[08/22/03 - 12:00 AM]
Development Update: August 22
By The Futon Critic Staff (TFC)

CHICAGO (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:

THE ELIZABETH SMART STORY (CBS, New!) - According to a network press release, the Eye has secured the exclusive broadcast rights to Elizabeth Smart's life story, to be made into a television movie "about the teenager's disturbing 2002 abduction from her Salt Lake City home and her remarkable return nine months later." Dylan Baker ("Road to Perdition," "From the Earth to the Moon") will star as Ed Smart, Lindsay Frost ("Too Rich: The Secret Life of Doris Duke," "The Ring") as Lois Smart, and Amber Marshall ("The Christmas Shoes," "Super Rupert") as Elizabeth Smart. The project promises to "reveal new details, unknown to the public, about the family�s intense story from the time Emmanuel first worked on the Smart�s house, through the abduction, and ultimately, Elizabeth�s return home."

The telefilm will be executive produced by Patricia Clifford ("Three Blind Mice," "Death of a Salesman"), Jeff Morton ("Oliver Beene," "Double Jeopardy"), Frank von Zerneck ("We Were the Mulvaneys," "Heart of a Stranger") and Robert Sertner ("We Were the Mulvaneys," "Heart of a Stranger") for von Zerneck/Sertner Films and Patricia Clifford Productions. The screenplay is being written by Nancey Silvers ("One Special Night," "Moms on Strike").

THE ENTOURAGE (HBO) - The pay channel has finally greenlighted a pilot for the series, which has been in development at the network since March of last year. The comedy, sort of a "Larry Sanders Show" for a movie star's support staff, is the brainchild of actor Mark Wahlberg and his manager, Steve Levinson. The pair with executive produce the pilot along with creators Doug Ellin and Steve Tompkins ("The Bernie Mac Show"), the latter of whom has just been set as showrunner. Wahlberg himself will cameo in the pilot as will other stars in order to lend a level of believability to the proceedings. The plot for the initial installment has the star returning home for a high school reunion the same week the biggest movie of his career is set to open. No cast has been attached to the project so far.

ER (NBC) - Comedy legend Bob Newhart has signed on for a three-episode arc on the long-running medical drama. He will play Ben Hollander, an architect suffering with macular degeneration who befriends Sherry Stringfield's character. Newhart's first episode is slated to air October 30.

LAS VEGAS (NBC) - The Peacock has teamed with the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority to help promote the new fall drama. NBC plans to launch an online contest for viewers to recount their own personal Vegas experiences, tied into the city's ongoing "What Happens in Las Vegas Stays in Las Vegas" campaign. Winners will be flown to L.A. to attend a premiere screening and party for the series.

PHENOMENON 2 (ABC) - The small screen sequel to the 1996 feature has been given an air date. The two-hour telefilm is set to air Saturday, November 1 at 8:00/7:00c under the network's "Wonderful World of Disney" banner. Christopher Shyer takes over the role originally played by John Travolta as George Malley, a man who gains mysterious powers after witnessing a bright flash in the sky. The movie picks up where the feature left off: George Malley (Shyer) going off into the hills, presumably to die. "His story continues as George escapes to San Francisco and begins a new life under an assumed identity," according to the network's press release. "As he adjusts to life in the big city, he senses other people may share his new-found abilities."

PLAYMAKERS (ESPN) - The sports channel has announced it will air the August 26 premiere of its first original drama series without commercial breaks. Instead, the hour-long show will be sponsored by Universal Pictures' upcoming movie, "The Rundown." Following the 48-minute episode, ESPN will air a shortened version of its magazine show, "Outside the Lines," related to one of the "Playmakers" story lines about football injuries.

THE RESTAURANT (NBC) - NBC is close to picking up a second season of the reality series. While nothing is official, the Peacock is said to be hammering out the final details with the show's executive producers Mark Burnett, Ben Silverman and Magna Global Entertainment's Robert Riesenberg. Being discussed is whether the show will continue in its current barter format or switch to a more traditional license fee structure. Currently, NBC pays nothing for the series while the producers in turn finance the show entirely by sponsors such as American Express. There's also been some debate about whether or not the new season should be a completely new restaurant with a different chef as the Peacock has reportedly been getting offers from other celebrity chefs interested in doing the show.

REVERSIBLE ERRORS (CBS) - William H. Macy ("Door to Door") and Tom Selleck ("Monte Walsh") have come on board the upcoming Eye mini-series based on Scott Turow's best-selling legal thriller. Macy will play Arthur Raven, a corporate lawyer who reluctantly takes a pro bono 10-year-old triple-murder case while Selleck will play Larry Starczek, a detective who led the initial investigation and at the time had an affair with the prosecutor on the case. Production is set to begin in October on the four-hour project which is executive producerd by Frank von Zerneck.

S.W.A.T. - Sony Pictures Television and producers Neil Moritz and Marty Adelstein of Original Film are looking to bring the TV series-turned-feature film back to the small screen. The producers have reportedly been talking to each of the big four networks about a new television series, two of which are said to be heavily interested. Writers Mike Werb and Michael Colleary ("Face/Off") are attached to write the potential pilot, which would borrow more from the feature film than the '70s series. Industry insiders say a deal could close within the next few days.

SAVING JESSICA LYNCH (NBC) - Benjamin King ("S.W.A.T.") has joined the cast of the upcoming Peacock telefilm. He will play 38-year-old Master Sgt. Robert James Dowdy, who, like Lynch, was with the 507th Ordnance Maintenance Co. based out of Fort Bliss, Texas. Dowdy was one of the soldiers who died when their convoy was ambushed March 23.

Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters

  [august 2003]  

· ER (NBC)

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