CHICAGO (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:
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THE APPRENTICE (NBC) - Fremantle Media ("American Idol") has secured the international rights to the reality series, beating out Canada's Distraction and NBC Enterprises. The pact, valued north of $5 million, gives the company the exclusive rights to create non-domestic versions of the NBC series across the globe. Already Global in Canada, Network Nine in Australia and TF1 in France are said to be in talks with Fremantle for their own take on the Donald Trump-hosted series. The company is also expected to produce the exported versions, instead of Mark Burnett Productions.
THE CONTENDER (NBC) - Five-time world champion boxer Sugar Ray Leonard has signed on to be one of the on-camera faces in the Peacock's competitive search for the next boxing superstar. Leonard will serve as an adviser and mentor to the would-be boxing superstars, appearing alongside executive producer Sylvester Stallone in the series. Also coming aboard the project is boxing expert Prentiss Bryd, who has worked with such fighters as Thomas Hearns, Hilmer Kentey, Milton McCrory, Leon Spinks, Michael Moore and numerous others during his 27-year career. Casting is set to begin on April 9 in Tulsa, Oklahoma and includes stops in Tunica, Mississippi; Dallas, Texas; Miami, Florida; Washington D.C.; Boston, Massachusetts; Detroit, Michigan; New York; Seattle, Washington; and Los Angeles. Interested parties can visit, NBC's casting page for the project. "The Contender" is a joint production of Mark Burnett Productions, DreamWorks Television and Rogue Marble.
HAWAII (NBC) - Production has halted on the Peacock's drama pilot as star Michael Madsen has apparently left the project. While the official line with regards to the actor's departure is "creative differences," industry insiders indicate Madsen's exit was due to various issues, including not wanting his black hair to be lightened for the role. Madsen plays Max Harrison in the NBC Studios project, an ensemble drama that follows a diverse team of detectives at the local police department as they solve crimes on the picturesque island of Oahu, Hawaii. Madsen's publicist confirms the actor is still on the island and is hoping to work something out. Shooting began on the pilot on Wednesday with Madsen leaving the following day. It's expected production will continue with or without Madsen shortly, beginning with a two-car chase on Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki even though Madsen was supposed to be part of that scene. Sharif Atkins, Ivan Sergei and Eric Balfour also star in "Hawaii."
THE LARRY ELDER SHOW (Syndication) - Ed Glavin ("The Ellen DeGeneres Show") is set to come aboard as an executive producer of the upcoming Telepictures talk show, which has already been cleared in 60% of the country. Glavin had been involved with "Elder" since its pilot was shot last year, having since moved on to "Ellen" since the show's bow last fall. With "Ellen" a huge success for Telepictures, the company has asked Glavin to help put "Elder" on the fast track for its expected fall 2004 bow.
THE MOUNTAIN (WB) - Barbara Hershey ("Beaches") and Anson Mount ("Line of Fire") have joined the cast of the drama pilot, about a 25-year-old (Oliver Hudson) who inherits his family's mountain resort when his grandfather dies. Hershey will play the mother of Hudson's character while Mount is set as his brother in the project, which comes from Warner Bros. Television, Berlanti-Liddell Productions and Shoe Money Productions.
NICE PACKAGE (Oxygen, New!) - The cable channel has ordered 13 episodes of a new home makeover series from Banyan Productions ("Trading Spaces"). The project tracks a group of home owners who are delivered a big box of design goodies and must figure out how they fit within an assigned living space. The contestants then win prizes based on how closely they match how a designer has already planned how the items should be used. Susan Cohen-Dickler, Jan Dickler and Ray Murray are the executive producers of the series, which will air as part of the network's Friday night original programming block which includes "Girls Behaving Badly" and "Talk Sex With Sue Johansen." A preview episode is set to air on April 16 with the series itself bowing sometime this summer.
POINT PLEASANT (FOX) - Elisabeth Harnois ("My Date With the President's Daughter") has snagged the lead role of Christina Nickson in the drama pilot, described as a cross between "Peyton Place" and "The Omen" that takes place in a town shaken one summer when a mysterious girl washes ashore. She joins the previously cast Cameron Richardson, Brent Weber and Aubrey Dollar in the 20th Century Fox Television/Original Television project, which comes from Marti Noxon, John McLaughlin and Original's Marty Adelstein, Neal Moritz and Dawn Parouse.
THE ROBINSON BROTHERS (FOX) - Reagan Dale Neis ("Maybe It's Me") is the latest to join the cast of the comedy pilot, about a trio of adult brothers living in an L.A. apartment building that doubles as a college dorm. Jay Baruchel and David Annable also star in the project, which is set up at 20th Century Fox Television and Original Television, where Neis will play a hot girl living in the building.
SURGEONS (ABC) - Isaiah Washington ("Hollywood Homicide") and Katherine Heigl ("Roswell") have joined the cast of Shonda Rhimes' drama pilot at the Alphabet. Washington will play cocky Dr. Richard Burke, Jr., the son of the hospital's chief of surgery (James Pickens, Jr.), where he'll replace Paul Adelstein, who exited the project due to a scheduling conflict. As for Heigl, she'll play an intern in the Touchstone Television project, which also stars Patrick Dempsey, T.R. Knight, Ellen Pompeo and Chandra Wilson.
UNTITLED ANDREW KENNEDY PROJECT (CBS) - Julia Duffy ("Newhart") and Christa Miller ("Scrubs," "The Drew Carey Show") had been added to the cast of the comedy pilot, which centers on a blended family, in which the parents (Andrew Kennedy, Miller) have conflicting points of view. Duffy's role is that of Cathy in the Sony Picutres Television/CBS Productions project, which comes from Andrew Gordon and Eileen Conn.
UNTITLED MARSH MCCALL/JOEL STEIN PROJECT (ABC) - Sharon Lawrence ("N.Y.P.D. Blue") has joined the cast of the Warner Bros. Television/Acme Productions comedy pilot, about a young reporter (Colin Hanks) who makes waves at a respected magazine. The project is based on Time columnist Joel Stein's experience as being the youngest reporter ever at the magazine.
THE WEBSTER REPORT (CBS) - Ben Gazzara ("Dogville") is the latest to join the cast of the pilot, a drama about an offbeat New York private investigator (Stanley Tucci). Gazzara will play the father of Tucci's character, a potentially recurring role. He joins the previously cast Kari Matchett and Bobby Cannavale in the project, which is set up at CBS Productions, Warner Bros. Television and 25C Productions.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters