[08/31/07 - 06:35 PM]
Development Update: Week of August 27-31
By The Futon Critic Staff (TFC)

LOS ANGELES (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:

Looking to keep track of all the various projects in development? Click here to visit our signature "Devwatch" section. There visitors can view our listings by network, genre, studio and even development stage (ordered to pilot, cast-contingent, script, etc.). It's updated every day!

24 (FOX) - Jeffrey Nordling ("Dirt") and John Billingsley ("The Nine") have both signed on for the show's upcoming season. The former, who will continue to recur on the FX series, will play an FBI agent while details on Billingsley's character weren't specified. The pair join previous additions Cherry Jones and Colm Feore.

CROSSWORDS (Syndication) - The upcoming syndicated game show, which launches on September 10, had added five new markets - Louisville, Kentucky; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Green Bay, Wisconsin; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; and Palm Springs, California. Said additions bring the show's clearance rate to 92% of the country, including the 50 top markets in the U.S.

ENTOURAGE (HBO) - Marc Abrams and Michael Benson, co-executive producers on the series, have inked a seven-figure overall deal with Universal Media Studios. The pact calls for the duo to develop new series projects via their Catapult banner for the studio. The duo had previously been set up at Reveille, the company formerly run by current NBC Entertainment and UMS chair Ben Silverman. Abrams, Benson and Reveille are already co-producing three projects for the studio, including "E," a one-hour comedy set in an ad agency that's desperate to land a major account (based on Matthew Beaumont's novel of the same name); "Serial Frank," a single-camera comedy based on a French-Canadian/Distraction format about a guy trying to deal with the physical manifestations of his personality from Mark O'Keefe ("Bruce Almighty"); and a redeveloped version of Abrams, Benson and Mark Rizzo's half-hour "Zip," about a con artist father of three. Put pilot orders have reportedly been given to "E" (contingent on finding a writer) and "Frank" while a second pilot is expected to be ordered for "Zip." In addition, Omnicom is on board as a partner on "E" to help with product placement.

ER (NBC) - Steven Christopher Parker ("Blades of Glory") has landed a recurring role on the veteran drama. He'll play Gordon, a brilliant but nervous and emotionally fragile intern. No other details were released.

FAMILY PRACTICE (Lifetime) - Joey Honsa has been tapped for the lead role on the drama pilot, about a woman (Honsa) from South Chicago who becomes entangled personally and professionally with the affluent, Kennedy-esque family members of one of the city's most prestigious law firms, the Kinglares. Beau Bridges and Karin Anglin have also been cast in the hour as the family's patriarch, a brilliant, radical, Machiavellian lawyer who once defended the most controversial clients he could find; and his workaholic daughter who also is an attorney at the firm, respectively. Jeffrey Lieber is behind the project, which is set up at Sony Pictures Television.

THE FIXER (ABC, New!) - Feature writer Russell Gewirtz ("Inside Man") has landed a script commitment, with a penalty attached, at the Alphabet for a new drama about a female PR executive who is wired into the highest levels of power in New York and works as a fixer, discreetly solving problems for the city's business, political and media elite. The project, which is loosely based on Jodie Foster's role from said film, then is set up at 20th Century Fox Television-based Imagine Television with Brian Grazer, David Nevins, Gewirtz and InVenture Entertainment's Daniel Rosenberg executive producing.

HACKETT (FOX) - Donal Logue ("The Knights of Prosperity"), Rachel Boston ("American Dreams") and Morgan Murphy ("Jimmy Kimmel Live") have all been cast in the comedy pilot, about a bad-boy literary luminary (Logue) who escapes his disgraced career teaching at Yale only to find himself among the ultra-PC ranks of teachers at an Ohio public high school. Logue is set as the title role, Thomas Hackett, who's detailed in the casting notice as follows: "Early 30s-Youthful Late 40s. An English professor in Ohio at the low point of his life, he is a well-known prominent writer, now teaching high school English after being drummed out of Yale. He should have a playful side, and never talks down to the students at school. "Under the road wear, there is still something irrepressibly charming and sexy about him." Described as "the last great defender of the Y chromosome," he is an anti-hero, a bitter, but at times, vulnerable, and troubled soul. Complicated, enigmatic, given to saying what he really thinks (P.C. be damned), Thomas Hackett is loved / hated / even feared by other faculty members who are unprepared for his unorthodox tactics and biting wit."

Boston then will play Audrey Dover - "Late 20s-Early 30s. She is the principal at Eleanor Roosevelt High School. Likeable, wise-cracking, self-possessed, smart, she has a sharp sense of humor, doesn't let Hackett get away with anything--she stands up to him. Audrey "exudes amazing authority for someone so young and attractive." She's keeping a close eye on newly hired Tom Hackett, not sure what he's up to when his behavior takes a sudden turn for the better. Despite a clashing of minds, she clearly has a soft spot for her renegade English teacher." - with Murphy as Tam - "Late 20s-Early 30s, sexy, attractive and petite as well as other types, perhaps Hacketts' only ally at the school, Tam is a teacher. Friendly, with a good sense of humor, not tough, she is feeling down after her lesbian lover moves out, and invites Tom over for a night of commiserating together. She's somewhat hurt when he turns down her overture of camaraderie." Sony Pictures Television and 25C Productions are behind the single-camera half-hour, which Barry Sonnenfeld is directing from a script by Denise Moss.

HEARTLAND/LEVERAGE (TNT) - The cable channel has officially pulled the plug on its Treat Williams-led drama "Heartland" after nine episodes. The news was long expected following its poor performance in the post-"Closer" slot where it lost well over 50% of its audience. Separately, the network has greenlit production on the drama pilot "Leverage" from executive producer Dean Devlin. The project, created by John Rogers and Chris Downey, revolves around a team of five high-tech thieves who circle the globe to rob from wealthy criminals, corrupt businessmen and venal politicians. Devlin will direct and executive produce via his Electric Entertainment banner.

HELD UP (Comedy Central) - Troy Evans ("ER") and Krista Allen ("What About Brian") are the latest addition to the Sony Pictures Television-based comedy pilot, about a bored bank teller (Jack Carpenter) whose life changes dramatically when two teams of crazy robbers - disguised as James Bond, Robin Hood, Batman and the Three Stooges - hold up his branch. Evans will play Captain Dan Lutz, a paranoid police captain who is one month away from retirement, while Allen is set as the teller's bossy, business suit-clad supervisor, whom he both lusts after and loathes.

HUSTLE (AMC) - Tony Jordan, the creator of the series, has inked a one-year, first-look deal with Sony Pictures Television. The pact gives the studio first crack at any of his company's - Red Planet Pictures - projects. Separately, the studio has given a blind script order to "Foyle's War" creator Anthony Horowitz. That deal calls for the writer/producer to develop a new drama series project, dubbed an "an American-based police show with lighter-touch elements and an European angle," with fellow studio-based producer Darren Star.

JUST FOR LAUGHTS (ABC) - The Alphabet has extended the summer series once again, this time issuing a second season order of 13 episodes. The project, which is hosted by Rick Miller, is being eyed as both strike-contingency programming and a utility player should one of its upcoming half-hours fail.

LOST (ABC) - Jeremy Davies ("Rescue Dawn") and Jeff Fahey ("Planet Terror") have both scored recurring roles on the popular ABC drama. Not surprisingly, few details on their characters were released however Davies is believed to be playing one of the freighters who helps rescue the castaways.

MAFIA WIVES/UNTITLED JANE BUSSMANN PROJECT (NBC, New!) - Gail Berman and Lloyd Braun have set up a pair of projects at the Peacock and Universal Media Studios - a drama about mob wives who take over the family business from Lynda LaPlante ("Prime Suspect") and a comedy about a has-been hairdresser trying to raise his kids from Jane Bussmann ("Smack the Pony"). Said writers will pen their respective projects and executive produce alongside Berman and Braun's BermanBraun, which has a first-look deal with the studio.

MIRACLE MAN (ABC, New!) - "Wonderfalls" alums Tim Minear and Todd Holland are set to re-team for a new drama at the network about a disgraced former televangelist, a man of no faith, who finds that God is using him to perform real miracles and change lives, starting with his own. The project, which sparked a bidding war between ABC and FOX - leading to the former's put pilot commitment, is based at 20th Century Fox Television where both creators have overall deals.

NURSES (FOX) - Eliza Dushku, who toplined the drama pilot this past development season, has inked a talent holding with the network and sister studio 20th Century Fox Television. The pact, valued in the mid- to high-six figures, calls for the pair to develop a new series project around the actress or cast her in an existing series in development.

THE PAPER (MTV, New!) - The lives of students working on their high school newspaper in set to be the focus of a new reality series at the cable channel. The project, which is currently in production at Cypress Bay High School in Weston, Florida, has been given an eight-episode order by the network. MTV News and Docs's Dave Sirulnick then is executive producing the half-hour alongside Marshall Eisen, Lindsey Bannister, Jessica Chesler and Sam Simmons.

PRIMAL DOUBT (Lifetime, New!) - Janine Turner ("Strong Medicine"), Costas Mandylor ("The Wedding Bells") and Maeve Quinlan ("South of Nowhere") are set to topline a new original movie at the network about the lonely wife (Turner) of a busy executive (Mandylor) who begins a cyber-affair with a widower in search of companionship - only to have the widower turn up dead. Quinlan's character however wasn't specified. Yelena Lanskaya then is directing from a script by Steve Niver with Robert Halmi, Jr. and Larry Levinson executive producing.

UNTITLED DAN FOGELMAN PROJECT (FOX, New!) - Dan Fogelman (NBC's "Lipshitz Saves the World") has set up at his latest comedy project, this time at FOX. The project, about a typical dysfunctional nuclear family that moves into a sought-after gated community only to discover that everybody who lives there is an alien, was greenlighted off a pitch and put on the fast track for production by year's end. Warner Bros. Television is behind the single-camera half-hour with Chris Koch, who helmed "Lipshitz" and Fogelman's previous effort "The 12th Man" at FOX, attached to direct.

UNTITLED DAVID HEMINGSON PROJECT (ABC, New!) - David Hemingson ("Kitchen Confidential") has scored a put pilot order from ABC for a new dramedy about a diverse group of hard-living, hard-working young associates at a high-profile law firm and the eccentric, aggressive and ambitious partners that dominate and complicate their lives. 20th Century Fox Television, where Hemingson's overall deal is based, is behind the hour, which was the subject of healthy bidding by several networks.

Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters

  [august 2007]  

· 24 (FOX)
· E (NBC)
· ER (NBC)

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