LOS ANGELES (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:
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LIFETIME'S UPFRONT PRESENTATION (New!) - The cable channel detailed its development slate at its annual upfront presentation today, which included a few new projects in addition to its previously announced efforts:
On the comedy front, production has been completed on the multi-camera pilots "Libertyville," starring Christine Ebersole as a divorced 40-something on the dating scene again, and "Rita Rocks," starring Nicole Sullivan managing marriage, motherhood and a newly formed garage band, one of which could be ordered to series shortly as testing is set to begin next week. Also still in the works is "Burnt Toast," an adaptation of "Desperate Housewives" actress Teri Hatcher's book about her life as a fortysomething single mother who's determined that her daughter learn from her mistakes. ABC Studios is producing the project, which is still in the script stage.
In the drama department, the network has commissioned pilots for "Mistresses" and "Drop Dead Diva." The latter, which was previously set up at FOX, revolves around a demanding young actress who dies and returns to Earth in the body of a brilliant but "unpolished" attorney. Josh Berman penned the hour which is set up at Sony Pictures Television. The former, which is based on a BBC series that follows a group of friends from college through their adult years, then comes from writer Melissa Carter and Fox 21. Also in the hopper in the script stage are "The Amazing Mrs. Pritchard" (from writer Vanessa Taylor), based on a British miniseries about a woman who accidentally becomes governor of her state; "The Skin I'm In" (Laura Ziskin), about a Harvard medical school student; "The Department Store," from ABC Studios and the Mark Gordon Co.; as well as the previously announced "Chambermaid" (Warner Horizon, Spring Creek and Class IV), based on a novel by Saira Rao about a law clerk; and "Trump Tower" (previously at NBC), a nighttime soap opera set at fictional swanky apartments at the very real Trump Towers in midtown Manhattan. Donald Trump himself is executive producing and attached to serve as the show's narrator.
Meanwhile in the network's signature original movie department, six projects were spotlighted: "Trading Up," based on the novel by "Sex and the City" author Candace Bushnell (at one time set up as a series at ABC); "America," a story of a runaway helped by a doctor that will star and be executive produced by Rosie O'Donnell; "Terrorist," based on the John Updike novel; "Maneater," an adaptation of Gigi-Levangie Grazer's book about a gold digger; "Amish Grace" about the families who lost daughters in the recent schoolhouse shooting and how they forgave; and "The Julie Roberts Story" about the sad personal life of a country music star. The network also has four more Nora Roberts adaptations in the works, again from Peter Guber's Mandalay Productions and Stephanie Germain, coming off the heels of the successful four-movie stunt last year.
And finally over in reality, the Weinstein Co. has two series in the works: "Models of the Runway," a "Project Runway" companion (also due in November) that tracks the show's parallel modeling competition; and "Project Pygmalion" (eyed for 2009), which involves a contest among a group of average women, the winner of which receives a makeover by a panel of experts in a variety of fields to transform her into a person who would feel at home in the highest circles of New York society. Meanwhile, production has been completed on the Cat Deeley-hosted/Granada-produced game show "The Big Match," in which 100 single men compete for a woman. The network plans to air the backdoor pilot special this Friday at midnight EST. Also wrapped is the makeover show "Total Knockout," hosted by former supermodel Roshumba Williams while new entries include "Cook Yourself Thin," which gives one woman help from a group of chefs and food stylists every week, and "Salsa and the City," a docu-soap about Los Angeles salsa dancers. Tiger Aspect is behind the former while Gay Rosenthal and Mario Lopez are executive producing the latter.
MIKE BIRBIGLIA'S SECRET PUBLIC JOURNAL (CBS) - Frances Conroy ("Six Feet Under") and Christine Woods ("Welcome to the Captain") have joined the cast of the comedy pilot, about a stand-up comedian (Mike Birbiglia) who lives with his girlfriend in Brooklyn and struggles in his efforts to be a grown up. The former will play Kathy, the mom of Birbiglia's character, in the project, while Woods is set as his girlfriend. Rachel Blanchard was previously indicated as playing Birbiglia's girlfriend. It's not clear if she was recast or is actually playing a different character. Bob Odenkirk and Phil Hendrie also star in the half-hour, which comes from CBS Paramount Network Television. Rob Greenberg is directing from a script by Andy Secunda and Mike Birbiglia.
UNTITLED WALTER REED HOSPITAL PROJECT (HBO, New!) - Ron Nyswaner ("The Painted Veil") is set to pen a new docudrama at the pay channel about the recent Walter Reed Hospital scandal. The network has acquired the rights to a series of Washington Post articles about said event, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for reporters Dana Priest and Anne Hull, along with photographer Michel du Cille. It's understood the telefilm will track how four ordinary people (including Staff Sgt. John Daniel Shannon, a 43-year-old sniper whose eye and skull were shattered by an enemy bullet), who put their lives on the line for their country, came back injured and were then abused and ignored by the crown jewel of the military. 4-Screen Media's Larry Lyttle is executive producing the project alongside the Helpern Co.'s David Helpern.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters