LOS ANGELES (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:
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DRIVING AROUND WITH JONI (HBO, New!) - Jhoni Marchinko ("Men in Trees") has scored a pilot commitment from the pay channel for a new comedy about an eccentric, successful 40-year-old widow who spends her days driving around Los Angeles with her French bulldog, looking for meaning in her life after the sudden death of her husband. The project was originally set up at Warner Bros. Television where Marchinko had an overall deal prior to its termination during the WGA strike. Marchinko then will pen and executive produce "Joni" while Warner Bros. will still retain a piece of the show but not be creatively involved.
ELEVENTH HOUR (CBS) - Marley Shelton ("Grindhouse") has been tapped as the female lead in the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced drama pilot, about Jacob Hood (Rufus Sewell), a special science adviser to the government who - with his feisty female bodyguard Rachel Young (Shelton) in tow - saves people from the worst abuses of science. Ashley Jensen originated Shelton's role in the U.K. version. Danny Cannon is directing the hour from a script by Mick Davis with the pair executive producing alongside Bruckheimer and Jonathan Littman for Granada International and Warner Bros. Television.
HARPER'S ISLAND (CBS, New!) - Feature writer Ari Schlossberg ("Hide and Seek") has booked a pilot presentation order from the Eye and CBS Paramount Network Television for a new horror-themed drama that unfolds during the course of a season as a group of friends meet on an island off the Seattle coast for a destination wedding. "Jericho's" Jon Turteltaub is on board to direct and executive produce alongside his Junction Entertainment partners Karim Zreik and Dan Shotz. The latter pair then will serve as co-executive producers, as will Schlossberg.
MY BEST FRIEND'S GIRL (CBS) - Josh Cooke ("Big Day") is set to star opposite Tim Peper in the multi-camera comedy pilot, about two best friends who own a bike shop and whose relationship becomes complicated when one (Peper) starts dating the ex-wife of the other (Cooke). Mike Sikowitz is behind the half-hour, which is set up at Sony Pictures Television.
THE SAINT (New!) - Barry Levinson, Tom Fontana, Jorge Zamacona, Bill Macdonald, Roger Moore and Geoffrey Moore are set to team to produce an independently financed two-hour TV movie/backdoor pilot based on Leslie Charteris's famed novels about debonair international thief Simon Templar. Zamacona and Macdonald previously set up the project at TNT last season (read the story) but it didn't move forward. The rights subsequently reverted back to them, after which Fontana and Levinson came aboard. Nehst Studios is behind the project while James Purefoy ("Rome") in talks to topline. Production then is set to begin next month with filming in Budapest, Hungary, New York and Puerto Rico. Since the 1997 feature starring Val Kilmer, both UPN (director John McTiernan and producer ATG in 2000) and ABC (writer Stephen Nathan and producer FremantleMedia North America in 2004) have taken stabs at developing a new small screen take.
UNTITLED NICK LACHEY PROJECT (MTV, New!) - Nick Lachey is developing a "Fame"-esque reality series set at his alma mater, the School for Creative and Performing Arts in Cincinnati. The untitled project then would track its students, blending their performances with a narrative about what takes place in the school. Marc Platt and Russell Heldt are executive producing alongside Lachey.
WORST WEEK (CBS) - Erinn Hayes ("The Winner") has landed the female lead in the comedy pilot, about a guy named Sam (Kyle Bornheimer) and his rocky relationship with the parents of his fiancee (Hayes) during a family holiday. Her character, Melanie "Mel" Cook, is further detailed in the casting notice as follows: "30. Sam's fiancee. She's a beautiful, warm woman who is unaffectedly striking, even when she's not wearing any make-up. Currently in her first trimester of pregnancy, Mel is throwing up on a regular basis and just trying to soldier on until she's feeling better. Very attached to Sam, she's hoping that his visit for Dick's birthday will sweeten up her parents and set the stage for their announcement of Mel's pregnancy and engagement. However, Sam's surreal string of blunders, gaffes and boneheaded misfortunes make it very hard for Mel to convince her folks that Sam is indeed Mr. Right." Jay Malone also stars in the half-hour, which comes from Universal Media Studios and executive producers Jimmy Mulville, Marc Buckland and Matt Tarses.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters