[10/29/03 - 12:00 AM]
Development Update: October 29
By The Futon Critic Staff (TFC)

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

ACTION (FOX) - Comedy Central has acquired the rights to the short-lived FOX series. The network plans to run back-to-back episodes every Tuesday at 8:00/7:00c beginning November 18. Jay Mohr plays Peter Dragon in the comedy, a high-powered Hollywood development executive who is trying to recover from the catastrophic failure of his most recent box office bomb.

THE AMERICAN (UPN, New!) - Prolific producers Denise Di Novi and Aaron Spelling have landed a pilot script at the netlet for a new drama about a Guatemalan immigrant who became a war hero while fighting in Iraq. The drama will pick up as he returns to the U.S., is granted citizenship and becomes a private eye to assist the defenseless. Juan Carlos Coto is writing the pilot, which Di Novi and Spelling will executive produce.

BAND OF BROTHERS (HBO) - The pay channel is in talks with the History Channel to sell the broadcast rights to the award-winning mini-series. HBO hopes to land as much as $750,000 for each of its 10 parts, despite the mini-series being over two years old. The news comes on the heels of HBO's successful sale of "Sex and the City" repeats to TBS and local stations across the country. FX reportedly was also interested in "Band" however is no longer pursuing the series.

CELEBRITY POKER SHOWDOWN (Bravo) - The cable network has scheduled its six-episode celebrity poker tournament for Tuesdays at 9:00/8:00c beginning December 2. Ben Affleck, David Schwimmer, Martin Sheen, Hank Azaria, Don Cheadle and Tom Green are listed among the many participants.

CROSSING JORDAN (NBC) - Production has been postponed on the remainder of "Jordan's" third season as star Jill Hennessy has asked the show's producers for more time off to spend with her newborn baby. Despite the delay NBC still maintains the series will return to the Peacock's schedule in January. With six episodes in the can, all of which were shot this past spring, the show is still well ahead of schedule. Industry insiders are saying the show will now resume shooting in January to ensure there's no break between aired episodes.

DOUG: A STANDUP GUY (HBO, New!) - Comedian Doug Williams ("The Mind of the Married Man") has signed a development deal with the pay channel to create a darkly comic series about a relationship rocked by domestic violence. Williams would star in the series, which is based on his own life and was later incorporated into a stage act he performed at the HBO Workspace. HBO has committed to a script for the project.

THE GRID (TNT, New!) - TNT is reportedly close to greenlighting a new six hour mini-series depicting a fictional terrorist attack on London told from the point of view of an American-British counterterrorism team and a dangerous cell modeled on al-Qaeda. Fox Television Studios and the BBC are said to be the co-producers on the project, which would be budgeted just north of $10 million. FX was previously developing "The Grid," but dropped the project for unspecified reasons.

HORATIO HORNBLOWER (A&E) - The cable channel has scheduled two new installments of its "Hornblower" franchise. "Horatio Hornblower: Loyalty" is slated for Tuesday, December 2 at 8:00/7:00c while "Horatio Hornblower: Duty" is set to air Wednesday, December 3 at 8:00/7:00c. Joining lead Ioan Gruffudd in the new telefilms are Julia Sawalha ("Absolutely Fabulous") as Horatio's awkward young bride Maria; Greg Wise ("Sense and Sensibility") as the dashing Major Andre Cotard, a French major who is a British sympathizer; Christian Coulson ("The Hours") as the young Midshipman John Hammond; Lorcan Cranitch ("Shackleton") as a new recruit named Wolfe; and Barbara Flynn ("Wives and Daughters") as Horatio's difficult new mother-in-law, Mrs. Mason according to a network press release.

Fans of the franchise can also look to see both telefilms released shortly after their A&E premieres on DVD when "Horatio Hornblower: The New Adventures" hits the format on Tuesday, December 11. The two-disc set includes both "Loyalty" and "Duty" in anamorphic widescreen. Extras include audio commentary by director Andrew Grieve and producer Andrew Benson on "Loyalty" and Grieve, Benson and costume designer John Mallo on "Duty." The set retails for $39.95.

THE JANE PAULEY SHOW (Syndication) - NBC Enterprises has now cleared the talk show in 75% of the country, including the top 10 markets and 41 of the top 50, for a fall 2004 launch. The company hopes to snag a $52 million ($1 million a week) payday in license fees for the series. Industry insiders however say that goal is still contingent on the participation of the NBC owned-and-operated stations, most of which carry Warner Bros.' "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" in "Pauley's" targeted 3 or 4 p.m. eastern time slots. "Ellen" is the top new performer this season in the genre and some stations may choose to stick with the series instead of bumping it in favor of "Pauley." The license fees for most syndicated series are generally based on when they air: early morning and late afternoon series generally cost the most while mid-morning and late night series generally cost the least. Should either "Pauley" or "Ellen" be bumped outside the late afternoon hours, it would be a serious blow to their license fee income. Regardless, NBC Enterprises still could end up pocketing tens of millions from the 3.5 minutes of each hour it will hold back for national ad sales leaving local stations with 10.5 minutes of ad time.

KEVIN HILL (UPN, New!) - The netlet has ordered a script from Touchstone Television, Mel Gibson's Icon Productions and Jorge A. Reyes for a new series described as "Ally McBeal" meets "Baby Boom." The project centers on a 30-year-old single playboy lawyer in L.A. who suddenly has to raise his brother's six month old baby girl -- and go to work for a law firm run by women -- one of whom he slept with.

KID NOTORIOUS (Comedy Central) - The Robert Evans-led animated series kicked off last week to 1.6 million viewers, nearly 1 million of which fell in the key adults 18-49 demographic. Nevertheless, "Kid" lost nearly half of lead-in "South Park's" audience (3.1 million total viewers and 2 million in adults 18-49, both up from "South Park's" season premiere in March) in both categories. "Kid's" performance was also below that of recent Comedy Central entries "Chappelle's Show" and "Reno 911," the later of which bowed to more than 2 million viewers.

NIGHTINGALE (UPN, New!) - Former "John Doe" creators/executive producers Brandon Camp and Mike Thompson are working on a new supernatural-themed drama for the netlet. The project centers on a woman who's guided by unseen forces to fight evil at night -- but has no memory of doing so once the sun rises. The pair will write and executive produce the project for Sony Pictures Television.

ROME (HBO) - The pay channel has officially greenlighted 12 episodes of the epic series for 2005. HBO will team with the BBC to co-produce the project, which comes from Bruno Heller ("Touching Evil"), William J. MacDonald ("The Saint") and John Milius ("Apocalypse Now"). Stan Wlodkowski ("American Beauty") will co-executive produce the series, which will be written by Heller, Milius, MacDonald, Alexandra Cunningham, David Frankel and Adrian Hodges. Here's how HBO describes the series, via press release:

"Rome" is the saga of two ordinary Roman soldiers and their families. An intimate drama of love and betrayal, masters and slaves, and husbands and wives, it chronicles epic times that saw the fall of a republic and the creation of an empire. The series begins in 51 BC, as Gaius Julius Caesar has completed his masterful conquest of Gaul after eight years of war, and is preparing to return to Rome. He heads home with thousands of loyal battle-hardened men, huge amounts of loot in gold and slaves, and a populist agenda for radical social change. Terrified, the aristocracy threatens to prosecute Caesar for war crimes as soon as he sets foot in Rome. Caesar's old friend and mentor, Pompey Magnus, attempts to foment mutiny in order to maintain the balance of power. Two of Caesar's soldiers, Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo, thwart Pompey's plan and in the process, win the eternal gratitude of Caesar and the Julian clan, affording the two plebian officers an intimate view of the ruling class. The fates of Pullo and Vorenus become entwined with those of Caesar, Mark Antony, Cleopatra and the boy Octavian, a strange and awkward child who, by political guile and bloody force, will become the first emperor of Rome.

Casting is underway in London on the project, which will shoot in Rome's Cinecitta studios and various parts of Europe and North Africa. Gareth Neame will executive produce for the BBC while Anne Thomopoulos will oversee the project for HBO.

SOLDIER, SOLDIER/UFO (New!) - Carlton America, the U.S.-based TV arm of Britain's Carlton International Media Group is looking to develop both series for the American market. The company has already signed writer/producer/director John Sacret Young ("The West Wing") for "Soldier, Soldier" while Pen Densham, Neil Kaplan and John Watson of Trilogy Entertainment ("The Outer Limits," "The Twilight Zone") are on board "UFO." The former, which ran from 1991-97 in the U.K., chronicles the ups and downs of army life while the latter, created by sci-fi visionary Gerry Anderson ("Thunderbirds"), is a live-action series about the Supreme Headquarters Alien Defence Organisation, an elite group designed to protect Earth from alien invasion. Densham, Kaplan and Watson will executive produce "UFO" under the Trilogy banner should it go forward.

UNTITLED BARRY JOSEPHSON PROJECT (UPN, New!) - Barry Josephson ("Like Mike," "The Tick") is set to team with feature writer/director Don Michael Paul ("Half Past Dead") for an ensemble cop drama about young recruits working undercover on the streets of L.A. Paul will write the pilot script, with Josephson executive producing.

UNTITLED J.F. LAWTON PROJECT (UPN, New!) - Feature writer J.F. Lawton ("Under Siege," "Pretty Woman") has been given a script commitment by UPN for a unique drama that mixes anime with live-action (a la the recent feature "Kill Bill"). The untitled project tells the story of two young female actresses working on a Saturday morning show along the lines of "Power Rangers" who discover the costumes they wear for the show actually give them superhuman powers, which they use to fight evil. The anime sections will be used to visualize the fight and action scenes. The series will also feature a comic angle as the producers of the fake kiddie show order them not to use their newfound powers due to insurance issues.

UNTITLED JUSTIN TANNER PROJECT (UPN, New!) - Writer Justin Tanner has sold a script to UPN for a new drama about a man whose psychic abilities force him to deal with the unresolved problems of dead people.

UNTITLED LOUIS C.K. PROJECT (CBS, New!) - Producer Bruce Helford ("Wanda at Large," "The Drew Carey Show") is set to team with comedian Louis C.K. ("Cedric the Entertainment Presents") for a new comedy at the Eye based on C.K.'s stand-up act, which centers on how his life changed following the birth of his first child. C.K. will co-write the pilot with Helford and Bruce Rasmussen, additional details of which were not available.

VERONICA MARS (UPN, New!) - Rob Thomas ("Cupid") has landed a script at the netlet for a private eye drama about a spoiled teen girl who reunites with her estranged father. The girl winds up helping with her dad's struggling detective agency, which operates in a town with many dark secrets.

Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters

  [october 2003]  


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