CHICAGO (thefutoncritic.com) -- The latest development news, culled from recent wire reports:
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ALIAS (ABC) - Mia Maestro ("Frida") is set to appear in the show's final three episodes this season as the sister of Jennifer Garner's character. In addition, she's expected to return as a regular cast member next season. Maestro's first episode is currently scheduled to air on April 25.
BAD GIRL'S GUIDE (UPN) - Sophina Brown ("Chappelle's Show") is the first to join the cast of the comedy pilot, which comes from executive producers Jennifer Heath, Michele Wolff and Tony Krantz. She'll play in Maya in the Paramount Network Television/Flame Television project, which is based on Cameron Tuttle's bestselling book series of the same name.
BEHIND THE CAMERA: THE UNAUTHORIZED STORY OF 'DIFF'RENT STROKES' (NBC, New!) - Greg Pincus ("Stuart Little") is set to write the script for the Peacock's third "Behind the Camera" installment, this time about the 1978-86 comedy starring Gary Coleman and Todd Bridges. The project coming on the heels of the network's recent unauthorized telefilms about "Three's Company" and "Charlie's Angels." NBC is also said to be at work on other "Behind the Camera" projects focusing on "Mork & Mindy," "Laverne & Shirley" and "Bewitched." As for "Strokes," Coleman and Bridges have signed on as consultants for the telefilm, which is expected to tread cautiously in light of such tragic events as the death of star Dana Plato.
BIG LOVE (HBO) - Grace Zabriskie ("John Doe") has joined the cast of the Tom Hanks-produced drama pilot, about a polygamist (Bill Paxton) and his relationship with his three wives (Chloe Sevigny, Jeanne Tripplehorn and Ginnifer Goodwin). She'll play the mother of Paxton's character in the project, which comes from Hanks and Gary Goetzman's Playtone Productions.
CHAPPELLE'S SHOW/SOUTH PARK (Comedy Central) - Wednesday's broadcasts of the both series emerged as the two top cable shows on television that night as both series drew 3.6 million viewers. In addition, "Chappelle's Show" scored its highest rating to date in adults 18-49 (1.9 national rating/6 share) as well as won the 10:30/9:30c time period among men 18-34 (4.3/14) across all networks, broadcast and cable. Lead-in "South Park" averaged a 1.8 national rating/5 share in adults 18-49. The pair's strong performance helped lift that night's edition of "The Daily Show With Jon Stewart" to its most-watched episode to date at 1.7 million viewers, 1.2 million of which fell into the adults 18-49 demographic. The news comes on the heels of the network's recent announcement that it had its most-watched week ever in primetime in adults 18-49 and total viewers last week.
THE FURST FAMILY (ABC) - John Francis Daley ("Freaks and Geeks") has joined the cast of the comedy pilot, a quirky blue-collar family comedy based on the British series "The Royle Family." He'll play son James III in the Touchstone Television/Granada Television project, which also stars Laurie Metcalf, French Stewart, Kyle Howard, Marissa Jaret Winokur and Brenda Vaccaro.
HARRY GREEN AND EUGENE (ABC) - Jarrad Paul ("U.C.: Undercover") is the latest to join the drama pilot, which stars Mark Valley as a Los Angeles private dick whose life is encumbered by the arrival of his inept brother (Jason Segel) from Philadelphia. He'll play a talent agent in the project, which comes from Paramount Network Television, Frequency Films and the Littlefield Co. Jamie King, Alex Desert, Arlene Tur and Bob Stephenson also star.
IF THE SOUTH HAD WON THE CIVIL WAR (USA, New!) - Pulitzer Prize-winning author MacKinlay Kantor's book of the same name is being targeted as the starting point for a new six-hour limited series from executive producers Bruce Nash ("For Love or Money") and John Leekley ("The Blue and the Gray"). USA has committed to a two-hour pilot script and a series bible for the project, which takes place in a fictitious modern world in which the South has won the Civil War due to the early death of Union general Ulysses S. Grant. The series itself takes place in an alternate present day, when external forces are conspiring to assassinate the two presidents of the North and South, 48 hours before the pair plan to ratify unification.
LAW & ORDER (NBC) - Jerry Orbach is reportedly set to exit his 12-year role of Det. Lennie Briscoe at the close of the show's current season. Orbach however may stick around to be part of the franchise's installment, "Trial by Jury," due some time next season. No potential replacements for Orbach have been named nor has executive produce spoken about the matter. In the franchise's 15-year history, Wolf has never commented on the show's various casting changes. Nevertheless, one potential scenario being floated has Briscoe's partner, Det. Ed Green (Jesse L. Martin), being promoted.
MILES TO GO (WB) - Kristin Bauer ("Hidden Hills") will play wife to Gerald McGraney in the comedy pilot, about a young ex-British commando (Philip Winchester) who moves to the U.S. to became the nanny of a posh Beverly Hills family. Mark Burnett, Conrad Riggs and Dave Flebotte are behind the project, which comes from Warner Bros. Television.
NUMBERS (CBS) - Navi Rawat ("The O.C.") has been cast in the drama pilot, in second position to her current commitment to FOX's "The North Shore." The news of her casting apparently wasn't released before FOX's series order for "Shore" so it's expected she'll no longer be involved in the Paramount Network Television/Scott Free Productions project. In any case, her role on the CBS pilot, about a mathematician (David Krumholtz) recruited by the F.B.I. to help solve crimes, is that of an East Indian M.I.T. grad student.
SECOND TIME AROUND (UPN) - Brian White ("Mr. 3000") and Melissa De Sousa ("One on One") have joined the cast of the Paramount Network Television project, about a divorced couple (Boris Kodjoe and Nicole Ari Parker) who marry again years after a quick divorce. De Sousa will play the woman's best friend while White's role wasn't specified.
SHACKING UP (WB) - Branden Williams ("Will & Grace") is the latest to join the cast of the pilot, a comedy about a 24-year-old (Ben Feldman) who moves back home with his mom (Fran Drescher) and her 24-year-old boyfriend. Williams' role wasn't indicated in the project, which comes from Regency Television and Wannabe Productions.
SIX FEET UNDER (HBO) - Bobby Cannavale ("Third Watch") is set to appear in a three-episode arc during the show's upcoming fourth season. He'll play a bodyguard in the drama, which returns with new episodes in June. James Waterston, Peter Facinelli, Mena Suvari and Michelle Trachtenberg are also set to make appearances during the new season.
THE SKETCH SHOW (FOX) - Kaitlin Olson ("Curb Your Enthusiasm") is the first to be cast in the comedy series, which features 30 or so brief sketches crammed into a half-hour show (a la "Laugh-In"). Paramount Network Television and Grammnet Productions are behind the project, which is based on Britain's ITV series of the same name.
UNTITLED MIKE FLEISS/DAVE SHERDIAN PROJECT (WB) - Chris Hogan ("3rd Rock from the Sun") has joined the cast of the comedy pilot, which recently received a green light to produce a pilot. No specific details are available about the project other than it is a half-hour comedy that will mix a few reality elements into an otherwise scripted series. Dave Sheridan ("Ghost World") stars and executive produces the series alongside reality guru Mike Fleiss.
UNTITLED EILEEN HEISLER/DEANN HELINE PROJECT (NBC) - Darius McCrary ("Family Matters") and Tom Poston ("Newhart") have joined the cast of the comedy pilot as Bowie and Clown respectively. The NBC Studios project stars Josh Cooke and Jennifer Finnigan as a mismatched New York couple. Tammy Lynn Michaels also stars.
UNTITLED JASON HORWITCH PROJECT (NBC) - Troy Winbush ("The Replacements") is the latest to join the still untitled drama pilot, about a man (Neal McDonough) who works to unravel medical mysteries. He joins the previously cast Christopher Gorham, Anna Belknap and Kelli Williams in the project, which comes from Paramount Network Television, NBC Studios and Landscape Entertainment.
UNTITLED BILL PAOLANTONIO/ERIC SCHOTZ PROJECT (CBS, New!) - LMNO Production's Eric Schotz and Bill Paolantonio have scored a 10-episode order for a new reality series that will launch a primetime search to find the next diva of domesticity (a la Martha Stewart). The project will track 12 people who have ability in the lifestyle arena and want to become "the country's next domestic icon." It's expected that the series will be shot in the Northeast, in a Connecticut-style farmhouse that's the producers' version of "the reality mansion." Selected participants will then live together and compete in a series of challenges designed to test their skills at party planning, cooking, decorating and other such hallmarks of domesticity. Casting is expected to begin shortly on the project however official details have yet to be released.
UNTITLED PRACTICE PROJECT (ABC) - Fay Masterson ("Peacemakers") and Lake Bell ("Miss Match") are set as regulars while William Shatner is expected to join the cast of "The Practice's" forthcoming spin-off starring James Spader. Masterson and Bell will appear in the final four episodes of the series where the former will play a tough, capable attorney, while the latter is set as a free-spirited law school graduate, both of whom work for Shatner's character, Danny Crane, in the firm of Crane, Poole & Schmidt.
WE ARE FAMILY (ABC) - William Devane ("Knots Landing") is set to star in the comedy pilot, about a man (Tom Everett Scott) and his estranged father (Devane), both of whom have babies at the same time. The Touchstone Television project, which comes from Don Staley, Rob Long and Tim Fall, also stars Nicole Sullivan and Missi Pyle.
Sources: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Reuters