LOS ANGELES (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:
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ABC FAMILY ORIGINAL SERIES (ABC Family) - The cable channel has firmed up its original series plans for 2008 and beyond. It's understood recently completed pilots "The Middleman" and "Roomies" have been ordered to series as has a new untitled hour from "7th Heaven" creator Brenda Hampton. "Middleman," from writer-producer Javier Grillo-Marxuach, stars Natalie Morales as a twentysomething struggling artist who's recruited by a secret agency to fight comic book-type villains alongside the title character (Matt Keeslar), a sci-fi superhero who serves as her guide. Jeremiah Chechik directed the pilot, which also stars Britt Morgan and Mary Pat Gleason. As for "Roomies," the multi-camera comedy stars Tyler Francavilla and David Weidoff as, you guessed it, roommates. Kieron Quirke and Robin French created the project, which is also executive produced by Michael Hanel and Mindy Schultheis of Acme Productions. Andy Cadiff directed the pilot. And finally, the Hampton hour is described as a teen relationship series similar in sensibility to "Juno." All three newcomers are said to have commitments of at least six episodes. "Middleman" and "Roomies" were part of a quartet of pilots ordered last year, the others being "Samurai Girl" and "Happy Campers." Hampton's project is believed to be a straight series commitment, contingent on casting the lead role.
Meanwhile in related ABC Family news, the network is in talks with Canadian broadcaster CBC to import the comedy "Sophie," about a young woman (Natalie Brown) whose picture-perfect life comes crashing down. 13 episodes have been completed of the half-hour, which bowed on January 9 on the network. Sebastian Spence, Amy Lalonde, Jeff Geddis, Mimi Kuzyk, Sara Botsford, Chantelle Chung and Catherine B�rub� also star in the project, which comes from Jocelyn Deschenes of Sphere Media Plus. The show itself is based on a French-language series that aired in Quebec before it was transplanted to the CBC. Lastly, ABC Family also confirmed a decision is expected soon on the fate of "Lincoln Heights" while "Wildfire," currently in its fourth season, won't be renewed for a fifth season.
DIRT (FX) - FX has confirmed Danny Comden ("I'm With Her") has completed a three-episode arc on the show's upcoming second season. He plays Ted Rothman, an almost-divorced president of a major TV studio who wants to rekindle a romance with Courtney Cox's character. The new season bows Sunday, March 2.
FRINGE (FOX) - Australian actress Anna Torv has scored the lead role on the two-hour drama pilot, about a young, tough FBI agent who is forced to confront the spread of unexplained phenomena and work with an institutionalized scientist whose work might be at the center of a coming storm. She'll play Olivia Warren, the agent in question. Also signing on are Blair Brown and Jasika Nicole. The former will play Nina Cord, a 16-year veteran at Prometheus Corp., a cutting-edge research facility, while Jasika Nicole is playing the recurring role of Astrid Farnsworth, a stunning federal assistant. They join the previously cast John Noble, Kirk Acevedo, Lance Reddick and Mark Valley. Alex Graves is helming the Warner Bros. Television/Bad Robot-based drama, which comes from co-creators Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and J.J. Abrams. The group also executive produces alongside Bad Robot's Bryan Burk.
UNTITLED FASHION MAGAZINE ASSISTANT PROJECT (The CW, New!) - "America's Next Top Model's" Tyra Banks and Ken Mok have scored a series commitment from the netlet for a new reality series in which aspiring assistants compete to become assistant editors at a fashion magazine. The project, which has an eight-episode commitment, is expected to begin production in April for a launch in late spring or summer. As for specifics, each episode will feature two different challenges - an individual one and a team one with the winner of the former making the pairings for the latter. Each team challenge then will focus on submitting a page for "The Book," a mock edition of the magazine, with the loser's page going in the trash and one of its members being sent home. Banks and Mok will executive produce the project via their respective banners, Bankable Productions and 10x10 Entertainment, alongside Eli Holzman, who developed "Project Runway" at Miramax Television, and Full Picture's Jane Cha and Desiree Gruber, fashion experts and managers of "Runway" host Heidi Klum. It's understood the "Runway" team came up the initial idea for the series and pitched it to the CW, who in turn paired them with Banks and Mok. Talks are underway with various magazines to sponsor the show with the editors themselves likely appearing as judges. It's not clear if Banks herself will appear on camera.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters