LOS ANGELES (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:
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THE BEAR WHISPERER (Animal Planet) - The Discovery sibling has ordered three episodes of a new reality series about professional bear wrangler Steve Searles, who "uses humane tactics to help control the bear population in Mammoth Lakes, California." The network aired a special featuring Searles on January 7 that served as a backdoor pilot. LMNO Productions is the producer.
BEACH LANE (NBC) - Patton Oswalt has departed the comedy pilot, about a celebrity author (Matthew Broderick) hired by an irresponsible millionaire heir (Oswalt) to run his struggling small-town newspaper in the Hamptons. Said development comes within days of Oswalt's casting. No reason was given for the decision however producers reportedly have also offered the comedian a different part. Aimee Garcia, Henry Zebrowski and Kristen Johnston also star in the Universal Media Studios-based half-hour, which comes from creator Paul Simms and Broadway Video Television.
BURN NOTICE (USA) - The cable channel is set to announce a two-year pick-up of its Jeffrey Donovan-led franchise. The massive commitment comes as the series preps for the launch of its fourth season on Thursday, June 3 at 9:00/8:00c. Seasons five and six - both to run between 15-18 episodes - will likewise roll out in successive summers. Meanwhile, USA has also landed the off-cable rights to the drama from Fox Television Studios. Repeats of the series will air weeknights on the network beginning in October of 2011. That's in addition to MyNetworkTV's acquisition, which will see back-to-back repeats air on Wednesday nights this fall.
FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS (DirecTV) - Emily Rios ("Men of a Certain Age") and Lynn Blackburn ("Noises Off") are both set to recur on the show's fifth season. The former will play Epyck, a rebel goth girl, with Blackburn as "a smart, tough, and dedicated teacher at East Dillon" who befriends Connie Britton's character. Said season rolls out this fall on DirecTV.
HAWAII FIVE-O (CBS) - "Lost" co-executive producer Paul Zbyszewski has signed a two-year, seven-figure overall deal with CBS Television Studios. The pact calls for the writer/producer, also the creator of ABC's short-lived "Day Break," to develop new projects for the studio as well as serve in a similar capacity on the CBS pilot "Hawaii Five-O" should it go to series.
IN TREATMENT (HBO) - Three-time Oscar nominee Debra Winger ("Terms of Endearment") is reportedly in talks to join the cast of the show's upcoming third season. She'll play one of the show's featured patients, "a former big star who is battling insecurity and fear about her career." No other details were given.
MEMPHIS BEAT (TNT) - Sunny Mabrey ("xXx: State of the Union") has booked a recurring role on the upcoming drama, which stars Jason Lee as Dwight Hendricks, "a Memphis police officer who lives with his mother (Celia Weston)" and "his intimate connection with the city and its people sets him apart from his fellow officers." She'll play Dwight's ex-wife, Charlene Campbell, a role originated by Robyn Lively in the pilot. No reason for the change was given. "Beat" launches Tuesday, June 22 at 10:00/9:00c.
PLAYING WITH GUNS (Spike TV, New!) - Danny Masterson ("That '70s Show") and Joey Kern ("Super Troopers") are set to topline a new comedy pilot at the cable channel about "childhood best friends who become police officers in their hometown for the everyday perks." Brian Robbins ("Blue Mountain State") is on board to helm the half-hour as well as executive produce via his Varsity Pictures banner alongside Sharla Sumpter Bridgett for Lionsgate Television. Bob Castrone, Brian Levin and Jason Zumwalt co-wrote the script and will serve as co-executive producers. Production is set to begin this month in Wilmington, North Carolina.
PRETTY LITTLE LIARS (ABC Family) - Janel Parrish ("Heroes") and Holly Marie Combs ("Charmed") have each landed roles on the soon-to-launch drama, about four estranged best friends who are reunited one year after their best friend and queen bee of the group, Alison, goes missing only to discover they are receiving messages from an anonymous "A" who knows all their secrets. Parrish will play Mona Vanderwall ("thin and attractive"), the ultrapopular friend to the show's main quartet. Combs then is set as Ella Montgomery ("attractive, well read and liberal"), the mother of Lucy Hale's character. The newcomer bows Tuesday, June 8 at 8:00/7:00c.
REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER (HBO) - The pay channel has ordered a ninth season of the veteran talk show. 35 new episodes will roll out beginning in January. That's in addition to its current 24-episode eighth season, which will run into November. To date, "Real Time" is averaging an aggregate 3.8 million viewers each week when its various encores and DVR viewership is facted in. Maher himself is in the midst of a two-year deal with the network which calls for him to host the series as well as executive produce alongside Scott Carter, Sheila Griffiths, Brad Grey, Marc Gurvitz and Billy Martin. He'll also film another stand-up special and develop a new unscripted project for the network however no specifics were given.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters