CHICAGO (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:
THE BOOK OF RUTH (CBS, New!) - Christine Lahti ("Chicago Hope") is set to star in the Eye's small screen adaptation of Jane Hamilton's best-selling novel. The project tracks a young woman with low self-esteem who lives in the shadow of her bright brother and clashes with her strong-willed, domineering mother, played by Lahti. Suzette Couture ("Martha Inc.") will write the adaptation while Robert Greenwald will executive produce the telefilm, which is scheduled to begin shooting in September to air sometime next season.
BOOMTOWN (NBC) - Nina Garbiras, who plays journalist Andrea Little on the series, will not return for the show's second season. Her character is being written out of the series as the drama will now shift focus to being primarily about the cops' (Gary Basaraba, Jason Gedrick, Donnie Wahlberg and Mykelti Williamson) point-of-view instead of that of the reporters, paramedics and politicians. Also as part of the shift, Lana Parrilla's paramedic character will now enter the police academy while actress Vanessa Williams is set to join the cast for at least 10 of the season's first 13 episodes. She'll play Katherine Pierce, a detective investigating the murder of the two cops from last season's final episodes. Also set to appear this season are Stacy Keach ("Titus") as father to Neal McDonough's character, along with Kelly Hu ("X2") and Rebecca DeMornay as jewel thieves. The drama returns to NBC's schedule on August 8 where it will move to its fall home of Fridays at 10:00/9:00c.
EVERWOOD (WB) - Actor Mike Erwin, who plays Colin Hart on the series, has signed a talent holding deal with the network. The Frog will place the actor in one of its new projects targeted for fall 2004.
EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND (CBS) - Actor Brad Garrett is looking to renegotiate his current contract on the series, the first of many moves expected by the comedy's supporting players as the series potentially wraps its run this season. Much of the rumbling comes from the fact the majority of the cast (Patricia Heaton, Peter Boyle and Doris Roberts) is set to receive significant pay raises should the show return for a ninth season in 2004-05. But now with that seeming unlikely, the cast will undoubtedly looking to push some of that money to the current season. In Garrett's case, he's not even signed through the ninth season. In addition, unlike Ray Romano or co-creator Phil Rosenthal, the rest of the cast has no backend income from the show's lucrative sale into syndication.
STEPHEN KING'S KINGDOM HOSPITAL (ABC) - Andrew McCarthy, Diane Ladd and Bruce Davison have all signed on to the project, which is set to kick off with a two-hour premiere on Thursday, February 5 at 9:00/8:00c. McCarthy (recently a guest on "Monk") will play Dr. Hook, a surgeon who lives in the hospital basement and collects medical equipment while Ladd ("Rambling Rose") is set as the psychic hypochondriac Mrs. Druse, a regular in Kingdom Hospital's emergency room. Davison ("X2") will play Dr. Stegman, an arrogant, inept physician. The project, based on the Danish miniseries "The Kingdom" from Lars Von Trier, revolves around a bizarre hospital where patients and staff have chosen to ignore tell-tale signs of mysticism and unseen powers. King calls the series "ER" meets "The Shining." All three actors have options to return for a second season of the series with production set to begin on August 11 on the 15 hours ordered.
UNTITLED STEVEN SPIELBERG PROJECT (TNT) - The prolific producer has signed with the cable channel to develop an ambitious 12-hour epic about the settlement of the Western frontier. Dreamworks Television's Darryl Frank and Justin Falvey will be co-executive producers of the project which tracks two multi-generational American and Native American families, with each telling the stories of the development of the West from their own point of view. No directors, writers or actors are attached to the project which isn't set to start production until summer 2004 for a 2005 air date. The limited series is expected to follow the "Band of Brothers" model used at HBO where the mini-series is broken up into weekly episodes, instead of a straight night-by-night run as was the case for Spielberg's "Taken" mini-series for Sci Fi.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters