[09/24/03 - 12:00 AM]
Development Update: September 24
By The Futon Critic Staff (TFC)

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

10-8 (ABC) - Jamie Luner ("Profiler") has joined the cast of Alphabet's fall drama as a police officer. It's not clear when her first episode will air. "10-8," stars Danny Nucci and Ernie Hudson as officers in Los Angeles Sheriff's Department.

A.K.A. THE JONESES (NBC) - The Peacock has made a six-figure pact with feature writers Marianne and Cormac Wibberley ("Bad Boys II," "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle") to develop a new dramedy about a group of unrelated people in the FBI's witness protection program that are thrown together as a "family" in order to make it harder for the bad guys to find them. 20th Century Fox Television-based Original, headed by Neal Moritz, Marty Adelstein and Dawn Parouse, will produce the project with the Wibberleys writing and executive producing through their Paranoid Productions banner.

A CAROL CHRISTMAS (Hallmark, New!) - Tori Spelling is set to topline a new original telefilm at the cable channel. Tom Amundsen ("Full House") will write the script to the project, an update of the Charles Dickens classic with Spelling as a tyrannical talkshow host, with Robert Halmi, Jr. and Alpine Productions' Larry Levinson (the man behind the recent Hallmark telefilms "Mystery Woman," "The King and Queen of Moonlight Bay," and the upcoming mini-series "Frankenstein") executiuve producing. Production is set to begin in Los Angeles this month for a December air date.

CULT-A-MANIA (UPN, New!) - Mimi Leder ("John Doe") has chosen the subject for the first project under her new development deal at the netlet: her father. She'll team with sibling Reuben ("J.A.G.") on the project, which revolves around a former child star who winds up completing unfinished cult horror films, learning important lessons in the process. The story is based loosely on the life of their late father, Paul Leder, who directed several cult B-movies in the 1970s and 80s, including "I Dismember Mama" and "Ape." Mimi Leder would direct the project, the script of which is written by Reuben, should it move forward with the duo executive producing.

ER (NBC) - Nicholas D'Agosto ("Cracking Up") and Rossif Sutherland have joined the cast of the long-running drama as a recurring characters. D'Agosto will play a nervous medical intern, while Sutherland will play a med student. The pair join fellow "ER" newcomers Linda Cardellini, Parminder Nagra and Glenn Howerton this season. As part of the move, D'Agosto has exited his role on the midseason FOX comedy "Cracking Up," which also stars Molly Shannon and Christopher McDonald. The producers are currently recasting his part. In the meantime, D'Agosto has lined up a guest spot on FOX's "Boston Public" where he'll play a talented cello player who gets suspended after his crush on teacher Marilyn Sudor (Sharon Leal) goes a little too far.

Meanwhile in other "ER" news, Legacy Interactive is expected to announce shortly that it has signed a licensing deal with Warner Bros. Consumer Products to develop two "ER" games for the PC, the first of which is set for release in September 2004. The games will feature the likeness and voices of several "ER" cast members and feature them on the box art and marketing. In the game debuting next year, a player begins as a sub-intern whose goal is to grow his or her career while participating in the ongoing dramas that unfold in the emergency room. The news marks Legacy's second major TV franchise it has turned into a video game. The first, "Law & Order," will see its second game ("Law and Order II: Double or Nothing") released on September 30 for the PC.

LINE OF FIRE (ABC) - The Alphabet network has asked for a two-week production break on the midseason drama. The series, which comes from Touchstone and DreamWorks Television, has already completed six episodes, ahead of several series currently airing this fall. ABC executives reportedly wanted to give creator/executive producer Rod Lurie more time to focus on post-production and writing for future episodes. A second unit however will continue to shoot elements on location in Virginia during the down time. Some insiders however are wondering if ABC is rethinking its midseason strategy and will end up shaving some episodes off of its current 13-episode order.

LIZA & DAVID (VH1) - Liza Minnelli and David Gest have dropped their $23 million lawsuit against the music channel over breach of contract for not going forward with a proposed reality series about their lives. VH1 has also dropped its countersuit, seeking damages of at least $1.5 million, which it filed in February. In a joint statement, both sides say they have "amicably resolved their differences and withdrawn their respective lawsuits." Minnelli and Gest announced in July that were separating, 16 months after they were married in a lavish ceremony.

PICKING UP AND DROPPING OFF (ABC Family, New!) - "Friends" star Lisa Kudrow is set to executive produce a new romantic comedy for the cable channel, the first output from the actress' Is or Isn't Entertainment banner, a company she co-runs with writer-producer Dan Bucatinsky ("All Over the Guy"). Scott Wolf ("Party of Five") and Amanda Detmer star in the project, which has them playing single parents who struggle with their own children and separating from their former spouses. Production is set to begin next week in Calgary, Alberta on the telefilm, which is being targeted for a December air date.

RESCUE ME (FX, New!) - "The Job's" Denis Leary and Peter Tolan are set to reteam on a new drama pilot for FX. Leary will play Tommy Kelly, a divorced New York firefighter, in the project, a one-hour dramedy that tracks Kelly as he copes with the fear of his job and the unease he feels watching his ex-wife as she starts to date other men. To better keep tabs on his ex and stay close to their three kids, Kelly moves across the street from them. Production is set to begin on the pilot next month in New York with Tolan directing. Should the pilot go to series, FX is targeting a summer 2004 start date. Lenny Clarke, who co-starred with Leary in "The Job," is expected to make guest appearances on the show, which tackles a subject close to Leary's heart. For the past three years, Leary's Firefighters Foundation, founded in 2000 in response to the 1999 death of six firemen in Leary's hometown of Worcester, Mass., including his first cousin and a childhood friend, has distributed more than $1 million to local fire departments.

SETTLE THE SCORE (Syndication, New!) - E! staple Melissa Rivers will be the centerpiece of a new reality/talkshow hybrid for Tribune Entertainment. Phil Gurin ("The Weakest Link") is behind the project, the pilot of which was shot this past Saturday. His Laurelwood Entertainment banner is behind the pilot which is under consideration as a weekday strip for syndication. Details about the project are being kept under wraps other than it includes in-studio guests and field segments. Tribune will determine by October whether to go forward with "Score," which could be sold to stations in time for a fall 2004 launch. Rivers recently signed a one-year talent deal with ABC as part of her participation on the reality series "I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!" last season.

THE TWILIGHT ZONE (UPN) - New Line Television is looking to sell the short-lived UPN series to local stations for weekend syndication beginning in June 2004. No cash will change hands in any potential deal as each station will simply hand over seven minutes of ad time per hour to be sold nationally by New Line (which plans to hire a firm to sell the ad space). The company also plans to give the option of splitting the 22 produced hours into half-hour installments.

UNTITLED JODI LYN O'KEEFE PROJECT (FOX, New!) - Jodi Lyn O'Keefe ("Nash Bridges," The Pool at Maddy Breaker's") has signed a talent holding deal with the network and 20th Century Fox Television. As with most talent deals, the pact calls for FOX to place her in a new project targeted for fall 2004 or have her sign on to an existing series.

UNTITLED RICKI LAKE PROJECT (CBS, New!) - The Eye has pacted with Ricki Lake to develop a new half-hour comedy for the talk show host for fall 2004. The news has fueled continued speculation that this will be the final year for her self-titled talk show from Sony, currently in its 11th season. She'll meet with writers in the coming months to determine the direction of the potential project. Lake is no stranger to CBS, she has a recurring role as sister to Kevin James on the network's "King of Queens."

UNTITLED SARAH THORP PROJECT (WB, New!) - Screenwriter Sarah Thorp ("Blackout") and director Simon West ("Keen Eddie") are set to team for a new "21 Jump Street"-esque drama at the Frog. Thorp will write and serve as a supervising producer on the pilot, which comes from Paramount Television, with West set to direct and executive produce. West's production partner Jib Polhemus is also on board as a supervising producer. The project, which revolves around an experimental program that uses real high school students as police cadets, all with the goal of preventing and investigating school-based crimes, has a script commitment from the WB.

THE WEST WING (NBC) - Just one day after the series won its fourth consecutive best drama Emmy, series stars Allison Janney, Richard Schiff, Bradley Whitford and John Spencer have reportedly settled their contract negotiations with Warner Bros. Television. The foursome were said to be looking to get a bump from $90,000 to $150,000 per episode but it's unclear just how close they got to that target. Nevertheless, all parties seem to be happy with the final outcome and the entire process is widely believed to have been amicable for both parties. About the only public sign of strife came a few weeks ago, when the four actors declined to do any publicity promoting the show's new season. As they did two years ago for their previous negotiation, the actors all retained the services of attorney Peter Nelson. In addition to Nelson, insiders say executive producer John Wells played a pivotal role in making sure both sides kept talking.

WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE (ABC) - The Game Show Network has acquired 150 of the 350 produced episodes from Buena Vista Television of the once white-hot Regis Philbin-hosted game show. The network plans to strip the series seven days a week beginning Monday, October 13 with a special four-hour marathon of the series on October 12. In addition, GSN has the option to acquire the additional produced episodes. The deal includes several of the celebrity installments of the series as well as many featuring the seven $1 million winners. GSN will also add an interactive element so viewers can play along with each show in real time. The aim is to offer players the chance to answer each question that the on-air contestant receives. The top 10 users' scores and their respective player names will be broadcast live on-air twice during each show.

Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters

  [september 2003]  

· 10-8 (ABC)
· ER (NBC)

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