[03/08/04 - 12:00 AM]
Development Update: March 8
By The Futon Critic Staff (TFC)

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

Looking to keep track of all the various pilots and other projects in development? Be sure to check out our detailed production chart listings by clicking here.

THE AMAZING WESTERBERGS (CBS) - Monica Potter ("Patch Adams") and Joel David Moore ("The Guardian") have both joined the cast of the comedy pilot, which centers on two brothers (Chris O'Donnell and Jay Harrington) raised to think they're special, who come to realize they're just regular guys. Jay Sherick and David Ronn ("Spin City") are behind the project, which is set up at Sony Pictures Television and CBS Productions.

C.S.I.: NEW YORK (CBS) - Gary Sinise ("Forrest Gump") is in early talks to topline the next installment on the "C.S.I." franchise. The actor reportedly had been in on-again, off-again discussions with the show's producers over the past several weeks and it wasn't until late last week that the negotiations became more formalized. The producers and CBS are under the gun to cast the spin-off as production is set to begin shortly on the second-to-last episode of "C.S.I.: Miami" this season, in which said "New York" cast members will be introduced.

DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES (ABC) - Michael Reilly Burke ("N.Y.P.D. Blue") is the latest to join the now 12-member principal cast of the pilot, a drama which takes a darkly humorous look at the secretive lives of four women (Eva Longoria, Teri Hatcher, Felicity Huffman and Marcia Cross) living in an Anytown, U.S.A., cul-de-sac. Burke is set as Rex Van DeKamp in the Touchstone Television project, which also stars Jamie Denton, Ricardo Chavira, Sheryl Lee, Mark Moses, Cody Kasch, Andrea Bowen and Kyle Searles.

THE FRIENDLYS (NBC) - Julie Bowen ("Ed") has joined the cast of the offbeat comedy pilot, which revolves around a family's fight over a dead candy mogul's business. Bowen will play said candy mogul's spoiled daughter in the NBC Studios project, which also stars Dave Foley, Billy Gardell and Ana Gasteyer. Her involvement is believed to be in second position to her commitment to "Ed," meaning that should a fifth season of the struggling drama go forward she would exit "The Friendlys" to resume working on "Ed." Bowen however isn't the only actor from an "on the bubble" series hedging their bets during pilot season: "Threat Matrix's" Jamie Denton (ABC's "Desperate Housewives"), "Boston Public's" Chi McBride (ABC's "Countdown"), "The Handler's" Anna Belknap (NBC's "Untitled Jason Horwitch Project"), "Becker's" Alex Desert (ABC's "Harry Green & Eugene") and Jorge Garcia (ABC's "Lost"), "Come to Papa's" Jennifer Aspen (ABC's "That's My Rodney"), "Good Morning, Miami's" Constance Zimmer (CBS' "Cooking Lessons") and "Jeremiah's" Malcolm-Jamal Warner (CBS' "Shut Up and Listen"), have all lined up secondary gigs should their current series get the axe.

JOINT CUSTODY (WB) - Jon Tenney ("Brooklyn South") and Kevin Wheatly have joined the cast of the comedy pilot, which centers on an ultrapermissive mom (Kate Walsh) who shares custody of her teen kids with her former disciplinarian husband (Tenney). Tenney's involvement stems from a talent deal the actor signed with the Frog back in November (read the story). Dottie Dartland-Zicklin ("Dharma & Greg") is behind the project, which comes from Warner Bros. Television.

KEVIN HILL (UPN) - Kate Levering ("Martin & Lewis") has joined the cast the Taye Diggs-led drama pilot, about a rising young attorney who gives up his playboy lifestyle to raise the 6-month-old daughter of his cousin. She'll play Veronica, a female attorney, in the Touchstone Television/Icon Productions project, which also stars Jon Seda and Patrick Breen.

LAST COMIC STANDING (NBC) - Drew Carey, Brett Butler and Anthony Clark, all of whom are serving as celebrity judges for the show's second season, have cried foul after discovering that producers overruled their votes on the show's ten finalists during a February 26 taping in Las Vegas. The trio's favorite contestant, who earned a standing ovation from the judges and the show's audience, was reportedly cut while another comic who flopped nevertheless remained. "Brett walked out and Anthony ripped his mic off in disgust," Carey told Daily Variety. "No one could believe it. As far as I knew we'd be judges to see who would go into the house. Turns out we're not." Carey reportedly was told by producers of the disclaimer that runs over the show's closing credits which mentions that the producers have final say on who gets to stay and who is voted out. "It's not about who's funniest," Carey continued. "They were casting it. The producers can change the outcome of the show whenever they wish. Why would they have a contest and judges if they were just going to cast it anyway? I thought the whole thing stunk, and I'm mad they had my name associated with it... I've got a certain amount of integrity in this business and I'm not going to be compromised... You can't use me and my reputation. Do it with someone else's reputation... You can't have a contest and then have this loop hole... I'm talking to protect myself. I don't care if (the producers) are mad at me, if NBC is mad at me. I've got nothing to lose... It just seems like such a travesty." An NBC spokesman confirmed the news and says the network stands by the decision as it was part of the show's rules.

LOST (ABC) - Maggie Grace ("12 Mile Road") is the latest actor to join the cast of the drama pilot, follows plane crash survivors marooned on a desert island. She'll play one of the castaways, an upper-crust stunner trapped on an island with her fellow plane crash survivors in the project, which also stars Dominic Monaghan, Ian Somerhalder, Jorge Garcia and Evangeline Lilly. J.J. Abrams and Damon Lindelof are behind the pilot, which is set up at Touchstone Television.

MAD MAD HOUSE (Sci Fi) - 1.57 million viewers (1.35 household rating) tuned into the show's premiere on Thursday, more than double the network's primetime average. More importantly, the series scored particular well among adults 18-34 as the network's new Thursday programming block (which also includes "Scare Tactics" and "Tripping the Rift") soared 194% over its time period average last season in said demographic.

MARTHA STEWART LIVING (Syndication) - As expected, Viacom's CBS and UPN stations dropped the Martha Stewart-hosted series within hours of the announcement she had been found guilty of obstructing justice and lying to the government on Friday. The news effectively kills the show as the CBS owned-and-operated stations represented the largest backer of "Living."

NICE GUYS (CBS) - Producers Joel Silver, Shane Black, Thomas Schlamme, Anthony Bagarozzi and Shaun Cassidy as well as Warner Bros. Television have asked CBS to push the drama project back to midseason 2005 series consideration. The Eye had previously given a cast-contingent green light to the project, a buddy action-adventure drama about mismatched partners. The producers reportedly feel they need more time to find the right actors for the project, which recently had its script revamped with the addition of Cassidy (read the story).

NUMBERS (CBS) - Michael Rooker ("Days of Thunder") is set to star opposite David Krumholtz in the drama pilot, about a mathematician from M.I.T. who is recruited by the F.B.I. to help solve crimes. Rooker is set to play gruff F.B.I. special agent in the project, which comes from Paramount Network Television and Scott Free Productions.

PLAN B (ABC) - Willie Garson ("Sex and the City") has joined the cast of the Caroline Rhea-led comedy pilot, about a thirtysomething single woman juggling romance, career and weight issues. Garson will play the woman's neighbor in the Universal Network Television project, which also stars Rocky Carroll, Kali Rocha and Sarah Shahi.

SCARE TACTICS (Sci Fi) - The show's second season premiere on Thursday opened to 1.58 million viewers (1.5 household rating), down 27% from its debut last season (2.16 million). Nevertheless, "Tactics" did manage to retain 100% of its lead-in, the debut of "Mad Mad House" (1.57 million).

THAT'S MY RODNEY (ABC) - Matthew Josten ("J.A.G.") and Oliver Davis ("ER") are set as Bo and Jack respectively in the comedy pilot, which stars comedian Rodney Carrington. The project, which is based on Carrington's standup routine, comes from Touchstone Television.

TRIPPING THE RIFT (Sci Fi) - The debut of the CGI-animated series snagged 2.08 million viewers (1.8 household rating), more than tripling Sci Fi's time-period average from last season. That makes "Rift's" premiere the second most-watched series opener in Sci Fi history, second only to "Tremors: The Series" last season (2.22 million, 1.6 household rating).

UNTITLED JOHN STAMOS PROJECT (ABC) - Madchen Amick ("Gilmore Girls") is set as Kylie, the female lead in the John Stamos project, a romantic comedy in which the entire season takes place over the course of a couple's first date. Austin Winsberg ("Still Standing") is behind the project, which is set up at 20th Century Fox Television and Brad Grey Television.

UNTITLED KATHRYN BIGELOW PROJECT (FOX) - Peter Facinelli ("Fastlane") has joined the cast of the drama pilot, about a 23-year-old woman (Rachel Nichols) who poses as a 16-year-old high school student in order to investigate a drug ring. He'll play a government agent who oversees said female cop in the 20th Century Fox Television/Imagine Television project.

WILL & GRACE (NBC) - In a follow up to our earlier story, NBC has officially launched its counterattack againt "Will & Grace" creators/executive producers David Kohan and Max Mutchnick, as the network unveiled its own lawsuit last week. Kohan and Mutchnick's multi-million dollar lawsuit, filed against NBC back in December, claimed the network failed to negotiate a fair license fee for the NBC Studios-produced series due to NBC and NBC Studios falling under the same corporate umbrella. As no doubt expected, the suit painted a different story than the one detailed by the duo: "The allegations against us in Mr. Cohen and Mr. Mutchnick's original complaint are not only untrue but are deeply unfair, because we have treated them extraordinarily well in the course of our relationship with them," the network said in statement. "Our counterclaim describes that relationship in detail and gives us the opportunity to explain to the court the true facts relating to the plaintiff's claims. We are extremely confident in our counterclaim and expect to prevail in the litigation." Industry insiders say NBC took copious notes during the negotiations and are quite confident in their side of the story, adding in the complaint: "Mutchnick, Kohan and their handlers were only interested in creating an illusion of cooperation when in fact they were totally uncooperative, duplicitous and guilty of shameless self-dealing in the process."

WITHOUT A TRACE (CBS) - Oscar-winner Martin Landau has signed on for a three-episode arc on the drama series. He'll play the father of Anthony LaPaglia's character, who's suffering from Alzheimer's. It's not clear when Landau's first episode will air.

Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters

  [march 2004]  

· ED (NBC)
· ER (NBC)

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