CHICAGO (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:
AMERICAN CANDIDATE (Showtime) - The pay channel is reportedly close to picking up the R.J. Cutler-produced series, which was previously in development at FX. Should it go forward, production would begin on the series in February for a summer 2004 launch. While some changes are expected to be made to the show's format, it's still believed to feature an "American Idol"-style voting system in which would-be candidates are eliminated on a weekly basis leading up to someone being named "The American Candidate." To land a slot on the show, applicants will have to fill out questionnaires and provide videotapes in which they explain why they would make a great president as well as put together a group of 50 supporters from their community who will serve as sponsors.
FX bowed out of "Candidate" in April after determining that the series would be too costly for the cable network. Culter (who's also behind Showtime's "Freshman Diaries") however, along with fellow producers Tom Lassally and Jay Roach, vowed to find a new home for the series and continue to accept applications at the show's official web site. News about the project's revival at Showtime was first reported by the Washington-based newspaper Roll Call which discovered that an election lawyer had written to the Federal Election Committee on Showtime parent Viacom's behalf, looking to make sure "Candidate" wouldn't violate federal campaign finance laws. According to their report, participants will not be allowed to receive actual financial contributions or to become real political candidates during the show's production or initial run.
BAILEY WEGGINS (ABC, New!) - ABC and Touchstone are looking to turn the bestselling series of novels ("If Looks Could Kill," "A Body to Die For") from Cosmopolitan editor-in-chief Kate White into an hourlong mystery drama. Marc Platt Productions ("Absolutely American," "Empire Falls") along with the husband-and-wife team of Ellie Herman ("That Was Then," "Ally McBeal") and David Levinson are behind the project, which has a premium script commitment at the network. The series, like the books, will track Bailey Weggins, a newly single thirtysomething journalist who ends up solving crimes while working at New York City's top woman's magazine. The producers liken the show to "Sex and the City" meets "Murder, She Wrote."
THE COMPLEX (A.K.A. THE BLOCK) (FOX) - Ted Haimes ("Temptation Island") will executive produce FOX's upcoming import of the popular Austrailian series, which now features the title "The Complex." Casting has already begun on the series, a cross between "Trading Spaces" and "Big Brother," which follows four competing couples as they redecorate, live in and then sell their respective units in a Southern California condominium complex. FremantleMedia North America ("American Idol") is behind the project which will air some time in 2004.
DARK SHADOWS (WB, New!) - The Frog is reportedly close to giving a put pilot commitment to a new incarnation of the legendary 1966-71 ABC vampire soap from producer Dan Curtis. Should it go forward, Curtis will team with uber-producer John Wells ("ER," "The West Wing," "Third Watch") for the new take on the series, which would come from Warner Bros. Television and John Wells Productions. Mark Verheiden ("Smallville") is set to write the pilot, details of which are still under wraps until a formal deal can be worked out. This isn't the first attempt at a revival of "Dark Shadows," as two feature films have been produced based on the property as well as an NBC mini-series in 1991.
DECEIT (Lifetime, New!) - Marlo Thomas ("Two Against Time") will star and executive produce a new telefilm at the cable channel based on the BBC mini-series and Clare Francis novel of the same name. John Sacret Young ("China Beach") is on board to executive produce, write and direct the project, which tells the story a grieving widow (Thomas) who becomes the prime suspect in the disappearance of her wealthy husband. Production is set to begin on the telefilm, which comes from Sony Pictures Television in association with Film Factory, in early 2004 for airing later that same year.
HE GOT GAME (ESPN) - Some additional details about Spike Lee's series version of his 1998 film have emerged. Lee reportedly plans to pick up Jesus Shuttlesworth's (played by Ray Allen in the film) story a few years after the feature, with Shuttlesworth now in the pros. "He Got Game's" development future however may hinge on how things shake out with ESPN's current troubles with the NFL over "Playmakers" (see below). Should ESPN have a falling out with the NFL, it could also spell trouble for the NBA's current partnership with the sports channel if they don't approve of the basketball series.
THE PAULA THOMAS PROJECT (New!) - Fashion model/clothing designer Paula Thomas ("A View to a Kill") is set to star in a new reality series co-produced by Hearst Entertainment and Tenth Street Productions. The project would track Thomas as she makes the rounds trying to get investors to bankroll her line of clothing under the umbrella title Wylde Child. Shooting has already begun on the series as Tenth Street's cameras followed Thomas at the Los Angeles Fashion Shows two weeks ago and will continue to do so until the formal introduction of the Thomas line at the L.A. Fashion Shows in October 2004. Hearst and Tenth hope to secure a deal with a cable network and deliver the series for next fall with the number of episodes depending upon how compelling Thomas' odyssey turns out to be, as captured by the Huang family (Joy, Henry and Daniel), who run Tenth Street.
PLAYMAKERS (ESPN) - The sports channel is not expected to renew its first original drama series, but not because of ratings troubles. In fact, "Playmakers" has been nothing but a smash hit for the network as through nine episodes this season, the series has averaged a 1.85 household rating, more than four times ESPN's Tuesday, 9:00/8:00c time slot average during the same period last year (0.4 household rating). Furthermore, the show has never fallen below a 2.0 rating among ESPN's target demographic of men 18-34 and a recent episode featuring Snoop Dogg snagged 329,640 viewers among men 18-24, its largest audience in the demographic to date.
Industry insiders however say "Playmakers'" real hurdle has been the negative reaction to the series by the National Football League owners and officials of the NFL Players Assocation who say the show's content is a far cry from the real NFL. At stake: ESPN's coveted Sunday Night Football license, which expires after the 2005 season. Should ESPN continue to anger the NFL over the show's illicit content, the NFL may take its Sunday Night Football franchise to another network such as USA, Spike TV or FX, all of whom expressed intersted in obtaining the highly-rated series. Losing the NFL would be a serious blow to ESPN whose $1.86 billion from cable-operator license fees in 2003, the most for any cable channel, is largely due to the NFL. ESPN currently pays about $600 million a year for the Sunday night game, which it has held since 1998.
QUEER EYE FOR THE STRAIGHT GUY (Bravo, New!) - Bravo has greenlighted a one-shot spin-off of its popular franchise entitled "Straight Eye for the Queer Guy." The one-hour special will flip the formula and let five straight men makeover a gay guy in such areas as power tools, NFL basics, decorating your garage, two-minute hair and sports event etiquette. So far no casting has been announced for the special nor is it clear if the original "Fab Five" will appear. Bravo plans to air the special early next year.
STRAIGHT PLAN FOR THE GAY MAN (Comedy Central, New!) - The cable channel is set to go forward with its own take on the "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" formula. Three one-hour episodes of the series have been ordered in which four straight comedians, dubbed "the 'Flab 4' (Curtis Gwynn, Billy Merritt, Kyle Grooms and Rob Riggle) working with a gay man to achieve his small but important dream of pulling the wool over the straight world's eyes for a day," according to a network press release. "The gay men include: Jonathan, an upscale fashion salesman who's always wanted to better understand the life of a blue collar worker; Roger, a quirky yoga instructor who has always dreamed of competing in a pick up basketball game; and Stephen, a hip singer/dancer with tons of female friends, who's always wondered if he'd be a smooth straight man when it comes to picking up the ladies." Nick McKinney of Borderline is the executive producer of the project, the first episode of which is scheduled to air Tuesday, February 17 at 10:00/9:00c.
UNTITLED JENNIFER ESPOSITO PROJECT (CBS, New!) - The former "Spin City" star has inked a talent holding deal with the Eye to star in one of its projects targeted for fall 2004. Esposito spent the past development season attached to CBS' drama pilot "Partners In Crime."
UNTITLED JESSICA SIMPSON PROJECT (ABC, New!) - The "Newlyweds" star has partnered with producer Ted Harbert to develop a sitcom at the Alphabet network in which Simpson will play a character loosely based on herself, a pop star whose squeaky-clean image has made her an American sweetheart. Harbert will executive produce the half-hour project, along with Simpson's father and manager, Joe, which is set up at 20th Century Fox Television. In an interesting twist, the development of her ABC series may be chronicled in part during the second season of her MTV series.
UNTITLED OLIVER HUDSON PROJECT (WB, New!) - Actor Oliver Hudson ("My Guide to Becoming a Rock Star," "Dawson's Creek") has signed a talent holding/series development deal with the Frog and Warner Bros. Television to develop a series project for the actor targeted for fall 2004.
UNTITLED TONY DANZA PROJECT (Syndication, New!) - Buena Vista Television is looking to develop a talk show hosted by the former "Who's the Boss" and "Taxi" star for daytime syndication. The exact format of the series is still being considered however it's expected to be modeled after "The Tonight Show," and will likely showcase Danza's singing and dancing talents. Buena Vista executives are quick to point out though that the Tony Danza project isn't a harbinger of the fate of fellow Buena Vista series "The Wayne Brady Show," which has been slow to catch on with audiences.
WHO WANTS TO MARRY MY DAD? (NBC) - The Peacock has begun casting a second season of the summer reality series. Open calls are currently scheduled for November 15 and 16 in Dallas and Ft. Lauderdale. For additional information, visit NBC's media site.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters