LOS ANGELES (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:
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BACKYARDS & BULLETS (NBC) - Richard Ruccolo ("Two Guys and a Girl"), Abigail Spencer ("Angela's Eyes") and newcomer Casey LaBow are the latest additions to the drama pilot, about a suburban Neighborhood Watch Group gone awry. The former pair will play a happily married couple devoted to the Watch while the latter will play the troubled daughter of one of the leaders of the Watch. Sony Pictures Television and Pariah are behind the hour.
THE BEARD (Showtime, New!) - Maria Maggenti ("Puccini for Beginners") is developing a new half-hour comedy at the pay channel about a pro baseball player who's gay and has to form a relationship with a woman in order to survive in the sports world. Former Dodgers and Padres player Billy Bean, who came out of the closet in 1999, will serve as a consultant on the project. David Collins and Michael Williams then will executive produce via their Scout Productions banner with Jack Lechner ("Mad Men") producing.
BIG LOVE (HBO) - The pay channel is moving forward with a third season of the series, ordering 12 additional episodes. Production on the new season then is set to begin in November for a similar summer rollout in 2008. In addition, the network will slide the show's final two installments this season to the Sunday, 9:00/8:00c slot on August 19 and August 26. Said renewal comes in spite of significant audience erosion during its second season as the move to Monday nights has seen its viewership fall from the 4 to the 2 million range.
BIONIC WOMAN (NBC) - David Barrett ("Cold Case") has joined the freshman drama as a co-executive producer. There he'll helm several installments of the show's initial 13-episode order including its second episode.
BOSTON LEGAL (ABC) - Saffron Burrows, who recently booked a multi-episode arc on the series, has been upped to series regular for the entire fourth season. Her character, Lorraine Weller, is described as "a sexy, sophisticated litigator who once had a passionate affair with Alan Shore (James Spader), the chemistry of which still lingers and distracts."
DANNY FRICKE (A&E, New!) - The cable channel has issued a cast-contingent pilot order for a new drama from "Cane" creator Cynthia Cidre and "Kidnapped" executive producers Sarah Timberman and Carl Beverly. The project, which is set up at the latter's Sony Pictures Television-based 25C Productions, revolves around a tough female detective who is sleeping with her boss, gets a big promotion and on her first case investigates a high-profile murder while trying to deal with the sexist and jealous team of old-school detectives who work for her. Cidre penned the pilot script and will executive produce alongside Timberman and Beverly.
THE DEADS (ABC Family, New!) - Bill Masters ("Seinfeld") and Tim Griffin ("Entourage") are shepherding a new comedy at the cable channel about a 300-year-old family of witches who return from the dead and move into a modern-day suburb that's a lot like the puritanical society they left behind. The script is set up at Scout Productions with the company's David Collins and Michael Williams executive producing.
FAMILY PRACTICE (Lifetime, New!) - "Lost" co-creator Jeffrey Lieber is reportedly close to landing a pilot order at the cable channel for a new drama about a South Philly girl who becomes enmeshed, personally and professionally, with the affluent, Kennedy-esque family members of one of the city's most prestigious law firms. No other details about the Sony Pictures Television-based project were released.
FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS (NBC) - Glenn Morshower ("24") and Daniella Alonso ("One Tree Hill") have both landed recurring roles on the show's upcoming second season. The former will play the father of Jesse Plemons's character, a former state champion Panther-turned-local cop, while the latter is set as Carlotta, a no-nonsense in-home nurse who helps Zach Gilford's character care for his grandmother. No other details were released.
GREY'S ANATOMY (ABC) - "Gilmore Girls" alum Edward Herrmann has booked a three-episode arc on the popular Thursday drama. No specifics about his character were released other than he'll play a doctor, not a patient.
HERE COME THE NEWLYWEDS (ABC, New!) - Jay Blumenfield and Tony Marsh ("Tuesday Night Book Club") have scored a six-episode order from the Alphabet for a new unscripted series in which seven recently hitched couples - from high school sweethearts to members of an arranged marriage to divorcees who are starting their fourth marriages - compete against each other for an ever-escalating cash prize. The duo's Jay and Tony Show, AFN Productions and Warner Horizon Television are all co-producing the project, which will feature various challenges designed to test their relationships, with one husband and wife voted off each week.
JERICHO (CBS) - Esai Morales ("Vanished") has joined the cast of the show's abbreviated second season. He'll play Col. Hoffman, a career military officer and Iraq War veteran who has not heard from his wife since the day of the attacks. He's set to appear in six of the seven episodes set to be produced.
LEAP (ABC, New!) - Actress Goldie Hawn and "Friends" creator Marta Kauffman are set to team for a potential new drama at the Alphabet and Warner Bros. Television. The project, which has a seven-figure put pilot commitment from the network, is based on Sara Davidson's recently published novel "Leap! What Will We Do With the Rest of Our Lives?" As for specifics, the multi-generational drama will expand on the book's premise of how people approach various crossroads. Hawn herself will play one of said group as well as executive produce alongside Kauffman and Davidson.
LETTERS FROM A NUT (ABC) - Ted L. Nancy's book series is reportedly being redeveloped as an unscripted effort by Lionsgate Television, Go Go Luckey Productions and Bayonne Entertainment. The books revolve around prank letters sent to real companies, celebrities and politicians. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld penned the introduction to each of the books, leading many to believe Nancy is a pseudonym for him and/or his longtime pal Barry Marder. In any case, ABC was previously attached to a half-hour scripted version of the books that didn't move forward. As for the current effort, Go Go's Gary Auerbach and Bayonne's Rob Lee are spearheading the project, which will "take his comedic pranks well beyond the letters' original intentions."
LIFE (NBC) - "Friday Night Lights" co-star Brooke Langton has joined the cast of the freshman drama, about a falsely imprisoned cop (Damian Lewis) who rejoins the force as a changed man. She'll play Constance Griffiths, the lawyer who got him out of prison and shares a spark with him despite the fact that she is married. Langton takes over for Melissa Sagemiller, who played the role in the original pilot.
MISS/GUIDED (ABC) - Mark Hudis ("That '70s Show") has been tapped to replace Rob Thomas as executive producer and showrunner of the midseason comedy. There he'll serve alongside fellow executive producers Ashton Kutcher, Jason Goldberg, Karey Burke, Gabrielle Allan and Todd Holland. Thomas's exit reportedly is due to creative differences over the show's tone. Caroline Williams created the series, which has been confirmed as having a six-episode order (in addition to the pilot), and serves as a co-executive producer. As for Thomas, it's understood he'll move on to developing new series projects for co-producer ABC Studios.
MOONLIGHT (CBS) - David Greenwalt has stepped down as the newcomer's executive producer/showrunner for health reasons, producer Warner Bros. Television confirmed this week. The search is underway for a new showrunner however production won't be affected by Greenwalt's departure. No other details were given.
MY BEST FRIEND'S GIRL (CBS, New!) - Mike Sikowitz, the showrunner on FOX's midseason comedy "Unhitched" (previously known as "The Rules for Starting Over"), has scored a cast-contingent pilot order for a new multi-camera comedy about two best friends who own a bike shop together whose relationship becomes complicated when one starts dating the other's ex-wife. Sony Pictures Television is behind the half-hour, which Sikowitz will write and executive produce. Sikowitz previously had a blind script commitment with the studio.
MY NAME IS EARL (NBC) - Michael Rapaport ("The War at Home") has signed on for a recurring role on the show's third season. He'll play a fellow prisoner in the jail where Jason Lee's character was sent in the show's season finale. Said development is the result of a talent holding deal the actor recently signed with 20th Century Fox Television. The pact also calls for the studio to develop a new series project around Rapaport for the 2008-09 season or cast him in one of their existing pilots in development.
NEW AMSTERDAM (FOX) - Lasse Hallstrom, who helmed the pilot to the series, has inked a first-look production deal with Regency Television. The pact gives the studio first crack at any of Hallstrom's TV projects, which he'll executive produce and direct. Regency reportedly also has a deal in place with "Amsterdam" co-writer Allan Loeb, however no specifics were given.
THE PACIFIC (HBO) - Jon Seda ("Close to Home"), Ashton Holmes ("Boston Legal") and Rami Malek ("The War at Home") are the latest additions to the 10-hour mini-series, a companion piece to Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg's Emmy-winning 2001 World War II saga "Band of Brothers." Seda and Holmes will play Rodriguez and Phillips, the respective best friends of Val Lauren and Joe Mazzello's characters. Malek then is set as Merriell "Snafu" Shelton, a small and excitable Lousianian who is initially hostile to Eugene Sledge (Joe Mazzello). Production on the project is set to begin next month in Port Douglas, Australia.
S.I.S. (Spike TV, New!) - Producer Neal Moritz ("Prison Break") and writer John Herzfeld ("dr. vegas") have booked a cast-contingent order for a two-hour backdoor pilot about an elite, secretive police squad (dubbed SIS, or the Special Investigation Squad) which stalks the worst of the worst on the gritty streets of Los Angeles, waiting to catch criminals in the act. Sony Pictures Television and Moritz's Original Films are co-producing the project, which the pair will executive produce alongside the latter's Vivian Cannon.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters