CHICAGO (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:
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THE BAD GIRL'S GUIDE (UPN) - The netlet has given a pilot presentation order for the project, a comedy based on author Cameron Tuttle's bestselling series of books "The Bad Girl's Guide to Getting What You Want." Jennifer Heath and Michele Wolff ("Tiny Boyfriend") will write and executive produce the project, which comes from Tony Krantz's Flame Television and Paramount Network Television. Paramount replaces the show's original distributor Warner Bros. Television, who dropped out for unspecified reasons.
THE BENEFACTOR (ABC, New!) - Dallas Mavericks' owner Mark Cuban will be the focus of a new reality series which features the billionaire businessman offering $1 million of his own money to bankroll a lucky contestant. ABC has committed to six one-hour episodes of the project, which comes from David Young ("The Weakest Link," "Dog Eat Dog") and the U.K.-based 12 Yard Productions, with production set to begin in April for a summer air date. While exact details of how the show will work are under wraps, it's expected to unspool along the lines of NBC's "The Apprentice" with 30 contestants competing in series of tasks for the big prize. Cuban himself says he won't make a dime of the series, as any money earned from the series will be used to fund the $1 million prize. Casting is already underway on the project, which was optioned by the Alphabet over a year ago, as interested contestants can visit the network's casting page for more information. Clay Newbill ("The Mole") will also executive produce as will Todd Wagner, CEO of Cuban's 2929 Productions ("Star Search").
DEAL OR NO DEAL (ABC) - The Alphabet has postponed the premiere of the game show. Originally set for a four-week run beginning Wednesday, March 10 at 9:00/8:00c, the project will now unspool at a later date.
EVEL KNIEVEL (TNT) - George Eads ("C.S.I.") has signed on for the title role in the project, a biopic of the career daredevil. Icon Productions, Jaffe/Braunstein Films and ApolloProScreen are behind the project, which is based on Steve Mandich's book "Evel Incarnate: The Life and Legend of Evel Knievel." The telefilm will track Knievel's upbringing in a copper-mining town and his name-making stunts, including leaps across Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas and the Snake River Canyon in Idaho. Production is set to begin in April on the telefilm for an unspecified air date. The news marks the end of an 17-month development cycle for the project, which was originally announced by TNT back in October 2002. Jason Horwitch adapted Mandich's book for the project, which will be executive produced by Jan Korbelin, Icon's Mel Gibson and Bruce Davey as well as Michael Jaffe and Howard Braunstein of Jaffe/Braunstein Films.
EVERYDAY LIFE (NBC) - Christen Nelson ("Hype") has been added to the cast of the Rob Reiner-produced comedy pilot. She'll play Winnie, a therapist and older sister to Josh Radnor's character. Universal Network Television is behind the project, which will be executive produced by Reiner, Daniel Paige, Sue Paige and Alan Greisman. Reiner is also on board to direct the pilot, which is currently scheduled to tape on Tuesday, March 23.
SPELLBOUND (FOX) - FOX has revived the failed NBC pilot from writer/producers Rob Greenberg ("Frasier") and Suzanne Martin ("Maybe It's Me") and Warner Bros. Television. Richard Ruccolo and ("Two Guys and a Girl") and Andrea Anders ("Oz") starred in the original NBC version, a romantic comedy about a male witch who falls in love with a mortal. Also previously cast were Fred Willard ("A Minute With Stan Hooper"), Michael Cornacchia and Christina Pickles ("Friends"). Casting is underway on the new version with Andy Ackerman ("Two and a Half Men") on board to direct and executive produce.
SWEDEN, OHIO (FOX, New!) - Greg Malins ("Friends," "Come to Papa") has landed a pilot commitment at FOX for a new comedy about a teenage boy whose life suddenly gets more interesting when a sexy foreign exchange student moves in with his family. The concept comes from Bill Fritz and Kurt Voelker, who will write and serve as supervising producers on the project, which comes from Warner Bros. Television.
THIS JUST IN (Spike TV) - The cable channel has released a detailed description of the upcoming animated series: "In its continued commitment to developing original animated programs for men, Spike TV debuts a topical animated series, This Just In, created by Steve Marmel, stand-up comic and producer/head writer of Nickelodeon's hit show, The Fairly OddParents and Kevin Kay, Executive Vice President of Production & Programming. The weekly series debuts on Sunday, March 14 (10:30-11:00 PM, ET/PT), following The John Henson Project (10:00-10:30 PM, ET/PT). This Just In follows real-life current events as they happen-and it is completely animated. The weekly show centers on three twenty-something guys, newspaper journalist Brian Newport (Steve Marmel) and his two buddies, house-husband Craig Tindle (Peter MacNichol) and teacher Jimmy Townhouse (Phil Morris). In a timely fashion this lively cast brings their own dysfunctional spin on current events in the world at large. "This show has a conservative bent on politics and culture," says Kay. "How many comedy programs in the television landscape -excluding the Fox News Channel - can claim that point of view?" The majority of the show will be written the week each episode telecasts. The first episode will include timely plotlines about the presidential election and voter apathy. Traditional animation requires months of production, but This Just In uses Flash, an entirely digital animation process that allows the show to be written and produced the very week it airs. Kevin Kay and Steve Marmel are co-creators. Marmel is executive producer/head writer. It is produced by Spike TV."
UNTITLED LENA HORNE PROJECT (ABC) - Janet Jackson has exited her starring role in the telefilm as the actress/singer was reportedly disinvited by Horne and her daughter Gail Lumet Buckley after her Super Bowl halftime show antics. Executive producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron of Storyline Entertainment have also left the project in protest over Jackson's removal. ABC however was apparently ready to go to bat for Jackson but Horne refused to return her contract for the telefilm until ABC guaranteed that Jackson was indeed off the project. Jackson herself then opted to drop out rather than risk a public battle. The news more or less kills any prospects of the project ever being made unless another star is attached. ABC had given the telefilm a production green light back in September (read the story) with Roy Campanella Jr. attached to direct from a script by Shirley Pierce, based on "Lena," the autobiography the singer wrote with Richard Schickel. Sony Pictures Television was also on board to produce the biopic along with Storyline.
UNTITLED MARSH MCCALL/JOEL STEIN PROJECT (ABC) - Colin Hanks ("Roswell") has been tapped for the lead role in the untitled comedy, about a young reporter (Hanks) who makes waves at a respected magazine. The project is loosely based on Joel Stein's real-life experiences as the youngest reporter ever at Time. Warner Bros. Television-based Acme Productions is behind the project, with Stein executive producing along with Marsh McCall.
WANTED (CBS) - Scott Glenn ("Training Day") is the first to join the drama pilot, which revolves around officers assigned to the fugitive department of the L.A.P.D. He'll play Bill Spence, the department chief in the project, which comes from the trio of Warner Bros. Television, 25C Productions and CBS Productions and is executive produced by Sarah Timberman, Cynthia Cidre, Thomas Carter and Carl Beverly. Glenn's involvement lifts the project's cast-contingent component of its production green light.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters