CHICAGO (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:
THE BOONDOCKS (FOX, New!) - The network has committed to a seven-minute pilot presentation for an animated series based on Aaron McGruder's comic strip of the same name. McGruder and partner Reggie Hudlin will write and executive produce the pilot for Sony Pictures Television. FOX is targeting the project as midseason replacement on its 2004-05 schedule. Due to the lead time needed to produce animation, Sony will hear if FOX has picked up the series well before its May 2004 upfront presentation. "The Boondocks" revolves around a young kid named Huey and his gangsta wannabe brother Riley, who move from the inner city to their out-of-touch grandfather's home in the suburbs.
THE COUNTRY GIRL (HBO, New!) - The pay channel is developing a small screen adaptation of Clifford Odets' play. "Sex and the City" star Kim Cattrall is attached to star and co-executive produce the project, which centers on a washed-up, middle-aged actor who is given a chance to come back with a lead role in a stage musical but, driven by insecurity, turns to alcohol and self-pity and leaves everything in the hands of his loyal wife who has to fight for him to keep the job. Cattrall optioned the rights to the play on her own and will produce the picture through her Fertile Ground Productions banner with her producing partner Amy Briamonte. A feature film version of the play directed by George Seaton was released in 1954 in which star Grace Kelly and Seaton both won Oscars.
EVERYBODY LOVES RAYMOND (CBS) - Stars Patricia Heaton and Brad Garrett did not show up for the season's first table read yesterday, fueling speculation of possible hold-outs by both actors. Heaton called in sick, according to the network, while Garrett reportedly has told his reps he won't be showing up to work until the network opens up talks on renegotiating his current deal. Upon hearing about the possible holdout several weeks ago, the producers decided not to include Garrett's character in the season premiere in order to avoid any production delays or cost overruns. It's not clear however if his character will be kept out of the loop for subsequent episodes as negotiations (or the lack thereof) progress. Regardless, CBS and the producers decided to reschedule Monday's table read for today with the taping of the season premiere now pushed back a day to Friday.
IT'S A MIRACLE (PAX) - The series will return this fall with a new host, Roma Downey ("Touched by an Angel"), and a new production company, Weller-Grossman. Original one-hour episodes will run Sundays at 10:00/9:00c with half-hour repeats of its previous seasons weeknights at 11:00/10:00c.
MASTERPLAN (FX, New!) - FX has committed to a domestic version of the popular Portugal series in which an individual allows viewers to be given completed control of their lives for one week. The network has ordered seven one-hour episodes of the series as part of its "Friday Night Fix" reality block. The first batch of episodes will focus on one individual who's facing several life decisions and viewers can vote via phone and the Internet about what he or she should do with the results appearing the next episode. Endemol USA is set to begin pre-production of the series shortly for an October start date.
MGM NIGHT AT THE MOVIES (PAX, New!) - The fledgling network has pacted with MGM to take over its Friday movie night which will feature such studio hits as "Dances With Wolves," "Rocky V" and "Four Weddings and a Funeral." The news marks the first time a major studio has stamped its name on a network-primetime series devoted exclusively to theatrical films. The rebranded movie night kicks off September 5 at 8:00/7:00c.
MTV ORIGINAL MOVIES (MTV, New!) - The cable network has revealed its upcoming telefilm plans. Maggie Malina has recently been upped to a senior VP at the channel where she'll be in charge of the network's ramped up original movie output. Currently in the hopper are "Volcano High" and "Monster Island." The former is a Korean-language kung-fu movie about a high schooler with unique powers. The film, which bowed at the Toronto Film Festival last year, will have American actors dub the dialogue and redo the soundtrack with hip-hop music. "Monster Island" is a satire of sci-fi movies about giant insects that disrupt an MTV concert taking place on a tropical atoll. Ilan Briel will executive produce the movie with Jack Perez directing from a script by himself and Adam Glass. Production is set to begin next month. "Volcano" is set to air later this year with "Monster" being eyed for a first quarter of 2004 air date. The announcement comes as the network is looking to air four original movies a year in the $2-3 million budget range.
Also in development is "Faust," an updated version of Goethe's classic planned as the network's second "hip-hopera"; "Level 5," a drama about behavioral-modification centers for teenagers; an untitled college-set romantic comedy centering on affirmative action; "Show No Mercy," a telefilm inspired by a true story about a girl who was murdered by fans of the group Slayer; an untitled biopic of Shawn Fanning, the man who invented Napster; "Haunted Crib," a hip-hop comedy about a haunted house; a contemporary version of "The Phantom of the Opera" set in a performing-arts high school; and an untitled thriller about a UCLA undergrad who goes undercover to get information on campus-based hate groups. All the movies in the works plan to follow Sci Fi Channel's model of just buying the U.S. basic-cable rights for a specific number of runs and then letting the international and future domestic rights revert to the producer-distributor, a scenario which has been profitable for all parties.
QUEER EYE FOR THE STRAIGHT GUY (Bravo) - The show's "Fab Five" have added another stop on their makeover tour: MSNBC's "Buchanan & Press." The group with give makeover advice via satellite to political news commentators Pat Buchanan and Bill Press on tonight's episode at 6:00/5:00c. The producers also plan to have them deconstruct the crowded field of Democratic 2004 presidential candidates. The MSNBC stop comes just days before the Fab Five's visit to "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" on Thursday as well as another NBC replay of the series that same night at 10:00/9:00c.
REPO COHEN (NBC, New!) - Writer Joel Wyman ("Keen Eddie") has landed a premium script commitment at the Peacock for a new drama series targeted for fall 2004 with a sizable penalty attached if it's not picked up to pilot. Wyman (through his Paramount-based Frequency Films) and Warren Littlefield will executive produce the project, which like "Eddie," sees a flawed character packing his bags for a new location: this time a Detroit policeman who moves to Los Angeles and ends up working as a repo man. Wyman has said he hopes to inject the same balance of humor, drama and colorful characters found in "Keen Eddie" into the new gig.
THIRD WATCH (NBC) - Oscar nominee Ann-Margret ("Carnal Knowledge," "Tommy") has signed on for a three episode arc on the John Wells-produced series this fall. She'll play a judge who is being stalked and must be protected by New York's finest. Her episodes are expected to be broadcast in November.
TRADING SPACES (TLC) - Discovery Networks has signed a new sponsorship deal with Home Depot for the popular makeover series. The pact makes Home Depot the exclusive on-air sponsor of the series, much like it's deal for fellow TLC series "While You Were Out." The deal however excludes "Spaces" partnership with Procter & Gamble's Swiffer brand. The new pact, financial details of which were not revealed, kicks in during the fourth quarter of 2003 and lasts through third quarter of 2004. Also as part of the deal, Home Depot will use the "Trading Spaces" brand as part of its print/direct-mail campaigns and talent from the series is set to appear in several of its stores across the U.S.
TRADING UP (ABC, New!) - ABC and Touchstone Television have purchased the rights to Candace Bushnell's bestselling novel with the intention of turning it into a primetime soap. Bushnell, who's best known for writing the book that inspired HBO's "Sex and the City," will serve as an executive producer on any pilot or series that results from the pact, believed to be in the mid-six-figures. The studio and ABC are both currently searching for a writer/producer to come on board the project, which is being eyed for fall 2004. "Trading Up" revolves around a lingerie model whose recent success has gone to her head as she's drawn into a universe of media moguls and Fifth Avenue penthouses.
THE WINNING SEASON (TNT) - Kristin Davis ("Sex and the City") has signed on to co-star in the upcoming cable telefilm alongside Matthew Modine. The film, based on Dan Gutman's book "Honus and Me," centers on a 12-year-old baseball fan who finds a magic Honus Wagner baseball card and through it is able to go back in time to the 1909 World Series, where he befriends baseball great Wagner (Modine) and his fiancee, Mandy Henton, played by Davis.
WUTHERING HEIGHTS (MTV) - The music channel's updated musical version of Emily Bronte's novel is set premiere Thursday, September 4.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters