CHICAGO (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:
ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT (FOX) - Liza Minnelli has signed on for a multi-episode arc on the network's new fall comedy. She'll play widowed society matron Lucille Austero, the archnemesis of lead Jason Bateman's mother (Jessica Walter). The series stars Bateman as Michael Bluth, a widower who's pulled back into the clutches of his eccentric Orange County family when his father (Jeffrey Tambor) is arrested for dubious accounting practices.
THE ELIZABETH SMART STORY (CBS) - The Eye will air its take on the 2002 Elizabeth Smart kidnapping on Sunday, November 9 at 9:00/8:00c. The project stars Dylan Baker ("Road to Perdition"), Lindsay Frost ("The Secret Life of Doris Duke") and Amber Marshall ("The Christmas Shoes") as Ed, Lois and Elizabeth Smart respectively. 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") are the executive producers for von Zerneck/Sertner Films and Patricia Clifford Productions. The screenplay was written by Nancey Silvers ("One Special Night," "Moms on Strike").
FRASIER (NBC) - Executive producer Jon Sherman has signed a two-year, seven-figure overall development deal with NBC Studios. The pact goes into effect in June 2004 after the 11th (and reportedly final) season of "Frasier" wraps. Sherman will then concentrate on developing projects for fall 2005 consideration.
HORSE HEAVEN (HBO, New!) - Michelle Ashford and Jane Smiley are set to team on a new drama project for the pay channel based on the latter's book of the same name. The duo will executive produce the series, which takes place in the self-described "strange, compelling, sparkling, and mysterious universe" of horse racing.
THE JOE SCHMO SHOW (Spike TV) - The cable network will air a marathon of all nine episodes of the series on Sunday, October 26 from 2:00-7:00 p.m. and 8:00-12:00 a.m. eastern time. Viewers can then look for the two-hour series finale on Tuesday, October 28 at 9:00/8:00c.
LACKAWANNA BLUES (HBO, New!) - Broadway producer George C. Wolfe has come aboard to direct HBO's adaptation of Ruben Santiago-Hudson's Obie-winning one-man play "Lackawanna Blues." Halle Berry is the executive producer of the project, which tells the story of Santiago-Hudson's childhood at a boardinghouse in Lackawanna, N.Y., during the 1950s and '60s. Wolfe and Santiago-Hudson previously teamed for the original stage production of "Blues." In addition to adapting his play to the screen and possibly playing a supporting role in the film, Santiago-Hudson is executive producing alongside Berry, manager Vincent Cirrincione and Shelby Stone.
MAKING THE CUT (New!) - Fox TV Studios is developing a reality series described as a cross between "The Restaurant" and "American Idol," set in the world of hair salons. New York-based hair stylist Rodney Cutler is behind the project, which tracks 40 aspiring stylists over 12 weeks as he mentors and trains them to help open a salon. Redken has signed on to sponsor the series should it go forward at one of the broadcast networks. David Martin is the executive producer for Fox TV Studios.
THE MIGHTY MCCANNS (ABC, New!) - The Alphabet network is developing a new comedy from Matt McGuinness about his own life as one of eight siblings. Feature production outfit Alcon Entertainment ("Insomnia") is behind the series, one of the first outputs of the company's Warner Bros. Television-based TV banner. Former 20th Century Fox Television executive Jamie Wager is the executive producer for Alcon, which is headed by co-presidents Andrew Kosove and Broderick Johnson.
NIP/TUCK (FX) - Last week's episode (September 23) snagged 3.7 million viewers, its highest tally since its July premiere, despite facing off against the season premieres of ABC's "N.Y.P.D. Blue," CBS' "Judging Amy" and NBC's "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit." The broadcast also scored 2.7 million viewers among adults 18-49, its highest total to date, beating its previous record by 300,000 people.
THE ORLANDO JONES SHOW (FX) - The cable network has canceled the late night talk show after three months on the air. Recent numbers have the series averaging a paltry 259,000 viewers (172,000 in adults 18-49), less than half of its debut week audience. FX will burn off the remaining produced episodes over the next two weeks. "We're proud of the show and appreciate the efforts of Orlando and all of the producers. Unfortunately, the network found the costs of the show prohibitive," FX topper Peter Liguori Daily Variety. "We really weren't providing a legitimate competitor in the already competitive latenight arena. It's just an incredibly tough field."
QUEER EYE FOR THE STRAIGHT GUY (Bravo) - The NBC-owned cable channel is in talks with producer Scout Productions to pick up the series for a second season of 40 episodes. The breakout hit is in the middle of its first season of 20 episodes, 13 of which have been shot. Production of the remaining seven episodes is set to begin shortly with new installments set to begin airing during November sweeps.
Simultaneously, the show's Fab Five - Kyan Douglas, Ted Allen, Carson Kressley, Jai Rodriguez and Thom Filicia - are looking to renegotiate their salaries, a surprisingly low $3,000 each per episode. The five-some recently sealed a $1.2 million book deal based on "Queer Eye." The last new episode of the series (September 23) was seen by 2.4 million total viewers.
THE RESIDENTS (TNT) - The documentary series, which comes from documentary veteran R.J. Cutler (ABC's "The Real Roseanne Show" and Showtime's "Freshman Diaries"), has offically been pronounced dead by the cable channel. "While it was a good documentary, we didn't feel it was consistent with our brand," Turner Broadcasting topper Steve Koonin told Daily Variety. Nevertheless, Cutler has found a new home for the series: Discovery Health Channel, a cable network owned by Discovery Networks. The channel, which is seen in about 46 million homes, will air the first four of the 13-episode series Sundays at 10:00/9:00c beginning October 12. The nine remaining installments will then air early next year. "Residents" tracks a year in the life of four medical school graduates at UCLA Medical Center, where they interact with doctors and patients.
SEX AND THE CITY (HBO) - TBS has emerged as the winner of HBO's "Sex and the City" as the network will shell out a cash license fee of $450,000 for each of the 94 episodes planned to be produced by the end of its run on the pay channel. TBS plans to run the show four times a week in primetime, probably one hour a night over two nights in mid-week beginning in June 2004. The cable network will then lose its exclusivity come September 2005 when the various Tribune-owned local stations (including superstation WGN) begin airing repeats of the series. Not surprisingly TBS will likely run the "clean" version of the series that was shot in tandem with the regular version. As for HBO, the pay channel will still be able to air repeats of the series on its various multiplex channels but not for the first three months of TBS' run.
SHOP 'TIL YOU DROP (PAX) - The struggling netlet has greenlighted 90 new episodes of the game show, which comes from Stone Stanley Entertainment, now in its fifth year on the network. J.D. Roberto ("Are You Hot," "Food Fight") will take over as host of the series for the new season, which begins Monday, October 6 at 6:30/5:30c.
UNTITLED CAMILLE GRAMMER PROJECT (Spike TV, New!) - Kelsey Grammer is looking to develop a talk show through his Grammnet Productions ("Gary the Rat") for his wife, Camille. The husband-and-wife team will executive the weekly series, described as a cross between "The View" and Comedy Central's "The Man Show." Camille will be paired with several yet-to-be-determined women as host of the series. Spike TV has committed to a pilot for the project, directed by Milton Lage (HBO's "Reverb"), with production set to begin in November.
UNTITLED CHRIS O'DONNELL PROJECT (CBS, New!) - Actor Chris O'Donnell has inked a seven-figure talent holding and development deal with the Eye network. The pact calls for CBS to develop both a comedy and drama project for the actor with the option of asking O'Donnell to star in an existing pilot next spring. Should a series go forward, it would be O'Donnell's first starring role on a TV series. This season he's signed on for a multi-episode arc on ABC's "The Practice."
UNTITLED JAMIE KENNEDY PROJECT (WB, New!) - "The Jamie Kennedy Experiment" star is working on a new project for the Frog. This time around he's signed on to co-write and executive produce a semiautobiographical comedy series for the channel. The project, which has a script commitment from the WB, is the first project to come out of Kennedy and John Etting's newly launched production company, Wannabe Producers. The comedy, written and executive produced by Kennedy, Etting and the writing-producing duo of David Garrett and Jason Ward, is based on the real-life experience of Kennedy and his friend Garrett when they first came to Los Angeles and became part of a dysfunctional family.
UNTITLED JANE KRAKOWSKI PROJECT (CBS, New!) - The former "Ally McBeal" star has signed a talent holding deal with CBS, which hopes to develop a comedy vehicle for the actress. The pact calls for CBS to either place her in an existing project or create a new one for her for consideration on the network's fall 2004 schedule.
UNTITLED JONATHAN KATZ PROJECT (FOX, New!) - Jonathan Katz ("Raising Dad," "Dr. Katz") and Touchstone Television are set to team on a new animated project for the network. FOX has committed to a pilot presentation for the series, to be written and executive produced by Katz and Tom Snyder, who worked together on "Dr. Katz." Also on board to executive produce are the Touchstone-based duo of Nina Wass and Gene Stein.
UNTITLED KATHRYN BIGELOW PROJECT (FOX, New!) - Feature helmer Kathryn Bigelow ("K-19: The Widowmaker," "Point Break") and writers Todd and Glenn Kessler ("Robbery Homicide Division") have scored a put pilot commitment for a new drama about a woman who goes undercover inside a high school. Imagine Television and 20th Century Fox Television are behind the project, which is loosely inspired by a Playboy magazine article from reporter Mark Boal. The drama revolves around a 23-year-old woman who poses as a 16-year-old high school student in order to investigate a drug ring. Complications arise as she has to navigate the world of high school all over again and slowly becomes emotionally attached to the person she's supposed to be investigating. Bigelow is attached to direct the project, which carries a substantial six-figure penalty if it doesn't go to series, while the Kesslers will write. Brian Grazer and David Nevins will executive produce the pilot for Imagine/20th Century Fox, alongside Bigelow and Todd Kessler with Glenn Kessler co-executive producing.
UNTITLED LATANYA RICHARDSON PROJECT (UPN, New!) - The husband-and-wife team of Samuel L. Jackson and Latanya Richardson ("The Fighting Temptations") have signed on to executive produce a new drama project for the network. Richardson will star in the drama, which comes from writer Felicia Henderson ("Soul Food"), about a family struggling to cope with one another while running a million-dollar church dynasty. Jackson will also appear in the pilot, but not as a regular cast member. Jackson and Richardson will executive produce the pilot with Urban Entertainment's Helena Echegoyan and the Firm's Eli Selden.
UNTITLED MICHELLE ASHFORD PROJECT (FOX, New!) - Writer-producer Michelle Ashford and 20th Century Fox Television have landed a script commiment at FOX for a new drama series set in the world of bank robberies. The project is described as "Ocean's Eleven" meets "Catch Me If You Can" and centers on the relationship between a career criminal father and his F.B.I. agent daughter. The series will track the daughter's day-to-day caseload as well as the recurring plot of her father's latest big heist. Ashford, who will also executive produce the project, hopes to bring F.B.I. veteran William Rehder on board as a technical consultant. Rehder recently wrote a book depicting the wide variety of robberies he had encountered during his tenure at the agency. The script commitment includes a six-figure penalty should it not go to pilot.
WILL & GRACE (NBC) - Monty Python alumnus John Cleese has signed on to appear in six episodes of the show's current season. He'll play Lestor Finster on the Emmy-winning comedy, the father of Karen Walker's (Megan Mullally) late husband's mistress Lorraine Finster (Minnie Driver). Driver will also return for as many as six episodes this season.
YES, DEAR (CBS) - Nearly a dozen cast members from the Eye network's reality series "Big Brother" are set to appear on an upcoming episode of the comedy, which will feature a "Dear" character somehow ending up as a cast member of "Big Brother." Already set to appear are Will Kirby and Hardy Hill from season two; Marcellas Reynolds, Lisa Donahue, Amy Crews and Roddy Mancuso from season three; and Michelle Maradie from this year's edition. Also approached but not confirmed are recent winner Jun Song, runner-up Alison Irwin, Nathan Marlow and Justin Giovinco.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters