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.
BECK & CALL (UPN) - Jordana Spiro ("Any Day Now"), Adam Kaufman ("Taken"), David Conrad ("Miss Match") and Erica Gimpel ("Profiler") are the latest to join the cast of the drama pilot, about the executives and assistants in the New York fashion world. The quartet will play Jemma, Gray, Matthew and Leah respectively where they join the previously cast Vanessa L. Williams and Christina Vidal. Greer Shephard, Michael Robin, Lisa Kudrow and Dan Bucatinsky are all behind the project, which comes from Warner Bros. Television and Shephard-Robin Productions.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL (NBC) - Jason Alexander ("Seinfeld") and Jesse L. Martin ("Law & Order") are set star opposite Kelsey Grammer in the Peacock's small screen version of the Madison Square Garden musical stage production of the Charles Dickens classic. Grammer will play Ebenezer Scrooge while Alexander will play Scrooge's dead business partner Marley with Martin set as the Ghost of Christmas Present. Production is scheduled to begin in June in Budapest, Hungary, for a November premiere date. Arthur Allan Seidelman ("Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks") will direct the Hallmark Entertainment-produced project, which is executive produced by Robert Halmi, Sr. and features music by Alan Menken ("Aladdin," "Beauty and the Beast").
DARK SHADOWS (WB) - Marley Shelton ("Uptown Girls") is the first to join the cast of the Frog's revival of the Dan Curtis gothic soap opera. She'll play Victoria Winters in the updated version, a role originally played by Alexandra Isles, Betsy Durkin and Carolyn Groves over the course of the original's 1966-1971 run on ABC and Joanna Going in the more recent 1991 NBC version. P.J. Hogan ("My Best Friend's Wedding") has also come aboard to direct the pilot, replacing the project's original director, Rob Bowman. Bowan exited due to scheduling conflicts involving his upcoming Jennifer Garner-led feature "Elektra." Mark Verheiden, John Wells and Dan Curtis are executive producing the new "Shadows," which is set up at Warner Bros. Television and John Wells Productions. The Frog has also committed to six episode scripts beyond the pilot installment, leading several industry insiders to believe it's a shoe-in to make the WB's fall 2004 schedule.
DEMARCO AFFAIRS (ABC) - Jonathan Silverman ("The Single Guy") and Chris William Martin ("Freaky Friday") have joined the cast of the drama pilot, about three sisters (Selma Blair, Sabrina Lloyd and Lindsay Sloane) who inherit their family's full-service wedding-planning business. Silverman will play said business' accountant, who is also married to one of the sisters, Jessica DeMarco (Lloyd). His character apparently is a slightly depressed but well-intentioned guy who feels threatened by Jessica's feelings for the resident chef (Chris Diamantopoulos). Meanwhile, Martin will play Copeland, Kate DeMarco's (Blair) budding rock star ex-boyfriend. David E. Kelley, Jason Katims and Jonathan Pontell are behind the project, which comes from 20th Century Fox Television and David E. Kelley Productions.
EARTHSEA (Sci Fi) - Isabella Rossellini ("Monte Walsh," "Napoleon") is set as High Priestess Thar in the cable channel's mini-series version of Ursula K. Le Guin's 1968 novel "A Wizard of Earthsea." Gavin Scott ("The Mists of Avalon"), Robert Halmi Sr. ("Merlin"), Lawrence Bender ("Kill Bill") and Kevin Brown ("Roswell") are all behind the four-hour Hallmark Entertainment/Bender-Brown Productions project, which is scheduled to air over two nights in December. "Earthsea" chronicles the epic struggle of a young wizard in a mystical land.
THE ENTOURAGE (HBO) - The pay channel has confirmed its upcoming comedy series, which follows the support staff of a fictional movie star named Vince Chase (Adrian Grenier), will bow in July. Jeremy Piven, Kevin Connelly, Jerry Ferrara, Courtney Peldon, Arielle Kebbel and Angela Patterson also star in the project, which has an eight-episode order. Mark Wahlberg (who has a cameo in the pilot), his manager Steve Levinson and writers Doug Ellin and Steve Tompkins ("The Bernie Mac Show") are all behind the comedy, the pilot of which was directed by David Frankel ("Band of Brothers").
KAT PLUS ONE (ABC) - Wendie Malick ("Just Shoot Me"), Heather Burns ("Two Weeks Notice") and newcomer Michael Urie have joined the cast of the drama pilot, about a New York publicist (Marisa Coughlan) who must suddenly raise her 6-year-old nephew (Jimmy Bennett). Malick will play Jackie Temple, the intimidating and fiercely intelligent owner of the PR firm where Kat (Coughlan) works while Burns and Urie will play Violet and Urie respectively. Warner Bros. Television and Berlanti-Liddell Productions are behind the project, which comes from "Everwood's" Greg Berlanti, Mickey Liddell and Maggie Friedman.
N.T.S.B.: THE CRASH OF FLIGHT 323 (ABC) - The Alphabet has scheduled the long-delayed telefilm for Monday, March 22 at 8:00/7:00c. The project was last scheduled for to air in February 2003 but was shelved after the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. Prior to that, "N.T.S.B." was scheduled for September 2001 but was pulled because of the terrorist events on September 11. The telefilm stars Mandy Patinkin as a National Transportation and Safety Board investigator called to the scene of a commuter plane crash in the Colorado mountains.
NIKKI & NORA (UPN) - Shemar Moore ("Birds of Prey") is set as Det. Dan Harney in the drama pilot, which follows two lesbian private investigators (Liz Vassey and Christina Cox) in New Orleans. Nancylee Myatt, Lynn Litt and Leonard Dick are behind the project, which is set up at Warner Bros. Television.
ONE BIG HAPPY (FOX) - Mackenzie Hannigan has joined the cast of the pilot, an irreverent dramedy about a man (D.W. Moffet) who falls in love with and marries his wife's best friend (Noelle Beck), and now must blend their families together. Hannigan will play one of the children, where he joins the previously cast kids A.J. Trauth, Josh Henderson and Kaylee Defer. Katherine Lanasa's role, which was previously reported as being one of the children (read the story), is actually that of the ex-wife of Moffett's character.
PRODIGY (WB) - Justin Chatwin ("Traffic") is set as Dempsey in the drama pilot, about a teenage girl (Kate Mara) who hides her music talents from her family, which is busy focusing their attention on her younger brother (Cody Arens), a well-known prodigy. Josh Friedman and Joel Silver are behind the project, which comes from Warner Bros. Television and Silver Pictures.
THE REAL ROCKY (New!) - Robert Chartoff and Irwin Winkler are looking to build their own "Contender" as the duo have pacted with MGM Television to develop a new reality series that will give an unknown boxer a shot at fighting an established champ. The announcement comes shortly after NBC's pick-up of the Mark Burnett/Jeffrey Katzenberg/Sylvester Stallone boxing project over at NBC. MGM, along with Chartoff and Winkler, collectively control the rights to the "Rocky" feature franchise. The producers and the studio, who will begin pitching the project to networks this week, are quick to note they registered their idea with the WGA idea back in May, long before Burnett and company unveiled their project. And since they own the rights to "Rocky," the original Bill Conti score as well as clips from the movies could potentially be used in the series. Talks are reportedly under way with several ex-champs about coming on board to serve as mentors and trainers to the potential boxers as well as with Ron Ziskin Productions to showrun the project. Lynn Hendee will executive produce along with Chartoff and Winkler, while creators Robert Sparks and Arthur Sarkissian ("Rush Hour") will serve as consultants.
SIGNIFICANT OTHERS (Bravo) - A paltry 703,000 viewers (0.66 household rating) tuned into the show's debut episode on Tuesday, with just as low turnouts among adults 25-54 (494,000) and adults 18-49 (440,000). A second episode at 9:30/8:30c pulled 689,000 total viewers (0.68 household rating), including 486,000 among adults 25-54 and 418,000 among adults 18-49. Both installments were off significantly from the debut of recent Tuesday, 9:00/8:00c time period holder "Celebrity Poker Showdown" (1.6 million) but above the launch of the off-network run of "Keen Eddie" (325,000). "Others" actually fared better during its late-night encore following "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," pulling in 796,000 viewers (0.75 household rating, with 579,000 among adults 25-54 and 565,000 among adults 18-49).
SURGEONS (ABC) - James Pickens Jr. ("The Lyon's Den") is the latest to join the cast of the drama pilot, about the professional and personal lives of residents in surgical training at a San Francisco hospital. He'll play Dr. Richard Burke in the Touchstone drama, where he joins the previously cast Patrick Dempsey, T.R. Knight, Ellen Pompeo, Paul Adelstein and Chandra Wilson.
TASTE (CBS) - Jane Krakowski ("Ally McBeal") is in talks to topline the comedy pilot, about a culinary school graduate who gets her first shot at a high-pressure restaurant job. Krakowski's involvement would lift the cast-contingency on the project, which comes from Kirk Rudell ("Good Morning, Miami"), Regency Television and CBS Productions. The actress previously signed a talent holding deal with the network back in October (read the story).
UNTITLED DAVID SHORE PROJECT (FOX) - Hugh Laurie ("Stuart Little 2"), Omar Epps ("Against the Ropes"), Jesse Spencer ("Uptown Girls") and Lisa Edelstein ("Relativity") are set to round out the cast of the drama pilot, about a team of doctors at a Boston teaching hospital who diagnose the toughest medical cases. Laurie will play the lead role, Dr. Greg House, a brilliant but abrasive physician at said teaching hospital while Epps is set as Dr. Taylor Foreman, a neurologist. Spencer and Edelstein will play Dr. Robert Chase, a second-generation doctor, and Dr. Lisa Cuddy, the hospital administrator, respectively. The group joins the previously cast Robert Sean Leonard and Jennifer Morrison in the Universal Network Television/Heel & Toe Productions project, which comes from David Shore, Paul Attanasio, Katie Jacobs and director Bryan Singer ("X-Men").
WANTED (CBS) - Louise Lombard ("War Stories") is set to join the cast of the pilot, a suspense thriller set in the fugitive department of the Los Angeles Police Department. Lombard will play a new member of the team, where she joins the previously cast Scott Glenn and Yancey Arias. CBS Productions, Warner Bros. Television and 25C Productions are all behind the project.
WE ARE FAMILY (ABC) - Missi Pyle ("Big Fish") is the latest to join the cast of the comedy, about a man (Tom Everett Scott) and his estranged father who reconnect when they become dads at the same time. Pyle will play Misti, the father's new-agey wife. Dan Staley, Rob Long and Tim Fall are also behind the Touchstone Television project, which also stars Nicole Sullivan as the wife of Scott's character.
WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE (Syndication) - Buena Vista Television has confirmed it has picked up the syndicated version of the game show for a third season. To date this season, "Millionaire" is averaging a 3.7 household rating, up 23% in year-to-year comparisons.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters