Fox 21 where Thomas has an overall deal. No other specifics were given.
UNTITLED RANDI MAYEM SINGER PROJECT (The CW, New!)/UNTITLED BETSY BORNS PROJECT (ABC, New!) - Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith have set up a pair of new comedy projects - one from "Jack & Jill" creator Randi Mayem Singer at the CW and another from fellow "All of Us" creator Betsy Borns at ABC. The former project, which is based at CBS Paramount Network Television, is a single-camera effort that revolves around a group of mostly divorced mothers who live in a large apartment complex as told from the point of view of a security guard who patrols the area. Meanwhile, Borns's project is a multi-camera comedy about an upper-class black man from a conservative family and his Jewish wife from a liberal lower-middle-class family who juggle raising their twins and dealing with their respective mother-in-laws who move into their crowded home. No studio is currently attached to the half-hour. Smith, Pinkett Smith and James Lassiter are executive producing each project alongside their respective creators via their Overbrook Entertainment banner.
VOYAGES (CBS, New!) - Writer/director Max Makowski ("One Last Dance") is developing a new "Rashomon"-esque drama at the Eye about the passengers on a high-end cruise line. The project is set up at CBS Paramount Network Television via Hugh Jackman and John Palmero's three-for-one pilot deal at the studio. Makowski will penned the pilot script and will direct the hour should it move forward with Jackman and Palmore executive producing via their Seed Productions banner.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters